Word Choice: “Using” vs “By Using”
  • 3-minute read
  • 28th September 2022

Word Choice: “Using” vs “By Using”

Learning English is no small task, and certain rules are hard for even native speakers to keep track of. For example, you’ve probably never thought about the difference between “using” and “by using.” While they may seem like they have virtually the same meaning and can be used interchangeably, these phrases have a slight difference between them, and it can have an effect on the message you convey in your writing. Read on to learn more. 

The Difference Between “Using” and “By Using”

The verb “use” means to employ for a purpose or put into service, and the noun that follows it is what’s being used. Placing “by” before “using” leaves less room for interpretation because “by” connects whatever comes before “using” with what comes after it. 

Leaving “using” on its own allows for a variety of possible implications, because you’re not creating as specific of a connection. Let’s look at the following example with both “using” and “by using.”

I made money using my phone.

I made money by using my phone. 

Both of these sentences communicate something similar, but in the first example, it’s clear that you were able to make money by doing something on your phone, such as posting sponsored content on social media or selling goods in an online store. It essentially means that you made money while using your phone.

However, the second sentence technically implies that just the act of using your phone is what made you money, which probably isn’t what you actually meant. In this case then, “using” would be correct. 

Let’s look at another example:

I managed to not get lost using the directions you sent me.

I managed to not get lost by using the directions you sent me. 

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The first sentence fails to adequately connect the two ideas: you used directions, and you didn’t get lost, but those two things don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. In the second sentence, it’s clear that because you used directions, you didn’t get lost. In this case then, “by using” is correct. 

Sometimes, the difference between the two is clearer if you place the phrases at the beginning of the sentence.

By using this website, you agree to our terms and conditions. ✔︎

Using this website, you agree to our terms and conditions. ✘ 

In the first sentence, you’re being informed that by continuing to interact with the website, you’re agreeing to its terms and conditions. In the second sentence, the two ideas aren’t connected: you’re using the website, and you’re also agreeing to the terms and conditions. 

By using the pencil, carefully draw a line connecting the two points.

Using the pencil, carefully draw a line connecting the two points. ✔︎

The first sentence seems to imply that the pencil is the reason for drawing the line. In the second sentence, it’s clear that you will use the pencil to draw the line.

Proofreading and Editing

We hope this post has cleared up the difference between “using” and “by using.” And if you need any help with word choice, grammar, spelling, or any other writing issues, our editors are here to help! Try out our service for free by uploading a 500-word sample

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