Maria Vasylovna was not aware of the death sentence or his apparent execution until speaking with Mashable on Thursday. Upon hearing the news, she broke down in tears in front of her home.

“For two shirts… they shot him?” she said as she fought by tears. She said that her son’s friend, Valentin, had told her “everything would be fine.”

I don't understand what to fight by tears means.

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    "fought back" tears
    – user6951
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 9:31
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is just a "typo" - somebody wrote by instead of back. Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 20:08
  • @FumbleFingers but he didn't know it was a typo, so how can that be OT?
    – o0'.
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 23:13
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    @Lohoris: The OP's motives and possible justification aren't relevant. The intention is that ELL questions and answers should be of potential use to future visitors, and clearly this one has no real chance of doing that. All it needed was a comment pointing out the error (as a courtesy to OP), after which it should be closed. What on earth is the point of 21 users (and counting!) upvoting a blindingly obvious answer? Dozens of ELL questions that are potentially of genuine interest and benefit to many learners go virtually ignored, while people positively flock to one like this. <Sigh>. Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 23:46
  • @FumbleFingers 1. StackOverflow is full of threads were people needs some help with a very specific problem they have 2. if you do not know it's a typo, you, umh... don't know it's a typo? How can you declare something as OT if the poster can't know it is? It's pointless to say "typos are OT", since the potential poster have no way of knowing that!
    – o0'.
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


It must be an error. It should be fought back tears.

“For two shirts… they shot him?” she said as she fought back tears.

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    I agree. Google Ngrams shows precisely zero occurrences of 'fought by tears'. The only possible meaning of 'fought by tears' would be if two people were having an argument and one fought by words and the other fought by tears, and even that would be unusual English usage.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 9:43
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    "Only possible"? Pfft. Here are some more: "Alice and Bob were fighting the sentient paper monsters. The primary methods that could neutralize their attackers were stabs and tears. Alice fought by stabs, while Bob fought by (with/using) tears (rips)." "Edgar's dirges were so bad that it caused physical pain to his enemies. His ally, Allen, fought with a sword as Edgar sang. Allen fought by (alongside) tears (laments)." (using meaning 3 from en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tear#Etymology_2, "That which causes or accompanies tears; a lament; a dirge.") Ok yes, I'm reaching.
    – Tim S.
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 17:35
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    I had such trouble learning to spell definitely and defiantly I had a sentence prepared to use them interchangeably! "My dad asked me to stay home today, but I'll be [definitely/defiantly] going out tonight!"
    – Phil
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 20:53
  • @TimS. OK then, 'one of the very, very few possible meanings'! At least my scenario is at least moderately plausible.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 2:59

It's likely that the correct quote is fought back tears (meaning she was suppressing her crying), although I could see fought by tears being used to mean she was crying, but managed to get the words out through/around the tears and crying. If so, it is a very unusual construct. fought through tears might be more common.

  • "Fought back tears" means, as you say, that she was struggling not to cry; "fought by tears" is clearly a mistake. "Fought through tears" doesn't make a whole lot of sense: to fight through something would typically mean to struggle through some physical barrier, such as a jungle or forest. Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 23:30
  • "Fought through tears" is widely used -- just google the phrase. You're crying and at the same time struggling to get out what you're trying to say. Tears themselves aren't much of a physical barrier, but the emotions producing them can be a substantial barrier.
    – Phil Perry
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 14:01
  • Googling "fought through tears" (with the quotes) gives 66,500 Google hits; "fought back tears" gives 2,860,000. So I dispute that "fought through tears" is widely used: even "fought by tears", which we all agree is wrong, gets 352,000 hits! Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 14:43

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