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What is the difference between "near the lake" and "by the lake", meaning-wise?

Just never seen "by the" form in texts before.

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The "by" form is common (at least in British English). It means the same as "beside" - i.e. close to the lake, for example "at the edge of the water". See https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/by definition 5.

"Near the lake" could mean a greater distance between them. For example you could say "Heathrow airport is near London" even though it is actually 15 miles away from the center of London, but you wouldn't say "Heathrow is by London."

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  • Why on earth doesn't it make sense to say "Heathrow is by London"? It's very interesting. Roughly judging by sentences where "by" is used when meaning "beside" it seems to be meant for not only containing "nearly contact" but also "beside". I presume this is why you wouldn't say such because Heathrow is IN FACT far away from London. Then, were Heathor so close to London as to contact each other, could we say such? I want to know.
    – GKK
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 23:17
  • We use 'by' when talking about nearness to a single thing - by a lake, a river, a tree, a building, the sea. Not about a city like London which is 50 km across. Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 8:17

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