What is the difference between "near the lake" and "by the lake", meaning-wise?
Just never seen "by the" form in texts before.
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
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."