Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher we answer a question from Tien in Vietnam.
Dear VOA, I am writing to ask a question about the difference between "drop in " and "drop by.” Thanks in advance.
Thank you for writing to us. Both of these expressions mean to pay someone or something an informal visit. You may say, you “dropped by” someone’s house if you did not have an invitation but decided to visit them because you were in the neighborhood.
But there is a small difference between the expressions that may help you know when to use them.
Let us begin with “drop by.” It is a two-part phrasal verb, which means it combines a verb and an adverb. The verb is “drop,” which usually describes something falling in small amounts. The adverb is “by” which means “near.” Here is an example of how to use it:
I asked James to drop by the café tonight to hear our music.
In this example, when you go to a café, you do not need an invitation. You can enter for a short time or even stay outside of the building and still say you “dropped by.”
I found that people are using “drop by” to talk about the places they visit on a computer, as well as in person. Here are some examples:
Please drop by my other blog on photography.
Drop by every Monday for a new Mainly about Boats column.
Comparing drop by and drop in
Next, we can look at “drop in.” This expression can be a two or three-word phrasal verb. The two-word form, “drop in,” can be used like “drop by” with one difference – if you go to a place and plan to enter it, you would say:
I was passing your street and thought I’d drop in – do you have time for tea?
If you did not plan to enter the house or building, you could use “drop by, as in:
I will drop by tomorrow and put the letter under your door.
The three-word phrasal verb form is “drop in on.” You might hear it used this way:
Every now and then he would drop in on Grandmother for a quick chat.
You can tell from this final example that we use “drop in on” when we are talking about entering someone’s home:
The middle of the night is a bad time to drop in on a friend, but we could see that Megan needed help.
I hope this helps you understand when to use these expressions, Tien. Maybe you can practice them next time you drop by an English class!
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at email@example.com
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
To learn more about phrasal verbs, see our Everyday Grammar series.
Words in This Story
in advance – expression. before a future event or time
photography – n. the art, process, or job of taking pictures with a camera
column – n. an article in a newspaper or magazine that appears regularly and that is written by a particular writer or deals with a particular subject
chat – n. a light and friendly conversation
practice – v. to do something again and again to become better at it
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