By turns and One by one


New Member
What's the differences between these two phrases?

I've tried to search Cambridge dictionary, but the answer looks pretty much the same.

one by one

separately, one after the other

by turns

one after the other in an agreed order

Is "order" the only different part here?

Thank you.
  • ghotioutofh2o

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've never heard or used "by turns."

    "One by one" means one after the other, e.g.: the ants go marching one by one. (There are many ants)

    From the dictionary definition, it seems that "by turns" means that there are two (or more) that are taking turns doing something, as in poker or the like.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I would use "by turns" if a sequence is to be repeated: "The poker players dealt by turns." That might not be exactly how I'd word it, "dealt in turn" or "took turns dealing" are probably what I'd use, but it would make sense.

    "One by one" would be when each person does something once: "The people got on the bus one by one." You wouldn't expect them all to get on the bus, then get off, and then get on again in the same order.

    I'm not sure this is the exact difference. It's just how I see the two phrases.
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