*Note: The first half of this question, in bold, is streamlined and expresses the gist of my message. You can skip the second half of the question if you would rather not slog through all my chattiness.

I.) Statement in question uses "with"

  • Paul Ryan, after meeting with Donald Trump, said: "I was very encouraged with..."

Here's the statement in a video clip, at 1:18 and 1:40 he states "encouraged with": http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/05/12/trump-ryan-to-meet-amid-growing-republican-calls-to-unify.html

II.) Statement in question was re-worded with "by"

Here's what some news reporters wrote:

  • "Paul Ryan 'encouraged' by Trump meeting, sees unity on horizon" - Boston Herald

  • "Ryan encouraged by Trump meeting; unity the goal" - KSPR

  • "Paul Ryan ‘Encouraged’ by Meeting With Donald Trump, as Bizarro Circus Unfolds Outside" - Vice News

  • "Speaker Ryan: I Was Very Encouraged by What I Heard From Trump" - NBC New York

III.) Which is the correct preposition, "by" or "with"? Why?

Ugh, I know already, I know. This "with vs. by" thing. Again.

But why?

I did a bit of digging and found plenty of bountiful discussion here, and on many other grammar sites, about "by" or "with", transitives, agents, objects, passive, etc. Yet, no definitive answer.

Listening to the statement more carefully, I thought it was a speech-writer power move: Ryan, by stating with instead of by, was asserting himself to be the agent and the meeting to be the instrument, and thereby not conceding any power to Trump. At least, not implying that it was Trump himself who was encouraging, but the fact of the meeting itself with which he felt encouraged. I mean, Ryan is not the slacker, "I'll let my popularity and smiling mug make up for my lapses in articulation and lack of intelligence," kind of guy. After all, he is the Speaker of the House. It had to be calculated, right?

A similar question, different context, of "by" or "with" came up on ELL, and I thought that after taking a stab at answering that, I'd be satisfied with my self-schooling, resolve all my inner prepositionalization insecurities, and hereafter and forevermore have an answer for any who might ask. (Keep in mind I grew up in a household where I was told to "close the light" instead of "turn off the light", and though I can read the nuances of "lip pointing" very well, I have deep-seated doubts about scary grammar stuff.) https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/89978/the-source-code-can-be-extended-by-or-extended-with-line-s-of-code/89985#89985

So, to prove my point to myself, I got back online and re-googled Ryan's statement, certain that I would find validation of my newly acquired, but admittedly still a bit shaky knowledge, only to find that many of the news outlets were replacing his "with" with their "by". Others avoided the "by v with" thing entirely. Agh!

Please help me. If I just have to suck it up and accept that I'm just as wrong when I use "by" or "with" after a particular but unclassifiable kind verb as I am when I use that other form of "regardless" (no, I won't say it) then, I can accept that.

But if anyone out there has noticed this tricky-spin, slight-o-the-hand thing, that the media outlets have done with Ryan's "with" by their "by", and has an honest and true answer for me, please bring it.

And if, there really is no answer, just tell me. Do me a favor and disabuse me of my piffling notions that there is a need for a definitive, clear-cut, yay-nay, "by" or "with". I'll just go back to practicing my "por o para" or "ser y estar" vocabulario and get my fix for fixed-things in that way.

Here's the statement:

"The speaker didn’t pretend that everything was peaches and cream, telling reporters: "I was very encouraged with the meeting but this is a process. It takes a little time. You don't put it together in 45 minutes.” ..."

(From one article on foxnews.com, but I will try to find the YouTube clip...)

Here's the statement in a video clip, at 1:18 and 1:40 he states "encouraged with": http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/05/12/trump-ryan-to-meet-amid-growing-republican-calls-to-unify.html

  • You gave away all your fake internet points in one go!
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 9:55

10 Answers 10



"Encouraged by" means that the presence or occurrence of something has injected courage into the encouraged person.

"Encouraged with" means that some mechanism or action has injected said courage.

Perhaps fittingly, the proverbial donkey is encouraged by a carrot and encouraged with a whip.

  • If only it was so simple. I'll phrase it clearly: the "presence or occurrence" of "some mechanism or action" would occasion the idiomatic use of which preposition? You've supplied a distinction without a difference. And you haven't supplied any support whatsoever for your claim.
    – JEL
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 20:10
  • This is speculative and does not account for how speech actually occurs in context.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:59

My hypothesis is not supported by any list of linguistic references, but based on my own understanding of the English language. I apologise for the lack of academic rigour.

In the more common uses of "To encourage someone with something" as in the examples given by commentators on this post, the encouragement is the use of an inducement or facilitation to get someone to do something:

parental involvement is encouraged with strong links between the school and the local community.

children must be encouraged with love

I encouraged my donkey with a carrot

my donkey was encouraged with a carrot

So, it seems that in the common uses of the past participle of 'encourage' as an adjective + with + something, the something is normally the inducement or facilitation. In these cases, the purpose of the encouragement (what my donkey was encouraged to do with the help of the carrot) is sometimes undefined in the phrase, but it is understood from the wider context of the text or speech.

In the case of the meeting between Trump and Ryan - I was very encouraged with what I heard - there was no mention of what Ryan was encouraged to do by Trump's carrot, so it seems most likely that he did not mean this, it was a slip of the tongue.

The resulting I was very encouraged with what I heard was quite understandable in spoken English, but once committed to paper might jar with the reader because of its unexpected nature - especially in a front page headline of a few words.

I believe that the editorial staff changed 'with' to 'by' to make their headlines more readable.


Forget everything you have read until now in the answers, and, forget google and Ingram. He said /with/ instead of /by/, most likely due to one of the principal features of spoken language versus written language. There are many lists re these features on the internet, most of them do not cover using one word instead of another when the speaker is actually a high-level, fluent speaker of a language.

Speech is characterized, among other things, by truncation, repetition, restatement, etc.

Here is a partial list of these features: http://linguistics.sllf.qmul.ac.uk/english-language-teaching/spoken-english-features

A useful technical word for this is dysfluency:

It is useful to think of speakers’ fluency as if it were distributed on a Gaussian curve. Extremely dysfluent speakers would be located at the left of the curve [[George Bush, for example], followed by various degrees of hesitant speakers, passing through the majority of speakers who are reasonably fluent, and ending at the right in a small group of extremely fluent speakers [[Obama]]. In spontaneous speech, it is not unusual to hear someone saying one word instead of another, or mixing up the syllables of a word. These are so-called performance errors or normal dysfluencies.

Thank you Brigitte Zellner: Pauses and the temporal structure of speech (p.48)


According to ngram, “encouraged by” is quite standard—while its use seems to be dropping according to ngram, “encouraged with” flat-lines all the way across the bottom of the chart.

If you simply Google the phrase “encouraged with,” you will see a number of sites that do use “encourage with” the way Paul Ryan has—you’ll get about 450,000 results. But, if you Google “encouraged by,” you will get almost 14 million.

Some might say “encouraged by” is standard, and “encouraged with” is not (except in a statement like “children must be encouraged with love”).

However, I do not believe that Paul Ryan meant anything significant by using “with.” The key word here is “encouraged,” not “with.” Because Ryan has not declared his support for Trump, speculation is rife that the Republican party is about to explode. This statement was, IMO, designed to tamp that speculation down.

Some consider “encouraged with” perfectly natural. Maybe Paul Ryan is one of them. It may be that “encouraged with” is a regionalism—that people in his part of Wisconsin say that—or perhaps it’s something he got from his parents. Or, perhaps, speaking without notes to a national press corps that is clamoring for news, he simply misspoke. People do that. He did not, IMO, add any emphasis to the word "with," or make any facial gesture, that would suggest a hidden meaning.

In any event, that he felt “encouraged” is what the media picked up on. There is nothing at all nefarious about the way they have quoted Ryan. In the first place, those news services that wrote out the entire statement or even just that one sentence consistently included the “with”—nobody has changed his quotation. When they were simply reporting the upshot of the statement, they put quotation marks around the key word and then employed what to most is probably the standard preposition following that word. There is no reason the media should call attention to a word that deserves none, and no reason they should use it just because Paul Ryan did. It is very possible that had Ryan used the word “by,” it would not have been included within the quotation marks either. There is no reason it should—again, the key word is “encouraged.”

IMO, you are imagining things.

  • 1
    442,000 hits for "encouraged with" To claim it is non-standard only because "encouaged by" is more popular doesn't hold. Here's a perfectly legitimate and very recent example on a British English national newspaper, called The Guardian: *Parental involvement is encouraged with strong links between the school and the local community.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 8:36
  • The OP is saying if the usage of "with" is grammatical, why are some reporters substituting that preposition with "by". The OP wants to know which preposition should be used, and why?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 8:44
  • @surlawda "... speculation is rife that the Republican party is about to explode.This statement was, IMO, designed to tamp that speculation down." You do realize that you tamp an explosive in order to produce a bigger bang. tamp
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 13:41
  • @PhilSweet - tamp: 2 : to put a check on : reduce, lessen <tamp down rumors> tamp down: to reduce the amount, level, size, or importance of something
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:16
  • @HotLicks yes, that works with just about anything - except explosives. Am I wrong to suggest that tamp should be avoided when you want to imply a lessening of explosiveness?
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:38

I assume this to be more of a process question than an English question.

Most of the "fast headlines" are not actually written by the media outlets but by news agencies - like the associated press. The individual news outlets just take it from there. At least that's the case for most written news. TV stations just play the clip, their banners however are often coming from news agencies as well.

Secondly speed is of the essence in that business, since the news outlets generally go with the first message that they get. Therefore, the people who write these have to be fast, which makes it likely they go with the phrases they are most used to.

11:40 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he was "very encouraged by what I heard from Donald Trump" in their much-anticipated meeting.

- Associated Press

The AP rewording their news wire explains why all the news outlets you cited ran with that wording.

P.S. Another theory on the rewording could simply be that news wires have a global audience and therefore they stick intentionally to simpler or more common expressions. As other answers and comments have clarified, encouraged by is much more common and keeps the essence of what he said.


Let's attempt to look at this another way. Instead of focusing on the "encouraged" part of the statement, let's look at all parts.

"encouraged with--encouraged by":

enter image description here

As you can see, the 'by' variant is the outright winner, but this doesn't tell the whole story. Now let's examine the latter part of Ryan's sentence, and you'll see that "with" is more popular than before, when the last word in the expression is "heard":

"by what I *, with what I *":

enter image description here

"with what I heard, by what I heard":

enter image description here

Now let's examine some variants other than "encouraged":

"disgusted by--disgusted with":

enter image description here

and subsequently "disgusted by what I---disgusted with what I":

![enter image description here

"satisfied by, satisfied with":

enter image description here

"satisfied by what I, satisfied with what I":

enter image description here

"impressed by what I, impressed with what I"

enter image description here

As you can see, "with" is a standard preposition when the word is "disgusted" or "satisfied" or "impressed" rather than "encouraged". Simply put, Ryan mixed up his expressions. A possibility is that in that pressure-moment to say something positive he may have wanted to say "satisfied with" and "encouraged by" and simply made the mistake of going with "encouraged with".

The conclusion: Paul Ryan merely committed a verbal gaffe by confusing the commonly used "with" in "with what I heard" and the commonly used "by" in "encouraged by", and instead of sticking with the "by" from "by what I heard" his brain made that split second decision to go with the "with" from "with what I heard". Easy and understandable mistake to make, now that we have the privilege of all this context above. I believe this closes the case.


"encouraged" can be either an adjective or a past participle of the verb "encourage" used in a passive construction. One way to tell the difference is to notice whether "encouraged" is modified by "very", since "very" modifies adjectives but not verbs (nor participles of verbs, because those are still verbs).

So "Ryan was encouraged" could either be a passive, "... encouraged Ryan", or an adjective construction. However, "Ryan was very encouraged" has to be an adjective construction, not a passive, since *"... very encouraged Ryan" is ungrammatical.

The verb "encourage" takes a "by" phrase expressing a method or a "with" phrase expressing an instrument. "Trump encouraged Ryan with a stick by poking him with it." And of course in the passive, "by" can express the original subject of the active form.

The adjective "encouraged" takes a "by" phrase or a "with" phrase or an "at" phrase expressing a factor causing the state of encouragement. "Ryan was very encouraged at/with/by what Trump told him."

It sounds peculiar to give a person as a factor that causes a state of encouragement, ?"Ryan was very encouraged at/with/by Trump", but without the "very", "encouraged" can be interpreted as a passive, so of course "Ryan was encouraged by Trump" is perfectly okay.

Concerning the original question, I'd say no special reason, except perhaps saving two letters if "by" goes in a headline.


To answer your "gist" question,

Which is the correct preposition, "by" or "with"? Why?

both are "correct". Your question would best be, instead,

which is the most effective preposition?

Why? Because the question pertains to spoken English (Ryan's, during the media interview), repeated in quotes and paraphrases in written English (in published accounts of the interview).

Of the first, spoken English, both of Ryan's uses of "encouraged with" are "correct". That sense of the preposition 'with' is still used, and communicates effectively. The sense is widely understood by anglophones. Generally, the sense is

III. Denoting instrumentality, causation, or agency.
(a) Indicating the means or instrument (material or immaterial) of any kind of action: By means of, by the use of.
b. Formerly used in many cases where by (BY prep. 30, 32) is now the usual or only construction....

["with, prep., adv., and conj.". OED Online. June 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/229612?rskey=Gqd5we&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed July 24, 2016). Bold italic emphasis mine.]

If instead of 'with', however, Ryan had said 'encouraged by', that also would have been correct, and would additionally have been more effective.

Why more effective, not more "correct"? Because 'encouraged by' is now usual, to the point of being more idiomatic in most local, regional and specialized uses. However, 'encouraged by' is not yet the "only construction". This is as suggested by the OED definition III. 37. b.

In print, different influences prompt word choices than in speech. Although I don't have access to the individual stylesheets used by, for example, The Guardian and Boston Herald, it would not be unusual for such 'house' stylesheets to specify which preposition should be used in a particular construction with a particular verb; a copy editor's choice of 'encouraged by' might well be dictated by a house stylesheet.

Thus, while The Guardian's use of 'by' outside a direct quote in

Paul Ryan claimed he was “very encouraged” by his meeting with Donald Trump but again declined ....

(From The Guardian, "Ryan on meeting with Trump: 'It’s important we don’t fake unifying'". Emphasis mine.)

might be determined by a house stylesheet, inside a direct quote, it's a different story:

“I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today,” Ryan said.

(op. cit.)

With respect to your question, it's irrelevant, but using 'by' in the latter would have been "incorrect". Direct quotes are correct only if they reproduce faithfully what was said by the person quoted.

Choices dictated by house stylesheets aside, the use of "by" in the former might have been simply a result of the writer's, or an editor's, sense of the more usual and thus the more readily understood idiom in the construction "he was 'very encouraged' by his meeting".

  • This is a fair answer. However have you thought about the possibility that the construction Ryan was trying to use was "with what I heard" and not "encouraged by"? I think the two phrases intersect with each other, and in the spur of the moment Ryan just decided to go with the "with what I heard", as I outlined in my answer.
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    @V0i, That's a thought. To develop it further (necessarily?), if what Ryan had in mind was "happy with what I heard", 'by' is not at all idiomatic, and so 'with' might stick when he changed his mind mid-sentence to use 'encouraged' instead. A counter-indication is that he used the construction twice, and so changed his mind twice in mid-sentence. As someone who makes high-stakes split-second verbal decisions daily, I think it somewhat unlikely that he wouldn't have reformulated the phrasing by the second time around. However, I tried to avoid speculation about what he might have had in mind.
    – JEL
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 18:50
  • @V0ight, in truth, I have screenshots from NOW showing idiomatic usage of "with what I heard" with 'upset' (x2), 'pleased' (x1), 'happy' (x3), 'satisfied' (x1), and 'disappointed' (x1). Note the higher number of instances for 'happy'. I repeated the exercise for "with this meeting", with inconclusive results, so I omitted including the screenshots from NOW.
    – JEL
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 18:59

First the obvious: "Encouraged by" is the standard and markedly more common expression, and news outlets that standardized the expression probably did so accidentally, because "encouraged with" is comparatively uncommon. I would next note that "by" is active, while "with" is passive. "I am disgusted by the candidates" because they are actively disgusting me, but "I am disgusted with the candidates' positions," because the positions are not active parties.

So, while I cannot read Speaker Ryan's mind, I think the subtle implication here is that neither Trump, nor the specifics of the meeting actively encouraged Ryan, but that he received passive encouragement from the mere fact of the meeting happening. This seems an extension of Ryan's tepid support of Trump, and his need to officially embrace him as the party's nominee, while simultaneously distancing himself from Trump-the-person and his actual positions and statements. It also reflects Trump's general unwillingness to go out of his way to actively pursue the party establishment.

The expression itself is uncommon, because encouragement is nearly always active by definition. I would guess that the use of it was not deliberate, but neither was it meaningless. It's relatively common for politicians' statements to accidentally hints at gaps between their public and private opinions; a symptom of the cognitive dissonance they are continually exposed to as an occupational hazard.



enter image description here enter image description here

Quoted from Collins Cobuild Dictionary


ENCOURAGED BY a living being or any object.



Both ENCOURAGED BY and ENCOURAGED WITH mean the same thing.


1. American English -

  • ENCOURAGED BY = 1786
  • TOTAL = 1813

2. British English -

  • TOTAL = 652

3. Canadian English -

  • TOTAL = 402

4. Great Britain English -

  • ENCOURAGED BY = 1449
  • TOTAL = 1469

5. Ireland English -

  • TOTAL = 306

6. Australian English -

  • TOTAL = 424

7. New Zealand English -

  • TOTAL = 238

8. Indian English -

  • TOTAL = 273


From the sample data available, it's clear that ENCOURAGED BY is preferred over ENCOURAGED WITH.

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