The guy who's sitting here in the picture, he is sitting by the computer or sitting next to the computer?

I need this preposition, because sometimes people call me and ask me "what are you doing" and I want to say that I'm sitting or dealing with the computer, but I would like to know what a native English speaker would say in such case.

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  • 1
    Duplicate of ell.stackexchange.com/questions/52122/…
    – mplungjan
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:52
  • 1
    @mplungjan That question doesn't mention "by" or "next to", so I don't see how it could be a duplicate.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 16:11
  • 2
    It mentions what native speakers would say when actively using a computer - so it is answering the actual question regardless
    – mplungjan
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 16:13

2 Answers 2


The answer should be I'm sitting in front of the computer or I'm sitting at a computer. "A" or "the" would of course be used depending on whether it's a very specific computer or just one you happen to be working on.

This is because as others mention, "by" or "next" implies a non-participation or at best a proximity to the computer. For example, "I'm having a coffee by the computer" or "I'm sitting by a computer" would tell someone that you're near a computer but they won't know if you're using it or not.


I think that if you use by or next to then they would both give the impression that you are sitting close to your computer. However, next to is more specific.

The preposition next to means to the side of and the use of by can mean near to something or somebody.

E.g. I sit next to my friend in the classroom.

= the speaker is beside her best friend,

E.g. I am sitting next to my computer.

= I am sitting to the side of my computer.

.E.g. His desk is by mine.

= His desk is close to the speaker's desk and not necessarily to the side of it.

E.g. I am sitting by my computer.

= I am close to my computer, but not necessarily to the side of it.

People also say at their computer which is usually taken to mean you are sitting or standing facing your computer and probably working at it as your picture shows.

  • I would say that in the particular use of "by/next to a computer" neither one specifically implies use of the computer whereas "at the computer" tends to
    – eques
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 18:43

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