I’m not a native English speaker and I am confused with the usage of by and through. Can someone please explain to me their usage based on the example below?

I have a referral code which I want to share with my friend; I can do that using email or Facebook. What is the correct sentence to use,

1.“share by email”
2.“share through email”?

  • In your example definitely 'by'
    – danimal
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 9:18
  • 1
    @danimal Why do you think so? Any particular reason(s)?
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 12:33

2 Answers 2


Prepositions can be tricky because they often have multiple meanings depending on context.

"By" can mean "near", as in, "The house is by the water." It can also mean "using", as in, "We travelled by car." That works here. "We shared by email" means "we shared using email".

"Through" usually means "passing over the boundaries of", as in, "We drove through Spain". It carries the implication of going in and coming back out -- you don't use "through" when you stop inside the place or thing. You might use "into".

We sometimes use "through" to describe a method of communication, I guess on the thinking that the message travels "through" this communication system. Like, "I sent a letter through the mail", as in, the message travelled through the postal system. Or, "We kept in contact through the telephone." So in that sense you can say, "We shared through email", i.e. the sharing went through the email system.

Note this usage is pretty much limited to communication. You wouldn't say, "We travelled through train", you'd say "We travelled by train." ("We travelled through a train" would mean that you walked up and down the length of the train, or that you walked in one door of a train and then out the opposite door, not that the train carried you somewhere.)

  • Can you think of a case which changes the meaning without adding an article? 'I went by air', 'I went through the air' but 'I went through air' isn't right. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 14:19
  • Easier to refer to a good dictionary. through: preposition & adverb "5.1 By means of (an intermediary or agent): seeking justice through the proper channels;" by: preposition "Identifying the agent performing an action" (ODO)
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 4:53
  • share by email
  • share through email
  • share via email

All are acceptable and mean the same thing in effect.

The example is such that the choice does not change the meaning. However, in other contexts/ other sentences, the choice may depend on the exact meaning required.


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