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I know that 由 means through/via or from but I'm not sure exactly what contexts to use this in. For example the dictionary has this example sentence:


I understand this but I would have used a sentence like these:

  1. 让他们解决运输的问题。

  2. 运输的问题是他们的责任。

I'm trying to get more familiar with when to use 由 and to incorporate it in my verbal interaction (otherwise I'll probably never use it and forget it). I realize the three sentences above are very close in meaning, but I'm not really sure how to understand when, where, and why I should use 由.

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I also recommend that you pay attention to 由不得, as it contains the character 由 in it. You can find example sentences here: – jll90 Apr 16 '13 at 5:15

In your example 「运输问题由他们解决」 is similar to 「运输的问题是他们的责任」. They just state the fact. But 「让他们解决运输的问题」 is more like a suggestion or an order.

As @NS.X says, in this situation 「由」 means "by". But these two statements 「运输问题由他们解决」 and 「运输问题**由他们解决**」 have differences in the tense. 「运输问题由他们解决」 means "the transportation is to be done by them", while 「运输问题是由他们解决的」 means "the transportation has been done by them".

Note that 发动机是由蒸汽驱动的 equals to 发动机由蒸汽驱动, both of which states an objective truth.

And you've mentioned that 由 means through/via or from, but not in your examples. The correct usage:

用户可经由网络收集信息. Users could get information through the Internet. (经由, which means "pass through", these two characters are usually used together)

流行音乐由民歌演变而来. Popular music evolved from folk songs.

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In your example '由' means 'by'. To give you more examples,

发动机是蒸汽驱动的。 The engine is driven by steam.

这首歌是歌手自己创作的。 The song is written by the singer himself.

小区里的足球场是大家共同维护的。 The soccer field in the neighborhood is maintained by the community.

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Do all your examples need 是 to preceded the 由? In my novice experience, I think I would have written the sentences like this (I'm just taking the first one as an example): 发动机是蒸汽被驱动的。 Is my sentence wrong? If it isn't wrong, how can I know what contexts to use 由 and when to use something else? Thanks! – Avery Chan Apr 16 '13 at 7:22
@AveryChan you can remove 是 together with the 的 at the end of the sentences, i.e. 发动机由蒸汽驱动. Your sentence in the comment is wrong, it should be 发动机是被蒸汽驱动的. No matter 由 or 被, it's followed by the subject just like 'by' in English. 由 vs. 被 is a much more advanced and complicated topic, I suggest you read these papers first: – NS.X. Apr 16 '13 at 7:39

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