What does 'by' add to here?

They walked along by the old canal.


3 Answers 3


To denote that they walked adjacent to the canal, rather than along it.

The phrase could alternatively be written:

They walked along beside the old canal.

  • @Lambie The word adjacent in my answer is referring to the use of by (per the question), not the use of along. As you've correctly pointed out in your excellent answer, the use of along conveys a sense of ongoing leisurely strolling.
    – Lee Mac
    Nov 24, 2018 at 16:14
  • "Adjacent" is fine.
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2018 at 17:45
  • @BillJ "To denote they walked adjacent to the canal rather than along it": So that means that to walk adjacent to something and walk along something are different? I doubt that...they are the same thing.
    – Lambie
    Nov 24, 2018 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Lambie in the specific context of a canal, they do mean the same thing because there is normally no other way to walk along a canal. But if you replace "canal" with "road" there is a difference between walking along the road (which suggests actually on the road surface) and walking along beside the road (on the grass next to it, perhaps). Nov 24, 2018 at 19:29
  • 2
    "Walk along the canal" sounds wrong to my (British English) ears, unless the canal is disused and dry. You can walk "along the tow-path", or "along the [canal] bank", but not "along the canal" itself, unless you can walk on water!
    – alephzero
    Nov 24, 2018 at 19:54

They |walked along| in silence. [right, we say along so it doesn't sound so abrupt and provides the idea of the ongoingness of the walking, no canal]

They walked |along the canal|. [right, means: the path or banks that are located beside the canal]

Here's the tricky bit: They walked by the canal and into town**. [they passed it during their walk].

As in: They walked by the school to the park. [they passed it and reached the park].

However, they walked along [in silence] by the field or canal means:

They walked along [ongoingness idea] by the field or by the canal with nothing else, means: they were parallel to it and not walking past it.

walk along = to stroll, to walk unhurriedly in an ongoing manner walk by [some thing] = [go by or go past something] BUT: walk by [some thing] can also mean: along or beside some thing.

But both together can only mean: to stroll or walk along the length of a thing: a road or path that goes by a field, a river, or other structure.


Don't forget that by is a preposition which, besides its other numerous meanings, basically means this:

near or at the side of

So, what the quote in question is saying is that they were walking along the old canal and the walking process was happening very close to it (or, in other words, by it).

  • Yes, but the tricky bit is along and by together.
    – Lambie
    Nov 25, 2018 at 17:37

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