I heard this utterance the other day. My understanding is that we cannot say "by the car" such as "I go to school by car." Is this true for this case in my question?

  • 1
    "with that car"? Jan 14, 2014 at 6:26
  • "She goes to school by car" is definitely more idiomatic, and natural sounding. Could you give more context? Is there anything before that particular phrase? Or does it stand alone? Who wrote it? Was it a native speaker, a teacher, a learner?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14, 2014 at 8:06
  • 'She has a black car, in which she goes to school.' or 'She goes to school by car, a black one.'
    – WS2
    Jan 14, 2014 at 10:28
  • Trying to keep as much of your original sentence structure as possible: "She has a black car. She drives it to school." Or it maybe if she's not old enough to drive and it's really the family car: "She has a black car. She goes to school in it."
    – Jim
    Jan 15, 2014 at 2:17

4 Answers 4



  • I go to work by bus but I go home on foot.
  • I hate travelling by train.

Modes of transport (by bus, by train, by car, by plane, by bicycle) don’t have an article.

Notice that on foot is different.

Your example could be

She has a black car. She takes it to school every day


She has a black car and a black motorcycle; she takes the car to school every day.

  • By the car can also be used in some contexts.
    – Noah
    Jan 14, 2014 at 7:09
  • 1
    Example please? I swear by the car, I will obey the gods of motoring?
    – mplungjan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 7:11
  • @mplungjan Verily, and make offerings unto their prophets Click and Clack (or at least local NPR stations). I don't need a tote bag, but sure why not.
    – Elliott Frisch
    Jan 14, 2014 at 7:44
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    Noah - no, you wouldn't use by in that sentence. You would use in. "I came in the car parked in front of the building@
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 14, 2014 at 8:15
  • 1
    @Noah I think "I came by the car as part of my inheritance" is a more likely sentence. I don't object to yours, however I agree with Rory that in is more likely than by.
    – Matt Ellen
    Jan 14, 2014 at 10:45

"The" brings emphasis to the particular black car here.

My father bought me a new car. I travel by the car to work. The reference here is to the car that my father bought me. "That car" would be better usage, but "the car" works here.

How is the this for a stylistic technique, maybe in a work of fiction...

She has a black car. She travels to school by the car. As it is is a limited edition Ferrari, the car is the talking point of the school and has become almost synonymous with her...

The focus is on the car, so "the" goes on to become a stylistic tool rather than a mere article.

So while in normal conversation you would say, travel by car;

travel by the car

may be used for/with "special effects" in places.

  • 3
    No. Does not work for me at all. "I use the/that car to go to work" not "I travel by the car"
    – mplungjan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 9:33
  • 1
    @mplungjan But I wouldn't go so far as to categorise it as ungrammatical. And comprehension is not lost. It is just unusual usage.
    – WS2
    Jan 14, 2014 at 13:13
  • @WS2 That is exactly my point!
    – Preetie Sekhon
    Jan 14, 2014 at 13:16
  • @WS2, to me, comprehension is lost. I understand (and understood when I first read the question) “she travels to school by the car” as meaning that she travels to school next to the car, which does ruin comprehension. In the example in the question, I actually first thought the meaning was that her school was located next to her car, which seemed to me an oddly backwards way of describing things. Jan 14, 2014 at 23:14

You could say, 'She has a black car, by/in which she goes to school.' or 'She goes to school by car, a black one.'

Whilst 'by' is used with modes of transport, you run into difficulty with it if there is an article. One wouldn't normally say, for example, 'She goes to school by the black car'. In that instance one would use 'in the black car'.


You are correct, "She goes to school by the car" does not mean "She goes to school by car". So we might have to become fanciful to think of what it might mean. Maybe the school building is near the parking place of the car, so "She goes to school by the car" means that she is "by the car" when she "goes to school".

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