English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is it more correct to form a sentence such as

John went to academic conference by the bus

using by as the preposition indicating what he took to the conference, or is using on the correct way? Better yet, could both of them stand for the same meaning?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The only thing wrong with your assumption is that anyone but a non-native speaker would say "by the bus." As the others have pointed out, the construction would be "by bus" or "by train" or whatever.

Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to say

John went to the academic conference on the bus.

Here is a movie poster that illustrates what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

Some may object that this might seem ambiguous, that it might seem as if the conference were being held on the bus itself, but in normal informal speech it would be easily understood. More likely the sentence would be reordered in this case, such as

John went on the bus to the academic conference.

share|improve this answer
I like the reference! Thanks for the answer. – Khalid Okiely Nov 28 '12 at 12:03
"Get on the bus" is a direct command. Does it follow the same rule for describing methods of transportation as the OP's statement? Great reference, btw. Even greater as it is the DVD box and not the movie poster. – tylerharms Nov 28 '12 at 12:16
Direct commands would mostly follow the same format with respect to other forms of transportation: "Get on the train," "Get on the airplane" (but "Get in the car") and so on. – Robusto Nov 28 '12 at 12:48

In English, using "by" + "form of transportation" is the way to say it. However, no indefinite (or definite) article is needed. Thus...

"By bus" and not "By the bus"

"By bike" and not "By the bike"

share|improve this answer

It looks like you're mixing two possible ways of expressing what you want to say:

  • John went to the academic conference by bus.
  • John went to the academic conference on the bus.

In the second example, you'd be drawing more attention to the specific bus John took, (Perhaps you mentioned the type or bus route previously, for example.) whereas the first sentence merely highlights the mode of transport he chose to use and the academic conference takes the focus.


share|improve this answer
Indeed, "John went to the academic conference on the bus" suggests to me that the conference itself is taking place inside a bus. And "John went on the bus to the academic conference" implies that the bus is a special one, perhaps provided by the conference itself. – Andrew Lazarus Nov 29 '12 at 19:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.