Bi an By
Although Scots and English are closely related in
vocabulary, and sometimes around half the words look the same, there are
difference in grammar and idiom which give Scots a character all its
own. One difference is that in English, there is no difference between
by used as an adverb and a preposition. This distinction is made in
Scots, where bi is used as a preposition . For example:
cam hame bi the tap wynd kis Ah durstna gae by the auld
kirkyaird i the derk.
I came home by the upper crescent because I didn’t dare go past the old
churchyard in the dark.
Bi whit Ah hear tell, she’l no hae
hir truibils ti seek.
I have been told that she will probably have
ye in bi the ingil!
Sit close by the fire!
The word bi can be used to mean, compared with.
Things is different awthegither nou bi whit thay war lyke afore the
Things are quite different now, compared
with what they were like before the War.
canna tell a rich man bi a puir.
He cannot tell the difference between a rich
man and a poor one.
Middle Scots, bi was spelt be.
‘Quhen Makbeth and Banquho war passand to Foress, quhair King Ducan wes
for the tyme, thai mett be the gaitt thre weird sisteris or wiches,
quhilk cam to thame with elrege clething.’
Robene answerit, ‘Be the rude, na thing of lufe I knaw…… Robert
The spelling, be, is not much used these days, except in Shetland,
because of the chance of confusion with the verb, ti be.
The distinction between bi and by is often ignored by
modern writers in Scots, perhaps because they are unaware of its