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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'.) Feb 12, 2014 at 16:13

1 Answer 1

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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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    @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. Feb 12, 2014 at 16:45
  • @EdwinAshworth looking up a dictionary doesn't help much, would you say "working at night enabled me to get by" or "working at night enabled me to get along" ? Jan 25, 2023 at 11:14
  • @MarcoDemaio: As it says in my answer, get along usually refers to having a tolerably good relationship with someone. Plain intransitive to get by means to "survive" (to live at "subsistence level"), OR to "make do" with something that's less than optimal (you can easily look that one up; it's very common). So the extra money from your second job enables you to get by, not get along. Jan 25, 2023 at 11:37
  • @Marco Demaio I'd use 'get by' for the 'subsist' sense. But using 'get along' here is not incorrect. Though I'd say, suboptimal (Gricean maxims direct users to the default meanings of words / fixed phrases unless context countermands this). Jan 25, 2023 at 16:20

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