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There's no preposition in sentences like:

The river has risen five feet.
Jackie has grown at least a foot!
He opened the door a few inches.


Long time ago, I used to insert the by preposition into sentences like these. Call it mother tongue interference, if you want. Emotion: wink However, could it be correct in some context? I doubt it. Still, I would like to know why some non-native speakers do that. Emotion: smile

(i.e. The river has risen by five feet. or Jackie has grown by at least a foot.)
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PastsimpleThere's no preposition in sentences like:

The river has risen five feet.
Jackie has grown at least a foot!
He opened the door a few inches.


Long time ago, I used to insert the by preposition into sentences like these. Call it mother tongue interference, if you want. Emotion: wink However, could it be correct in some context? I doubt it. Still, I would like to know why some non-native speakers do that. Emotion: smile

(i.e. The river has risen by five feet. or Jackie has grown by at least a foot.)
I've heard/seen, perhaps even used, the preposition in AE; it doesn't sound strange.
PastsimpleThere's no preposition in sentences like:

The river has risen five feet.
He opened the door a few inches.


Long time ago, I used to insert the by preposition into sentences like these. Call it mother tongue interference, if you want. Emotion: wink However, could it be correct in some context? I doubt it. Still, I would like to know why some non-native speakers do that. Emotion: smile

(i.e. The river has risen by five feet. or Jackie has grown by at least a foot.)
The river has risen five feet. --- This sentence implies a more exact water level.
The river has risen by five feet.---By adding [by] the level becomes less precise.

It's like saying, I'll be home by five. I am implying not exactly five but around five.

Jackie has grown at least a foot! - [at least] is a prep phrase which modifies [a foot], meaning minimum.

If you say Jackie has grown a foot from a year ago. People will have the impression that it's exactly [a foot].

But if you say "by a foot" that implies it's not quite a foot.

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PhilipI've heard/seen, perhaps even used, the preposition in AE; it doesn't sound strange.
Thanks, that's exactly what I wanted to know. To be honest, I use the preposition from time to time. Really seldom, but do.
Hi Goodman,

I'd hesitate to say that the use of 'by' relates to the degree of precision.

Best wishes, Clive
The river has risen five feet. ---

The river has risen by five feet.---

Hi! My take

"Five feet" is a noun phrase functions as an adverbial.

"By" only makes this "adverbial function" more apparently. It has no relationship with "the degree of precision".

But I'm not sure whether you call it adverbial or sth else, eg. complimentEmotion: rolleyesEmotion: rolleyes

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CliveHi Goodman,

I'd hesitate to say that the use of 'by' relates to the degree of precision.

Best wishes, Clive

Hi Clive,



Like I said, I was hoping not to have a foot in my mouth! Emotion: lightning Well, with all due respect andsake of my inquisitiveness, How would you interpret the significance of "by" then since you polite told me that I gave a wrong impression with the exmaple I used in reference to time and water level? I am respectfully listeningEmotion: smile
That's one of those things I've never thought about as a native speaker, although I've heard it used throughout my life, and am sure I've said it that way a lot. I don't think it could be considered technically correct in any case, at least not in your examples, but I don't think many native speakers would even notice if you said it that way. More may notice if written that way, but we get away with a lot when speaking.
The point about precision is interesting. I agree that I don't think using "by" implies anything about precision. I would use "about" if I wanted to make clear the imprecision of the statement. But when I think of "The river has risen about five feet", I think it sounds odd and would probably say "The river has risen by about five feet". Maybe that's because "about" can also be used to indicate that something is near or surrounding another thing, such as "The river has risen about my feet". Maybe not the most elegent example, but it uses the original sentance. And that may explain why even native speakers often say "The river has risen by five feet" - not using the "about", but out of some sort of habit or something, leaving in the "by". Or maybe, after all of that explanation and thinking about it, it is a way of indicating imprecision! Although I stand by my statement that I don't think it really in a technical sense implies imprecision.
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