1
  1. She was by my side in the building.

  2. She was in the building by my side.

The first sentence says that she was in the building, and she was staying beside me.

The second sentence says that she was in the building that was by my side.

But the sentences below do not work like that.

3.I was there by your side.

4.I was by your side there.

Comparing the third sentence to the second sentence, I should comprehend the third sentence as saying that I was there that was by your side. And the fourth one should mean that I was by your side when I was there. But the third one means that I was by your side when I was there, and the fourth one doesn't make much sense to me. I don't even know if the fourth one is grammatically correct. Can you guys provide any explanation?

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  • 4
    'She was in the building by my side.' would usually also be interpreted as 'She was by my side, in the building.' 'The building by my side' is unusual to unidiomatic. Mar 27, 2016 at 15:40
  • As Edwin has said, 1 and 2 are naturally read to mean the same. Context could change the meaning of 2, but it's just not usual to refer to a building being 'by my side', which is why absent context, the native speaker interprets 2 as just a different way of saying 1. Dec 23, 2016 at 6:26

3 Answers 3

1

Let's re-order the sentences and transpose 3 and 4 to the same persons as 1 and 2:

  1. She was by my side in the building.
  2. She was by my side there.
  3. She was in the building by my side.
  4. She was there                  by my side.

1 and 2 say the same kind of thing: She was close to me at some place.
3 and 4 say the same kind of thing: She was at some place close to me.

In sentence 3, the place (inside a building) might be some distance from you even if the building is close to you (at your side), while in sentence 4 the place (there) refers to the same place that's next to you (at your side).

P.S. In view of the OP's question whether "I was by your side there" makes sense, I offer the following dialog

A: My memory has been affected by the accident. Where was I?
B: You were in the hospital.
A: Where were you?
B: I was by your side there.

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  • "I was by your side there." So does it actually make sense to you and is grammatically correct? It's just that I don't think I ever heard this before, as people tend to say "I was there by your side" most of the time.
    – no object
    Aug 30, 2015 at 5:19
  • @noobject They mean different things. See the postscript to my answer.
    – deadrat
    Aug 30, 2015 at 5:34
  • 2
    I read "I was by your side there" as correct, but if you add some punctuation or even a few qualifiers, it might be clearer. Like: "Dude, I was by your side, right there!" In the context of a conversation as a spoken utternance, with gestures, intonation, and locality, that phrase would not seem ungrammatical.
    – Bea Bonmot
    Apr 26, 2016 at 14:32
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  1. She was by my side in the building.

We were in the building and she was by my side there.

  1. She was in the building by my side.

She was either in that building over there that is by my side, or she was by my side in some building. I'm not sure which.

  1. I was there by your side.

When all this happened I was by your side, giving you moral support.

  1. I was by your side there.

Wherever it was that we were, I was standing next to you.

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Sentences 1, 2, and 4 are literal and physical. You are explaining the relative position between two people at some point in time.

"I was there by your side" is idiomatic and metaphoric - it means I gave you moral support, I experienced a traumatic happening along with you, etc.

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