Please look at the following sentence. I wouldn't say this that way and would consider a kind of determiner that should be used before the word "unit".

What about you please?

Sort the telemetry records by unit number.

  • 2
    The sentence you quoted is idiomatic, just as you might say "sort the records by age".
    – Lawrence
    Sep 7, 2016 at 6:43
  • What do you mean by idiomatic please? I've heard it so much. Would you state its definition in simple words and briefly?
    – Abbasi
    Sep 7, 2016 at 6:57
  • 1
    An idiomatic phrase is one that 'sounds right' to a native speaker. Have a look at definition 1 in this link.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 7, 2016 at 8:02

1 Answer 1


In this instance, the complement of the preposition by is a category or the name of an attribute and thus no determiner (aka "zero" determiner) is the right choice.

Just as in an apartment complex each apartment has a unit number (they all possess that attribute), the telemetry records in your example have been assigned a unit number.

The students were grouped by age.

She opened the outer doll, and then the doll inside it, and then the doll inside it, until she had all of the dolls before her; she then arranged them by height.

  • Thanks for the answer. I see what you say but can't figure out what it has to do with my instance! PS: Both age and height are commonly uncountable so there is no need to use a determiner for them!
    – Abbasi
    Sep 7, 2016 at 13:08
  • @franky: What's the age of that piece of furniture? It looks like an antique. What's the height of that building?
    – TimR
    Sep 7, 2016 at 13:43

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