Word Choice: Buy, Bye or By?
  • 3-minute read
  • 2nd August 2020

Word Choice: Buy, Bye or By?

The words “buy,” “bye,” and “by” look and sound similar. These terms are all used differently, though, so you won’t want to mix them up in your writing. Check out our guide to learn how to use each of these words correctly.

Buy (Purchase)

“Buy” is a verb that means “purchase” or “obtain in exchange for payment”:

I will buy some milk later.

Less formally, it can also mean “accept something as true”:

He told me he was at church, but I don’t buy it.

Finally, used as a noun, “buy” refers to something that was purchased:

It was a good buy at that price!

The key idea with this term, though, is purchasing something.

Bye (Goodbye)

“Bye” is typically a shortened version of “goodbye.” In most cases, then, people use it to say “farewell” when parting from one another:

Bye! We’ll see you again soon.

When you’re writing, though, remember that this is an informal farewell.

A second use is in sport, where “bye” is a noun that refers to a period when a team or player does not have to compete:

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Rafael Nadal received a first-round bye at the US Open.

This sports usage is rarer, but it uses the same spelling.

By (Preposition or Adverb)

“By” is a very common word in English with quite a few uses. Most often, it is a preposition (i.e., a word that shows the relationship between a noun and another part of a sentence). Its uses in this case include saying:

  • Who or what did something (The book was written by the author)
  • How something was done (I got there by bus)
  • That something is near to something (It’s by my desk)
  • That something must be done by a certain point (Please do it by Monday)

As an adverb, meanwhile, we use “by” to show movement past something. This can be either physical movement or passage through time:

We walked by your old house yesterday.

The years passed by, but nothing changed.

This word has a lot of uses, so it can be hard to remember them all! But the key is knowing that “by” is usually a preposition, never a noun or a verb.

Summary: Buy, Bye, or By?

To make sure you use the correct spelling, remember:

  • Buy is usually a verb and means “purchase.”
  • Bye is typically short for “goodbye,” but it is also a noun meaning “a time when a team or player does not have to compete” in sport.
  • By can be a preposition or an adverb, but never a verb or noun. Common uses include saying who did something or how something was done.

In other words, if you’re purchasing something, use “buy.” For an informal farewell, say “bye.” But in most other cases, the correct word will be “by.”

For more help with your spelling, or any other aspect of your writing, why not submit a free sample document for proofreading today?

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