I read a sentence:

Have you ever been bitten by a dog?

but usually when we use "by" we don't put a/the/my before "noun". Why did we do that here?

  • 1
    'By' takes the indefinite article or a numeral before a count usage (and sometimes the indefinite article before a non-count one): He was chased by a dog / He was chased by three dogs / He was overwhelmed by a paralysing horror. Usually, non-count usages are anarthrous or take 'some': He's being killed by kindness / The crops were saved by some warmer weather. Jun 3, 2021 at 10:13
  • 1
    I think that you see a difference in "I was bitten by a dog" and "I went to London by bus/train/boat". The difference is that "dog" is countable and refers to a real dog, but "bus/train/boat" are, in this context, uncountable - "bus/train/boat" describe means of transport, and not an actual bus/train/boat.
    – user81561
    Jun 3, 2021 at 10:31
  • Try saying aloud "I was bitten by dog." If you're not hearing the need for an article there, work on that. Go listen to natives speak. Understand how dog (in this case, a particular dog) differs from other kinds of nouns. Then you will see what when you reference something specific or particular, you'll need that article. Jun 3, 2021 at 19:12
  • "a" is used because it is a general statement, it is not: I was bitten by the dog on the street. [correction: explain to me]
    – Lambie
    Nov 9, 2021 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


"but usually when we use 'by' we don't put a/the/my before noun. Can somebody explain me why we did that here?"

The statement above is not accurate:

I was bitten by a dog, not a cat. [general statement]
I was bitten by the dog in the street, not the one in the house. [specific statement]
I was bitten by his dog last night. [specific statement]
I was bitten by dogs three times when I was a kid. [general statement plural]

The dog bit me. [active sentence]
I was bitten by the dog or a dog. [passive sentence]


In English, there are words which show how many of something there are.

  • one car
  • two cars
  • three cars
  • a car
  • some cars
  • all cars
  • the car

All of these words specify the number of cars (the quantity of cars)

The word "by" is usually followed by a word which specifies the quantity of things performing an action

  • Matthew was annoyed by the salesman
  • Lisa was startled by all of the geese she saw in the park.
  • Erin stood transfixed by a puppy she saw in the window.
  • Aaron was robbed by two men wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

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