I was doing a composition and I had to use the relative pronoun in the pair of sentences.

This is the path. He came by this path.

And its answer was This is the path by which he came.

But is this grammatically correct to say?

This is the path that he came by.

3 Answers 3


This is the path that he came by.

Yes this makes sense, and personally sounds better than the answer you gave. ( That sounds a little bit literary for me, I wouldn't say that in real life probably).

However this sentence also has an additional meaning. It can also mean that he ( the person) could have been walking, and stumbled upon/ found a path.


Bob was walking in the forest and happened to come by a path.

  • I think it's worth pointing out that the usage to come by something (by chance) has massively declined relative to come across it over the past couple of centuries. Jan 4, 2019 at 19:25
  • @FumbleFingers for sure, I see it in fiction books quite a bit though. I would never say it in real life sounds awkward
    – bobbin
    Jan 4, 2019 at 19:36
  • This second meaning of "came by" is almost always used with a qualifier stating when or what he was doing, as in your example sentence. You wouldn't normally say just "He came by this path." So it's an extremely unlikely interpretation of the sentence in the question; in that context, it almost certainly means the OP's interpretation.
    – Barmar
    Jan 4, 2019 at 20:05

This is the path by which he came - fine
This is the path which he came by - fine
This is the path that he came by - fine
This is the path he came by - fine
This is the path by that he came - NOT VALID

The first four all mean exactly the same, and it's a bit meaningless to say that any of them are "better" or "worse" than any others. The same principle applies to other prepositions in similar constructions...

This is the house in which he lives, ...which he lives in, etc., but NOT in that he lives
This is the company for which I work, ...which I work for, etc.... but NOT for that I work

  • I feel like "This is the path by that he came" is something that would be said in an old book from the 1500's and 1600's though. Sounds like something you would hear in a shakespear play lol
    – bobbin
    Jan 4, 2019 at 19:29
  • I just checked Google Books for all written instances of by that before 1810. There are only a couple of pages, and not one of those where I can read the context is relevant to the usage here. Jan 5, 2019 at 13:47
  • oh yes it most definitely is not valid, but it sounds archaic for some reason to me.
    – bobbin
    Jan 6, 2019 at 13:59

It is correct.

You could also say:

This is the path he came by

This is the path he came on

This is the path he walked on

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