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I don't understand when you use it and what the difference is between each other.

For example, when you say:

火事によって多くの森林が焼けてしまった。
今回の地震による津波の心配はない。

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3 Answers 3

Depending on the context, they can all mean:

  • because of/due to (a reason):

    震災{しんさい}によってたくさんの人の命が失われた。
    There were many people who lost their lives due to the earthquake.

  • by (a method/way/means):

    先生はテストにより、[学生]{がくせい}が[理解]{りかい}したかどうかをチェックする。
    Teachers check if students understand by (means of) tests.

  • by (identifies the agent of the action, particularly in a passive sentence):

    この機械{きかい}は誰によって[発明]{はつめい}されましたか?
    Who was this machine invented by?

    (just for comparison, here's that as an active sentence without によって):
    この機械を発明したのは誰ですか?
    Who invented this machine?

  • dependant on (when highlighting differences):

    生活{せいかつ}習慣{しゅうかん}は国によって違う。
    Lifestyles differ depending on the country.

によって and により are effectively the same according to Daijirin, but により is somewhat more formal than によって according to Daijisen. I'll try to break up your example sentence (and add one for により):

火事{かじ}によって多くの[森林]{しんりん}が焼{や}けてしまった。
Because of a fire many forests burnt down.

牛は角{つの}により人は言葉により捕{つか}まえられる。
An ox is taken by the horns and a man by word.

による is slightly different (i.e. による is used in the following example because it's talking about a tsunami because of the earthquake):

今回の地震{じしん}による津波{つなみ}の心配{しんぱい}はない。
There's no worry of a tsunami because of the earthquake this time.

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Just to clarify, によって cannot take a noun following it, correct? –  Trevor Alexander Mar 10 at 9:52

による modifies a noun, and both により and によって modify a verb or an adjective.

により and によって are almost synonymous, although in the informal context, によって is more usual than により.

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I ended up reaching this post because I was looking for the answer while reading through the grammar but I think I finally understand.

Like user797 pointed out, によって is depending on/according to.

But whether or not you were asking this, I think want to know the difference from that compared to both による and によると. I'm assumign this because I was the most confused about this. The book I'm using specifically says that AによるとB means The information from 'B' depends on the actual source which is 'A'.

人によって意見は違う。 Opinions are different depending on the people. (no direct source) 彼によると悪い判断だった. According to him, it was a bad decision. (direct source is him)

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I don't understand this answer. Are you supplementing the existing answers to the original question, or are you posing your own question and trying to answer it? If it's the latter, you need to make this question a new topic at the site level, not within this answer. –  istrasci Nov 7 '13 at 16:02

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