Idioms Exercise (309)

Choose the preposition that fits the idioms in the following sentences.

  • The child broke the vase __ accident.

  • Even though computers dominate the workplace, people need to know how to write legibly __ hand.

  • I like to spend most of my time __ myself.

  • She does all her baking __ scratch.

  • Children enjoy learning poems __ heart.

Answers and Explanations

1. The child broke the vase by accident.

Here, by introduces a phrase of agency. "By accident" tells "how."

2. Even though computers dominate the workplace, people need to know how to write legibly by hand.

Again, by introduces a phrase of agency.

3. I like to spend most of my time by myself.

When by is followed by a reflexive pronoun, the sense is "alone" or "without help."

4. She does all her baking from scratch.

In this idiom, from indicates a starting place; the word scratch in this context means "nothing."

5. Children enjoy learning poems by heart.

"By heart" is a phrase of agency. Here, the word "heart" means "memory."

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