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While studying, I faced these two sentences:

I come to Istanbul on the train every week.

and

I came to Istanbul last week by train.

I want to know is there any differences between the phrases 'on the train' and 'by the train?'

Regards

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  • Idiomatically, it's I go there by train every day, not ...by the train. But this belongs on English Language Learners anyway. Aug 2, 2018 at 20:46
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    ...but I suppose we ELU users might occupy ourselves wondering why come here on the train should be way more than twice as common as come here by train, whereas go there by train and go there on the train are both equally common. Aug 2, 2018 at 20:54
  • First, I agree that both are correct: simply, ‘on the train’ tells me what you were on while you were getting there, while ‘by train’ tells me the method you used to travel. Why should ‘on’ be more common? If you think language is subject to natural selection, there does not need to be a reason. Somehow it caught on. Note how (I think) we travel BY plane or BY sea. We go BY car but (more commonly, I think ON THE BUS. Where did that ‘the’ come from?
    – Tuffy
    Aug 2, 2018 at 22:12
  • need to include 'under the train' too. lol
    – lbf
    Aug 2, 2018 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

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On means you are physically on the train. By is referring to the method you used to get to Istanbul (ie train).

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    Just so: you ride on the [or a] train to get to your destination by train. You can also use on the or on a, and by with other modes of transportation: bus, car, bicycle, etc.
    – tautophile
    Aug 3, 2018 at 4:17
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Both phrases mean the same thing. In my area of the US, they are used interchangeably.

It is always 'by train' and never 'by the train' though.

The phrase 'by the train' would mean the same as 'near the train'---quite a difference in meaning. A native speaker would probably recognize the mistake in context, as it is a common mistake for non-native speakers.

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