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Why would we say by car or by bus instead of saying by a car or by a bus, or by the bus or by the car? Because when I want to refer to a specific kind of a car, how would I say it? Such as: a gang ran away by a car or by the car.

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It has nothing to do the preposition, but how the noun is being used. The old countable/uncountable thing, but with a slight twist.

If one travels between Point A and Point B, and this motion was achieved by stepping onto a bus and riding it, then we say the trip was by bus. This is because "bus" is being used as a mode of transportation (uncountable) vs to identify a specific object. "Fred traveled to Chicago by bus."

This next part gets a bit tricky. If we are writing a narrative (ie, a sort of story), and we describe Fred's travels, we might say "In Cincinnati Fred got on a bus. He took the bus all the way to Chicago." Here we are describing a specific object, vs a mode of transportation.

And, of course, in simple declarative statements the noun is generally (but not always) countable: "The bus from Cincinnati has not arrived in Chicago yet." Or: "A bus departs from this station about every 5 minutes during rush hour."

Whether or not "by" or some other preposition comes first is not a determining factor, except that there's a higher probability (but definitely not a certainty) that an uncountable noun will be needed in that position, just based on typical sentence structures.

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  • So "The gang escaped in a blue car" (one particular vehicle). Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 8:05

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