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  1. He took her arm.

  2. He took her by the arm.

I couldn't understand the difference between these sentences. Please help me out!

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He took her arm.

properly means he grasped her arm and removed it from its place. In the case of a saint or a disabled lady, it might refer to the theft of a relic or prosthetic limb. Usually we assume the arm remained attached to its owner, so most people will understand it as a terser phrasing of He took hold of her arm, which is just a formal way of saying He began to hold her arm.

He took her by the arm.

properly means, by means of one of her arms, he grasped and removed the woman herself. No one but a grammarian would imagine he picked her up by means of her arm; again you're looking at a terser version of He took hold of her by means of her arm.

It's not actually more violent or forceful but will seem that way to native speakers because most of the time people use the phrasing "take by the arm" in formal contexts like weddings, dances, &c. He took her by the arm implies the action occurred on his initiative; he took her arm suggests it may have been offered to him by her. (A similar action in a truly forceful context would be described with other words: grab, clutch, restrain, twist, yank, jerk, &c.)

  • @L.Day So polite. You're quite welcome. – lly Apr 20 '17 at 12:29
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"By the" is used to express that the whatever is an object, concept or method used "in order" to do/get something. One can leave out explaining the objective, in brackets for illustration below, with this construction. The simple form can stand on its own, no kisses required for it to make sense, see below - whereas one would generally expect more, a different construction, a context, if 'by the' was used on its own as in your arm example. It is, however, not a very misleading mistake, most people will not be confused.

The teacher took her by the hand (in order to lead her) to the others. The boy took her hand "and kissed it".

The 'by the' construction is particularly helpful with concepts. Try formulating this well-known frase without the 'by the' construction.

By the powers vested in me I now pronounce you man and wife.

When it concerns methodology the choice of... by the >< in order to... may have more to do with tenses and one's need for adverbs and literary nuances, than one formulation being more concise than the other. Also 'through' is used more commonly than 'by the'.

By the means of subterfuge he achieved his ambitions... ><... he took to subterfuge in order to achieve his ambitions/ he took subterfuge to extremes in order to achieve his ambitions. He has achieved his goal though extreme subterfuge.

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