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Accept vs Except 

3 August 2022

Here is another pair that sounds so similar when we speak! These homophones have given many writers headaches as they agonise over word choice while composing poems, articles, essays, and stories.

Do I accept an invitation or except it? If someone is left off an invitation list, has they been excepted or accepted?

What’s the difference between these two terms, and how can we keep them straight?

What Does Accept Mean?

Accept (ăk-sĕpt’) is a verb with several different meanings, all of which involve taking or recognising something or someone.  Accept can mean:

  • to receive something that has been offered (to accept a gift)
  • to be admitted to a group or organisation (vote to accept new members of a club)
  • to recognise something as being correct or true (accept the truth of a statement)
  • to take payment (to accept cash or credit cards)
  • to take formal receipt of something (to accept bids on request for proposal)

For example,

We accept employees from all backgrounds.

I am so pleased to accept this award.

I’m so glad you accepted our offer to visit us at our summer cabin!

The accused man is willing to accept the plea bargain you are offering.

Please accept my deepest condolences on your loss.

People sometimes use accept for people. In this case, accepting someone means that you don’t reject him or her. You approve of them and love or enjoy this person regardless of any negative qualities.

What Does Except Mean?

The word except (ĭk-sĕpt’) is most commonly used as a preposition. It can also function as a conjunction or as a verb. The word except has a few different definitions, all of which involve excluding something or someone.

Using Except as a Preposition

Except can be a preposition or a conjunction that shows exclusion or exception. When you use except as a preposition, it connects a noun to the rest of the sentence. Except indicates that the noun that follows is not included in the action of the sentence.

For example,

In the song about the great flood, all of the animals got onto a boat to be rescued except the unicorns.

I slept late every day this week except Saturday.

Everyone except Stewart will be at the awards banquet tonight.

It’s a good idea to eat fruits and vegetables except when there are too many pesticides on them.

The words but and save are sometimes synonyms of except. For example, in the sentence People adopted all the puppies except one, either but or save would carry the same meaning. However, but doesn’t emphasise the exclusion as strongly as except, and save sounds more dated.

Using Except as a Conjunction

Except as a conjunction means “but.” It’s usually followed by a clause that starts with thatfor or when. For example:

I’d come to your party, except that I’ve got other plans.

Kylie doesn’t know anything about New York except that it’s large and noisy.

We enjoy visiting Washington except when it’s raining.

Using Except as a Verb

A less common function of except is as a verb, when it means “to exclude.” This usage can get confusing with accept, which is also a verb but has the opposite meaning. For example:

We must except anyone who has not completed ten hours of practice from the roster.

She’s the best pitcher I’ve ever seen — present company excepted.

Kids under two are excepted from the admission price.

How to Remember Accept vs Except

It is possible to use the spelling of these words to remember the meanings.

For example, except and exception share such close spellings that it is easy to remember the connection between the two. Also, the letter x is a common symbol to show that something is not wanted.

Accept the Challenge — No Exceptions

Accept and except are two tricky words in the English language, but when you master their meanings, you’ll use them correctly every time. 

These bitesize mini-lessons are given to you complimentary when you sign up and join the English Connection community. 


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