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Can you please tell me if there as any difference between pass something and pass by something in the sense of going past it? For example:

On your way to the grocery store, you are going to pass a bank.

On your way to the grocery store, you are going to pass by a bank.

I haven't been able to find any difference on the internet and according to dictionaries they mean the same thing. Is it so? If no, what's the nuance of difference?

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  • On the other hand, there is a difference between "pass the salt" and "pass by the salt" :) Mar 5, 2023 at 15:20

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There isn't much difference in your examples, although the latter is said more often in British English. The more common alternative would be "you will go past a bank" (or similar). It may also be worth noting that to pass something means to excrete it as bodily waste - so you could have an amusing ambiguity if you said something like "on the way, you will pass water".

There is a bigger difference in meaning when something passes you, rather than you passing it. Idiomatically, if something 'passes you by', it means you missed it, didn't notice it, or didn't take full advantage of it - for example, "that joke passed me by" means you failed to notice the joke, and "life passed me by" means you did not live your life to the full.

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In British English, "to pass (something)" usually refers to get an object from yourself to another person, especially in sports. However, "to pass by (something)" is being near something for a short period of time as an effect of your journey.

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