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I cannot really understand the difference (if there's a difference) between :

He gets along fine with it

and

He gets by fine with it

And what about

"get on" ?

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There are various shades of meaning for 'get on with' etc. Have you tried looking these multi-word verbs up? (They are often saddled with varyingly-defined names such as 'phrasal verbs' and 'prepositional verbs'.) –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 at 16:13
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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you get along with something (or more usually, somebody), that normally implies you interact at least reasonably well with it/them. The emphasis is on the nature of the relationship (which is usually implied to be adequate, but not amazingly good).

If you get by with something this normally implies that you're using it. And that even though you know there are other/better things you could use, the one you're actually using is good enough for you (the emphasis is on its adequate functionality).

Thus you wouldn't normally say "I get by with John" except in a context where John performs some service for you. Often, by implication, a service someone else could do better, but for some reason you use John (he's cheaper, perhaps).


In this specific context, to get on with someone is similar to getting along with them, but usually the implication is the relationship is good, rather than just "adequate").

Or I could say "I really get off on [good food, jazz music, westerns, etc.]". That would mean I really, really enjoy it (sometimes implying that I get a sexual kick out of whatever it is).

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You're too kind. Let them do a bit of work first! Even looking up ' "get along with" + meaning' works! There are subtleties. 'Get along with' means, as you say, interact (reasonably) well with ... [usually ... another person]. It's a three-word transitive MWV. But 'get along' is an intransitive two-word MWV meaning get by. It can take an adverbial with 'with'!: MW: Most college students can get along with just a few hours of sleep at night –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 at 16:37
    
@Edwin: Your example is too rare to track exactly, but the NGram evidence for get by with less,get along with less confirms my suspicion that along there is relatively "old-fashioned" compared to by. –  FumbleFingers Feb 12 at 16:45
    
Then there was Git Along Little Dogies. I think that was a more literal meaning. So we probably have the 'cattle drive' metaphor for later usages. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 at 16:51
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