What is the difference in meaning between walk by someone and walk past someone? For example:

The other day, Sara walked by me and didn't even say hello, but then she did a double take and said she hadn't recognized me.

The other day, Sara walked past me and didn't even say hello, but then she did a double take and said she hadn't recognized me.

2 Answers 2


In this specific context, they mean the same. "Walk by" seems to be favoured slightly more by American English speakers and "walk past" by British English speakers.

Note though that in British English, to "go by" somewhere can mean to go via that place, or even to visit that place. For example "I went by the shops today" in British English means that you visited the shops.


They are synonymous (in US English).

But you might want to consider how the word choice will be perceived by the reader. past is a description of a specific kind of motion, in which Sara is physically close to you, and her body is moving relative to your body in space. by is more general and does not specifically describe motion.

So I recommend using past when you want to emphasize the fact that Sara is walking and that she is passing you.

  • Thank you for the answer, but I'm confused. Could you clearify one point. You said that when someone walks past you, your body is relatively close to yours. But, doesn't "by" denote that? What kind of specific motion are talking about in your answer? Sep 15, 2020 at 15:23
  • In the specific sentence you quoted, they both have the same implication. But compare "I walked by the shop" and "I walked past the shop" - the latter is a specific physical description, the former is not. Sep 15, 2020 at 21:55
  • Thank you, but could you clearify what you mean by specific physical descrption. I can't see how "I walked past the shop" is more specific than "I walked by the shop". Sep 16, 2020 at 6:18

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