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I would like to ask the difference between the by and via. I already checked the grammatical rules, but I don't really get it.

I'm used to say quite often, for example:

"I was talking with my friend via Skype."

and

"I went to somewhere by tram."

I don't see the point of the difference. I'm just getting used to it.

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    I'm assuming you're talking about the difference between the two assuming this specific use of "by"? Because "by" has many different definitions, most of which do not relate to "via" at all. – Catija Jun 1 '16 at 19:58
  • Ohh, and really I totally forgot. But yes, I meant the specific use of "by", which is relevant to the "via". – Bálint Pap Jun 1 '16 at 20:48
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The word via is used for through, which can also be an abbreviated form of through the medium of.

So "talking via Skype" is used to indicate that the conversation was done through the medium of Skype.

I can use the words by and via when talking about a place. For example:

I travelled to Wales going via Birmingham.

I travelled to Wales going by Birmingham.

These now have two different meanings. Going via Birmingham still means to go through Birmingham. The route goes right into Birmingham and out again. Conversely, when going by Birmingham it just indicates the route came adjacent to the city and does not enter it.

So they can be used in similar circumstances, but have similar but different meanings.

  • Thank you for your answer! Actually, it does became more complicated to me then I originally expected, but with your 'route goes into and out' example I think I get it now.:) – Bálint Pap Jun 1 '16 at 20:56
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Considering your specific usage, they are certainly occasionally interchangeable... but there many options and which one fits best really depends on what sounds "right".

Let's look at your first example:

I was talking with my friend via Skype.

Personally, I would probably not use "by" in this case. My first choice here would be to use "on" followed by either "via" or possibly "through". Others may feel that "by" works great here.

The second example (I've replaced "somewhere" with "work"):

I went to work by tram.

This works great for me... I might also say "I went to work on the tram." Via could also be a possibility here.

All that said, "via" is a bit of an odd word. Some people may use it regularly in their vocabulary but I'll bet that most people don't. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it, it's mostly something I felt worth pointing out.

  • Your personal advice was quite useful too, thank you! I have never seen the second one 'I went to work on the tram' as an interchangeable sentence for my example. In the spoken language I usually heard the "by" and the "through". Hardly ever the "via". But in written, I saw it more often.:) – Bálint Pap Jun 1 '16 at 21:11

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