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Land trade routes [ by / through ] which Venetian merchants transported spices to Europe were closed by the Ottoman Empire.

Which one is correct, by or through? Could you help me clarify it? Thank you always.

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  • Overland trade routes used by Venetian merchants to transport spices to Europe were closed by the Ottoman Empire. You don't really need either one. – Lambie Feb 1 '18 at 19:28
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I would use by:

Land trade routes by which Venetian merchants transported spices to Europe were closed by the Ottoman Empire.

In the next two examples I have changed the sentence slightly to make it clearer (possibly not factually correct):

Routes by which Venetian merchants transported spices to Europe were the Silk Road and . . .

Countries through which Venetian merchants transported spices to Europe were Egypt and . . .

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    the right term is overland trade routes, fyi. – Lambie Feb 1 '18 at 20:38
  • @Lambie, thank you. I saw that in the research I did, as well as that the spice routes were mostly by sea and not overland, but this question is about by/through and not about history or the use of land/overland. – Weather Vane Feb 1 '18 at 20:39
  • If the sentence is rewritten in a better style, the prepositions are not needed at all....and the meaning is retained completely. Why get into "by which" and "through which" when they are not needed?? That is the first thing a writing teacher would say. Simplify. – Lambie Feb 1 '18 at 20:42
  • @Lambie I read your comment under the question. If that wasn't enough, write your own answer, instead of being picky. The question asks about by/through, not for a complete and definitive English/History/Geography lesson. – Weather Vane Feb 1 '18 at 20:47
  • I think convolution is not great.... – Lambie Feb 1 '18 at 23:32
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X by Y can be used to express "instrumentality" - i.e. you used X to accomplish something. A route is used to transport spices, so this works.

X through Y can be used the same way, but implies that X was not possible or visible without using Y. Was the route the only way to transport those spices, or was transport of spices not possible before? Then through might be better.

Also, if Y is long or vague process, through will be preferred.

Through continual improvement, we will succeed.

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I think by is used to specify the means of transport: by train, by foot, by camel...

In this case, through seems more suitable.

Land trade routes through which Venetian merchants transported spices to Europe were closed by the Ottoman Empire.

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For what it's worth, I think one goes "through" a route, but I do not believe anyone is going to have a fit if you say "by" a route. Introducing the concept of countries is not at all helpful: wars have been fought about the definition of what is a country. Unless that is the main point of what you are saying, it is much better not to raise the subject.

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