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:
- 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.
- 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.“
- Never 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:
- It is okay to use “near to” as a prepositional phrase. As in: “There is a beach near to my house.”
- 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.”
- 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 enough error.