It can be difficult to use “near” and “nearby” properly.  I fix mistakes with these two words in TOEFL essays almost every day!  Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Use “near” as a preposition that states the proximity of something to something else.  Like this: “There is a beach near my house.”  This means that there is a beach close to my house.
  2. Use “nearby” before a noun (as an adjective) or after a noun (as an adverb) to say that something is close: “The beach is nearby.” And: “We can meet at a nearby beach.
  3.  Don’t use “nearby” as a preposition to describe the closeness of something to something else.  Never say: “There is a beach nearby my house.”


Those are the main usage notes that TOEFL essay writers need.  Of course, a few more things are worth mentioning.  They are:

  1. It is okay to use “near to” as a prepositional phrase.  As in:  “There is a beach near to my house.”  
  2. To make matters more complicated, we often use “near” as an adverb to talk about where we do actions.  As in: “We live near the beach.”
  3. For those keeping track at home, this is covered in Michael Swan’s book in entries 415 and 531.  Maybe I’ll e-mail Swan and suggest a special “near vs nearby” entry in the “word problems” section.  It is a common error.
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