Is it okay to say

(By) studying in the university, I was able to gain (the) access to the knowledge I desire.

Do I need to add by in the front?
Do I need to add the in front of access?

  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/51965/… Apr 5, 2015 at 13:04
  • 1
    I'd put "desire" in the past ("desired")
    – elaforma
    Apr 5, 2015 at 16:12
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    Also, the common usage would be "at the university", not 'in'. Probably because most universities are composed of multiple buildings.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 5, 2015 at 17:56
  • @jamesqf what if I specify the name of the university, for example: by studying at the HIT..., do I still need to use at instead of in? Apr 6, 2015 at 0:45
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    @Aw Qirui Guo: Yes, it's always at, at least in American usage. But - just to confuse you - it's typical to say that someone is "in college" in general, but at a specific one. E.g. "My kid is in college." "Oh, where does she go?" "She's at MIT."
    – jamesqf
    Apr 6, 2015 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


I would omit the, because there are many specific forms of access provided to knowledge. One could cite libraries, classrooms, laboratories, professors as sources of knowledge at a university, and studying at a university affords access to all of them. There is no single source of access that definite article "the" might imply.

Although I don't think there is a hard rule mitigating for or against "by," I would tend to lean in favor of it. "Studying in the university" casts, to me, the notion of a specific time or moment of study, whereas "By studying.." conveys the general notion of study that, in turn, provided access to the desired knowledge.


(By) studying in the university, I was able to gain (the) access to the knowledge I desire.

You don't need to use the article "the" in front of access. Second, as you are talking about the event in the past, it will be appropriate to change the present tense "desire" into the past tense "desired".

I think there is an insignificant or subtle difference when you start your sentence with the -ing form of the verb "study". So the sentence will convey almost the same meaning whether you use "by" before the -ing form or not. However, note the senses when the -ing form and by + the -ing form are used:

If you use only the -ing form, it may mean "while you were studying".Besides, you can also use the -ing form to give areason. So this clause means "as/because I was studying in the university".

On the other hand, when you tell the way you achieve something, you use by + the -ing form.

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