Replaced with/by

Posted by R. Berg on April 16, 2003

In Reply to: Replaced with/by posted by henry on April 15, 2003

: : Are there any correct uses of `replaced x by y'?

: Tricky things these replacements and substitutes, as football managers know all too well!

: If you remove A and put in B, it seems perfectly correct to say - I replaced A by/with B.

: Substitute is trickier. Under substitute v.t. my 1976 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary says - Make (person or thing) fill a place or discharge a function for or for (in italics) another; (vulg.) replace (person or thing) by (in italics)or with (in italics) another.

: That's not totally clear to me! I think it approves of - I substituted B for A - but not - I substituted A by/with B.

That's right: the thing substituted is the substitute, not the original, which it replaces.

I haven't found a judgment in print on "replaced by." What's tricky about "replace" is that its subject can be either an agent who substitutes one thing for another or the substitute itself.
1. "John replaced his old armchair with a new recliner."
2. "A new recliner replaced the old armchair."

Sentence 2 uses the active voice. If we convert it to passive in the standard way, we get "The old armchair was replaced by a new recliner." I see nothing wrong with that. "John replaced his armchair by a recliner" isn't quite the same thing, however, and it sounds wrong. So my opinion (subject to change if someone presents a convincing case) is that you can say something was replaced by something else but you can't say a person (or the management, government, board of directors, . . . ) replaced something by something else. It has to be "with."