Have you ever been tempted to use the phrase “accompanied by” or “accompanied with” but were concerned about using it in the wrong context? Worry no more! In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the meanings of these phrases, particularly how they’re different from each other.
“Accompanied by” is a phrase we predominantly use to describe when a person escorts another, but it can also refer to something that comes with something else. We also use “accompanied with” in this second sense when we supplement an object with another complimentary, inanimate object.
The ultimate reason for the differences between these phrases comes from the prepositions “by” and “with.” This article will closely observe the minor usage nuances to guide you on how best to use both “accompanied by” and “with” correctly.
The Difference Between the Two Phrases
“Accompanied by” and “accompanied with” have some overlap in meaning when we use them to refer to inanimate objects. Later, we will take a deeper look into “with” and “by” as prepositions to gain further insight into why this is.
Transitive Verbs and the Passive Voice
“Accompanied,” “accompany,” and “accompanying” are almost always transitive verbs, which must have a direct object — someone or something to receive the action indicated by the verb.
She accompanied me to the movies.
Here, the noun “me” functions as the direct object, receiving the action performed by the subject “She.” Since the subject performs the action, this sentence is an example of writing in the active voice.
A transitive verb with only a subject and a direct object is a monotransitive verb. In contrast, a transitive verb with a subject, direct object, and indirect object is a ditransitive verb, which we need not concern ourselves with here.
In contrast to the active voice, the phrases “accompanied by” and “accompanied with” are both in the passive voice. A sentence in the passive voice has a subject that receives the action instead of performing the action.
The shift from the active to the passive voice happens when the subject and direct object of a sentence switch places, and we change the main verb while adding a form of the auxiliary verb “be” (source).
I was accompanied by her.
Our stay was accompanied with difficulties.
The word “was” is a form of the auxiliary verb “be,” and the preposition “by” tells us through the agency of whom they received accompaniment. In the second example, the prepositional phrase “with difficulties” describes the nature of the group’s stay.
Using Accompanied By in a Sentence
When using the phrase “accompanied by,” we most often use it in reference to people — the Cambridge Dictionary notably uses people in most of its definitions of “accompanied.” It can mean to go with someone or something that comes with something else (source).
To be “accompanied by” someone means through their agency or by their act of going with you. Definition 4a for “by” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary best fits this usage (source).
She was accompanied by her husband.
Looking closer at the example above, it consists of the subject, i.e., the wife, and her accompanier, her husband.
A root word within “accompany” is “company,” meaning the state of having someone with you. Company has an incredibly positive connotation, seen as a cure for loneliness, an aid to lean on, or someone to protect you.
For example, someone may ask you to keep them company while they go on a trip. This request could mean that spending time with you is equally as important as the purpose of the trip.
In that case, when keeping someone company, you could say that you are accompanying them. Its usage in this sense is almost exclusively limited to couples, particularly in the early stages of the relationship — as one tries to show themself as chivalrous.
To be “accompanied by” something means that it arrives simultaneously. In the following conversation, the second speaker uses “accompanied by” to describe something that goes with something else.
Person A: Can I butter your waffles for you?
Person B: No, thank you, waffles taste better when accompanied by chocolate sauce.
The usage of the phrase “accompanied by” here describes the correlation between waffles and chocolate sauce, specifically that Person B would prefer chocolate sauce over the butter that Person A offered them.
Using Accompanied With in a Sentence
“Accompanied with” uses definition 4a of “with” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as indicating combination, presence, addition, or accompaniment. In this way, it is very similar to our second usage of “accompanied by.”
We use it in this context to describe the relationship between two inanimate objects that come together as a package deal in a sense. The most common usage describes items that come free when we purchase something — as in “my new shoes were accompanied with a pair of socks.”
It is very rare for us to use “accompanied with” these days. Both “accompanied by” and “accompanied with” saw equal amounts of usage in the 1800s, but, for some reason, “accompanied with” fell out of favor very quickly to the point where we barely use it at all (source).
For further insight into combining verbs with the prepositions “by” and “with,” consider reading our article on the difference between enamored by and enamored with.
The Functions of by and With
“With” and “by” are both prepositions — a function of speech that we use to describe a conditional relationship between two people or objects (source).
As incredibly versatile words, there are multiple definitions for “by” and “with.” However, we will focus on those most pertinent to understanding the difference between “accompanied by” and “accompanied with.”
With: Paired Together
When we describe two objects that we’ve paired together, we say they come with each other, as in “my breakfast came with a cup of coffee.” In this sentence, “with” describes how the coffee came into the picture. We received it as a result of buying breakfast.
We can also extend this usage to describe the position of two objects in relation to each other, which is handy when giving or receiving directions, such as in the below exchange:
Person A: “Where do you keep the milk?”
Person B: “With the cooldrink in the fridge door.”
Importantly, “with” describes the relationship between two existing concepts that can stand on their own. You could have breakfast and a cup of coffee separately and find out where the milk is without anyone telling you where the cooldrink is.
In this way, “with” links the two together to provide extra context or information. So, while the relationship is conditional, this is not to say that the objects cannot exist on their own should that relationship change.
By: Positional Relation vs. Agency
“By” only has two meanings that are worthwhile for us to highlight: that of positional relation and agency.
A key definition of “by” is “close to or next to,” implying a proximal relationship between two people or objects you describe. “By” serves as a much more effective positional statement than “with” since “by” implies a physical closeness — as in side-by-side.
However, we use “by” in the phrase “accompanied by” to indicate the person or thing through which an action happened. In other words, it is by someone or something’s instrumentality that someone or something else is accompanied.
By vs. With: Complimentary Items
Another thing to consider is the complementary nature of items that accompany each other. Consider a magazine that has an accompanying insert.
By referring to the insert as accompanying the magazine, we understand that, while the insert and its contents are not part of the magazine, there is still a correlation between them. It may be supplementary information, a handy summary, or perhaps even a correction of something in the magazine.
When a magazine is accompanied by an insert, we understand that the insert accompanies the magazines — it serves as the instrument performing the action. If we swapped out “accompanied by” for “with,” we would understand the insert as coming with the magazine as an addition or supplement.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that “accompanied,” “accompany,” and “accompanying” are almost always transitive verbs.
The exception is when we are referring to musical accompaniment, where “accompanying” can function as either a transitive or an intransitive verb. An intransitive verb does not have a direct object.
The violins were accompanied by two flutes — transitive.
While the string instruments played, she accompanied — intransitive.
To be accompanied by or, rather, accompaniment as a concept first emerged in musical orchestras. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes accompaniment as an instrumental or vocal part designed to support or complement a melody.
There are often multiple instruments of the same type that perform multiple parts of the same song together — for those unfamiliar with orchestras. Altogether, the performance creates a musical fullness that is pleasing for enthusiasts to hear.
Much like with modern music, however, there are sometimes lead instrumentalists or singers who join an orchestra for a performance. In this way, the house orchestra plays the melody to carry the song, while the leads perform their parts over and above it.
Modern music would glorify these lead artists over the rest; however, in the world of classical music, the house orchestra receives just as much attention as their role is equally important to the delivery of the song.
We don’t use the term accompaniment in modern music as much anymore, but you may still occasionally hear of a band or musician accompanied by a singer.
While limited to the musical world, this application still paints a rather romantic understanding of how we use the phrase “accompanied by,” showing how both parties come together to perform a task.
Using “accompanied” this way has an old-school feeling due to its attachment to classical music.
We’ve shown the definitions and usages separately, but sometimes looking at similar usages side by side can be helpful in seeing where both their similarities and their differences are.
Would You Accompany Me?
Let’s start off by asking someone to join us on a trip that we don’t feel safe taking on our own. One could ask, “Would you mind accompanying me to the shops?” There are a couple of things to pick up on here.
Firstly, it shows that the purpose of the trip is more meaningful for the person being accompanied rather than the accompanist — it is the original person who wants to go to the shop. The second individual’s role is purely to help make the first person feel safer on their journey.
It would be rather difficult to turn down a request like this — it is more a plea for help rather than an invitation on a journey. One may say that you’d be obliged to accompany them, lending itself to the old-school, chivalrous aspect of accompaniment that we touched on in the section above.
Would You Like to Come With?
This is a stark contrast to asking, “Would you like to come to the shops with me?” Unlike a request to accompany someone, the speaker phrases this as a question — an opportunity for the person they ask to decide if they have any desire to go to the shops themselves. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
When someone asks you like this, declining isn’t as much of a social faux pas. If the individual accepts, it would mean that both people share a common purpose in going to the shops, as opposed to just one person wanting to go while the other is accompanying them.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that “accompanied by” is predominately used to describe people, while “accompanied with” is much less common. When we do use “accompanied with,” it’s mainly to describe inanimate objects.
We can use either one to describe an item that supplements another, but using “by” has a stronger sense of agency or instrumentality.