by night / during the night (??)

< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
I have problem of overusing by night (at least I think so :)). Please tell me what you'd use in following cases (I'll write what I use but it may be incorrect):

- I prefer driving by night.
- What were you doing by night? Why are you so tired?
- I love my city by night.
- He comes here by night to steel our apples.
- Why do you want to go shopping by night?

If these are incorrect (or at least some of them), please explain me in what cases I can use by night and in what cases other expressions.
Thanks in advance! :)
  • Kumpel

    Senior Member
    British English
    - I prefer driving at night.
    - What were you doing last? night? Why are you so tired?
    - I love my city at night. (But, I love the city by night - I think that one's just stylistic)
    - He comes here by night to steel our apples. (by night sounds more 'poetic' I think - otherwise, I like during the night)
    - Why do you want to go shopping at/during the night?
    Just my opinion.



    Senior Member
    English - US
    I have to agree with Kumpel, mostly.
    I would say he comes by here at night to steal...., but during the night is fine.
    I would also choose at, rather than during, for Why do you want to go shoping....
    My suggestions are a matter of personal preference. Kumpel is definitely correct.


    Senior Member
    English - UK
    'By night' is just another way of saying 'at night'. However, it can often sound rather archaic / poetic, and wouldn't often be used in normal speech. Just reading the thread title made me think of the Christmas carol, 'While shepherds watched their flocks by night'.
    I do think 'I prefer driving by night' sounds fine, though.

    I wouldn't know what someone meant if they said 'in the advent of night'. Do you mean when night is coming up, like dusk? It sounds weird, I wouldn't advise it.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    The only one of the sentences I found odd is "What were you doing by night?" Only "during the night" seems to fit here.
    For the others, I would alternate between by and at. Perhaps by is more what you would see in written English, I don't know.

    A good way of seeing a lot of examples is to look at the British National Corpus, where I found 283 examples.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    From the sticky thread at the top of this forum.

    The British National Corpus (BNC), around 100 million words, spoken and written:

    An alternative, and more extensive search of the BNC (through a university website):

    A corpus based on Time Magazine, also around 100 million words:

    Simple search through Collins (the dictionary publishers) Wordbank:

    The Compleat Lexical Tutor, a concordancer with rather limited corpora, but which allows you to choose the type of English you are most interested in:

    Glossanet, which uses online newspapers as corpora (in multiple languages):

    The University of Michigan has several different corpora, one of which is a corpus of academic spoken English:

    Latest addition for 2008! The Brigham Young University Corpus of American English:
    < Previous | Next >