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Can someone please explain me the difference between touched by pity and touched with pity along-with reference sentences.

This search shows that both forms are used, but I couldn't make out the difference between the usage of the two phrases.

For example:

Usage of touched by pity:

Then the knight is in a predicament, as he thinks and ponders over the question: whether to present to her the head she asks him to cut off, or whether he shall allow himself to be touched by pity for him.

The apostle, touched by pity in the man's voice, and the plight of his handicap, looked straight at him

Usage of touched with pity:

A stone seeing this was touched with pity, and, wishing to help the cock, he laid himself across the stream.

who still remembered how much his countrymen were indebted to Columbus ; and was touched with pity for the man who had performed such great actions.

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    Neither actually make much sense on their own, without context. I think that you need to supply the sample sentences and ask people to help you interpret them. – Max Williams Jun 6 '16 at 15:00
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    They mean essentially the same. "Touched by pity" is probably a bit more idiomatic in the US, though it would depend quite a bit on the specific context and the "mood" the author wished to convey. – Hot Licks Jun 6 '16 at 15:10
  • I've reformatted the question to make it easier to follow, but it would also help if you were to indicate the sources of the individual quotations as well as your generic search. – TrevorD Jun 6 '16 at 15:20
  • afflicted with bubonic plague, afflicted by bubonic plague. Both prepositions express a so-called "instrumental" grammatical relationship: plague is the means by which the affliction occurs. – TRomano Jun 6 '16 at 16:01
  • Concerning your first two examples - the ones using by - I would suggest that they parse quite differently. In the case of the knight, it is he who, putatively, is touched by pity - for the person whose head he could remove. In the other example the apostle is actually touched by the man's voice and the pity it contains. In other words the first pity seems to be qualifying the verb - touched. The second pity seems to be an indirect object (ablative case?) of touched. So I believe there is already a debateable issue, before we even look at the with examples. – WS2 Jun 6 '16 at 17:13
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There is a contextual difference.

Touched By Pity:

Here pity is kind of personified. It touches you. Can be used when you are giving importance to the emotion 'pity' over the situation. ie. where 'pity is the main subject and not the ones affected'.

'The apostle, touched by pity in the man's voice, and the plight of his handicap, looked straight at him'

The reader is being diverted to the 'pity' in the man's voice over the man.

Touched With pity:

This indicates an emotion that is stirred from some events occurring. It shows the circumstances, the emotions of the players involved. ie. It depicts a reaction to a scene.

A stone seeing this was touched with pity, and, wishing to help the cock, he laid himself across the stream.

This is just one way of viewing it. As the context changes, so does the meaning.

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"The apostle, touched by pity in the man's voice..."

This is the definition of touched similar to "feeling sympathy", and is seperate to pity here: the apostle is touched, and the man has pity in his voice.

"A stone seeing this was touched with pity, and, wishing to help the cock, he laid himself across the stream."

On the face of it, this doesn't make sense: a stone can't feel pity. So, we accept that there's some "artistic licence" going on within the story, in which a stone has human-like feelings. Given that, it means that the stone itself feels pity.

We wouldn't normally use this definition of "touched" as a verb, but I think you could call it "poetic licence".

  • I tend to agree with your first point, concerning the apostle - my comment to the OP will elucidate further. I haven't yet thought much about the with examples. It wasn't me who down voted you, by the way. The phantom "drive by" cad is out and about. – WS2 Jun 6 '16 at 17:21
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There is certainly a difference I would say.

A stone seeing this was touched with pity, and, wishing to help the cock, he laid himself across the stream.

Who still remembered how much his countrymen were indebted to Columbus ; and was touched with pity for the man who had performed such great actions.

In the above example the anthropomorphised stone has been so 'influenced' by what he saw (which resulted in pity) that he has taken up and gone and made a stepping stone of himself in the stream. In the second sentence, the cock is 'influenced' with pity, when he recollects the 'great actions' performed by Columbus.

In both cases, pity is present, but it is not the underlying motivator. It was the stone's sight, 'seeing this' that catalysed the pity within him. It was the cocks remembering, 'still remembered', that resulted in the feeling of pity.

Then the knight is in a predicament, as he thinks and ponders over the question: whether to present to her the head she asks him to cut off, or whether he shall allow himself to be touched by pity for him.

The apostle, touched by pity in the man's voice, and the plight of his handicap, looked straight at him

OED breaks the uses of the preposition by down into seven categories. The 5th is the category in which the word is being used here: Medium, means, agency.

Pity is the underlying force at work here. As such we focus more on the pity itself. Pity is the agency at work, the medium motivating the action. Is the knight going to be 'touched by pity' and therefore have his actions influenced?..

The apostle was driven 'by pity' in and of itself, to look 'straight at' the man.

I would say in the second two examples (by pity) our attention is placed firmly on the motivational force of the pity. Whereas in the first examples (with pity) our focus is more on the event that precipitated the pity, and on the general sense of pity that now consumes the two subjects.

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