by twos and threes

sevengem

Senior Member
Chinese
Does it mean the same as "in twos and threes"?

They left in twos and threes = They left by twos and threes
 
  • kilton

    Senior Member
    English - American
    They both sound somewhat weird to me. If I had to chose I'd prefer the first one.

    I'd say "They left in groups of two or three."
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    They do mean the same, and can say either, but I would say that "in twos and threes" is more common. Perhaps "by twos and threes" is more old-fashioned. Here is an authentic example from 1906 (British):

    "Robin and his men went back as they had come, by twos and threes"
    [Stories of Robin Hood Told to the Children, by H. E. Marshall]
     

    Billf

    Senior Member
    English UK
    They do mean the same, and can say either, but I would say that "in twos and threes" is more common. Perhaps "by twos and threes" is more old-fashioned. Here is an authentic example from 1906 (British):

    "Robin and his men went back as they had come, by twos and threes"
    [Stories of Robin Hood Told to the Children, by H. E. Marshall]
    I stand corrected! I had never heard the term "by twos and threes" but agree that Matching Mole is absolutely right. :D I did a swift Google and came up with another example, again British, dating back to 1914:

    "In a few minutes the women began to come in by twos and threes wiping their steaming hands in their petticoats and pulling down the sleeves of their blouses over their red steaming arms. [Clay by James Joyce].
     
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