Easy English mix-ups: by, buy, bye

Let’s discuss some words that are often mixed up by students when writing in English. This mix up is ‘bye’, ‘buy’, and ‘by’.” These three words are pronounced the exact same way, but are spelled different and have completely differently meanings.

Let’s first look at ‘bye’.

This is the word that native speakers say when they are leaving a place. This word is a short form of ‘goodbye’ and is often said by raising your hand with your palm facing towards the other person and waving it from right to left.

Fun Fact: In old English, ‘goodbye’ meant “God be with you.”

Next, let’s talk about ‘buy’.

This is a verb that is used when you exchange money for goods, for example at the supermarket.

It can also be used as a noun to talk about a purchase that you have made. For example, ‘a hot buy’ could describe a popular item on sale in a store.

Finally, let’s look at ‘by’.

This is used as a preposition because it identifies the person that is doing the action. For example, “this blog is written by Kelly”. In this sentence, we are identifying who wrote the blog.

It is also commonly used as an adverb. If you are describing the location of an object in relation to another object, you could use ‘by’. For example, “the tray is by the fridge.” If you use ‘by’ before a date or time, it means that the event needs to happen before the time stated. For example, “we will have the meeting by 4:30”; in this case, the meeting will happen before or at 4:30, but not later. Another way you might see ‘by’ used is when talking about the size of an object. For example, “the room is four meters by five meters” meaning the room is “four meters in length and 5 meters in width”.

So how are you going to remember the different spellings? That is a great question. First, remember that ‘goodbye’ means “God be with you,” Do you know what the old English word for ‘you’ was? It was ‘ye’. So remember, ‘bye’ is ‘b + ye’.

And ‘you’ make a purchase at a store, so this ‘buy’ has a ‘u’ in it. That should help you remember that when you read this ‘buy’ it means ‘purchase’.

Finally: the last type of ‘by’. Honestly, I don’t have a trick for remembering this one, but if you remember the rules for the other two, you will know that you want to use ‘by’ anytime ‘buy’ or ‘bye’ will not work.

image: woodleywonderworks