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Is just the first one correct or are there both right?

After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and realized that the shark had passed by him / passed him by, completely ignoring him.

2 Answers 2

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Both are 'correct' in that they are valid expressions in English. However, passed him by gives the required meaning that the shark had swum past without attacking him as he had feared it would. (Passed by him just says that it swam past.)

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  • "Passed by him" doesn't sound natural to me.
    – Jaime
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 19:37
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  • you don't need the him, in "passed by him" which is why it sounds unnatural. "After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and realized that the shark had passed by, completely ignoring him."
    – WendyG
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 11:04
  • @WendG: but "the shark had passed him by" is at least grammatically fine, even if the 'him' is unnecessary.
    – Jaime
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 10:42
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I find that with a separable phrasal verb like "pass by" (i.e. ones whose preposition can jump over the object when that object is a pronoun rather than a noun phrase, or when the noun phrase is short) the preposition usually has to jump the pronoun.

I would say all the following sound fine:

  • The car passed by the traveller without stopping.
  • The car passed the traveller by without stopping.
  • The car passed him by without stopping.
  • The car passed by the traveller in the blue raincoat.

but these sound a bit iffy:

  • The car passed by him without stopping. (the preposition should have jumped over the object pronoun)
  • The car passed the traveller in the blue raincoat with the hood by. (the root verb and its preposition are too far apart)

Different phrasal verbs have different rules, but to me "pass by" is a bog standard "separable phrasal verb."

The rules apply as much to sharks as they do to cars.

There's lots of material on such verbs on the web.

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