Is "walking by the street" grammatical? Or do I need to write "in/on the street"? Do they convey a different meaning?

  • walking by the street is rarely used because its meaning is ambiguous -- it almost always means walking past the street, but it could (very rarely) mean walking next to the street. walking on the street is preferred. (walking in the street has the special meaning of literally walking in the part of the road typically reserved for cars.) – dg99 Jan 16 '14 at 17:39
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    Please could you clarify in some way exactly what you are trying to say. – WS2 Jan 16 '14 at 20:06
  • This is a duplicate ...there is an exact question in which the title is "walk by vs walk on vs walk in"...I gave the answer to that question ... – Argot Jan 28 '14 at 14:52

Walking by the street could either mean "walking near the street" as in "I'm walking by the street, on the sidewalk" or "walking past the street" as in "I meant to turn onto Main Street, but I walked by it instead".

Either way, walking near the street or walking past the street are not the same thing as walking in the street, so yes, they do convey a different meaning.

Edit- You guys win. Past it is.

  • You mean "past" instead of "passed". – dg99 Jan 16 '14 at 17:31
  • @dg99 No, I do not. Recommended reading: grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/past_passed.htm – Kevin Workman Jan 16 '14 at 17:47
  • So should I say "people marching on the street" instead of "people marching by the street" ? – Neel Basu Jan 16 '14 at 17:51
  • @NeelBasu It depends on what exactly they're doing. Are they walking in the middle of a street? Or are they walking next to the street? Or are they marching passed the street? – Kevin Workman Jan 16 '14 at 17:55
  • D'oh. You guys win. – Kevin Workman Jan 16 '14 at 18:33

In the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), a search for "walking * the street" finds prepositions used with the following frequencies:

down, 509 times; along, 36; on, 33; across, 25; in, 25; up, 20; around, 5; into, 3; to, 2; toward, 1; through, 1; off, 1; by, 1.

I repeated the same search with walking replaced by each of the tenses of walk, run, come, and go, and added up the frequencies of the prepositions. The results were down, 1,359 times; across, 349; up, 152; into, 84; along, 81; on, 80; in, 74; to, 60; from, 29; off, 24; around, 14; toward, 9; through, 7; by, 4; onto, 3; towards, 3; over, 2; under, 2; after, 1; alongside, 1; beneath, 1; unto, 1. Of course, the choice of preposition depends on the meaning you want to convey. To describe someone traveling along a street, the preferred prepositions are down, up, and along.

The one quote that uses "walking by" is "When you're here and you listen to people walking by the street, saying, 'Look at this, look at that,' you know, you did it." The quote seems to come from a transcription of an interview with someone who works on maintaining the appearance of signs. The three other uses of by are all "goes/going by the street name"; they have nothing to do with an actual street.

To me, "walking by the street" sounds as if it might mean "coming by way of the street," but I wouldn't use the phrase "walking by the street" to convey that meaning.

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