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I've met a sentence that I couldn't clearly understand.
The sentence is:

Gogh is staying with him, painting side by side.

I know the expression 'side by side' has two meanings. One is 'next to' and the other is 'together'. Could you tell me which meaning does it have in the sentence above? I guess it's the second one. Please help me out with this.

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side by side means shoulder-to-shoulder (in humans) or side-to-side (in things) and facing in the same direction.

The soldiers marched side-by-side.

The statuettes were placed on the table side-by-side.

The books were arranged on the shelf side-by-side.

"Next to" comes close to the meaning but doesn't necessarily imply facing in the same direction.

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side by side can have a literal meaning, for example when two people are sitting next to each other on a sofa watching television. In addition, it can have a metaphorical meaning, where a group of people are engaged in a common endeavour.

As this NGram graph shows, the expressions fought side by side and worked side by side are common, but when you look at actual references, it is clear that it is not a literal meaning. Here is a typical example:

The 167th and 168th Infantries were brigaded together and fought side by side throughout many campaigns on the western front. - Journal of the Senate of the General Assembly of the ..., Volume 48, Part 1939

It is very unlikely indeed that two regiments (several thousand men) stood shoulder to shoulder in a second world war combat situation.

I think that, in this context, painting side by side is a metaphorical expression: the two artists were engaged in a common endeavour.

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Yes, I think it's "together" based upon the few context clues I have.

  • This could be useful if it explained what context clues you were relying on. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 27 '17 at 10:51
  • Well, the phrase "staying with him" lends me to believe that he is there to work together with him. Does it mean I am right? No, I would have to have more than just what you have written, but, in my mind, the author is trying to convey the idea that "living together" connotes "working together". I would need more context clues to be 100% sure, however. – Nick Oct 27 '17 at 13:57

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