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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
The phrasal verb "come by"
Monday February 13th 2012
Question
The phrasal verb "come by"
Answer

Question

Natalie in Canada asked:  Is it okay to say, “Please, could you come by to my place for a minute?”


Answer

The sentence above would sound better if you left out “to” and said it this way instead:

  • Please, could you come by my place for a minute?, or
  • Could you please come by my place for a minute?

Come by is a phrasal verb that has two meanings, described below. It does not take the preposition to, except as part of a verbal infinitive, as in this example:

  • Please come by to say hello.


The two meanings of the phrasal verb come by


1) Make a visit
Come by means “to make a visit to someone," as in these examples:

  • Why don’t you come by for dinner? (=come to my house for dinner)
  • Please come by my office after class. (=come to my office)
  • Come by sometime. (=visit me sometime)


2) Get or acquire
Come by (something) means “to get or acquire,” as in these examples:

  • I asked him how he came by the money, but he wouldn't tell me.
  • A good job is hard to come by. (=it's hard to get a good job)


(Note that come by + car/train/plane, etc., which means "to arrive by a specific kind of transportation," is different. In this case, by is not part of a phrasal verb; it is the head of a prepositional phrase with the noun that follows.)

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