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Besides vs. Except

Besides vs. Except

"Except" and "besides" are one of the many pairs of English words that can be easy to get confused. You might think they have the same meaning, and they may even be represented by the same word in your native language. However, there are important differences in English.

In order to help you in daily conversation or if you're preparing for a test, we'd like to explain the difference in detail so you will be prepared the next time you see either one of them. Let's begin!

How to use Besides

A cozy living room with plants beside a TV stand

We'll start with besides. Now, before comparing it to except, we first need to compare "besides" with "beside," because even these two are not the same!

"Beside" is a preposition meaning "next to," and it's used to mark something's position in relation to something else. For example:

The plants are beside the TV.

The different uses of "besides," however, refer to something being added to a group.  It's a difference of only one letter, but remember that these are two separate words, so be careful not to get them confused!

Besides as a preposition

The prepositional usage of besides means "in addition to" or "along with." Because it is a preposition, it can be followed by a noun or a noun phrase.

What should we order besides salad and pasta?
Who's coming to the party tonight besides Jane and Kate?

In these examples, more (food and people, specifically) is added to what was originally mentioned.

No one wanted to go hiking in the rain besides me.

In this negative usage, there are no additions; the speaker is the only person who wanted to go hiking.

Besides as an adverb

Besides also functions as a conjunctive adverb, which means it connects two sentences or clauses. Similar to the previous usage, it means "in addition." Other terms, such as "plus" or "on top of that" are often used in place of "besides," so it's a good idea to learn these other expressions as well.

I don't want to go there. Besides, it's too far.
I don't really like the taste of caviar. Besides, it's expensive.

Both examples start with one point and then add an extra one starting with "besides."

Usage of Except

A carton of eggs that is empty except for one egg

Now let's move on to "except." This preposition means "not including" or "other than." It refers to exclusion rather than inclusion or addition. Notice that this is the complete opposite of the usage of besides.

“Except” and “except for”

The preposition "except" often comes before nouns together with "all," "every," "no," "each," etc. In most cases, "except" or "except for" can be switched without a change in meaning. Also, both can come at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.

My mom works every day except Monday.
Except for Paul, they were all young men.
My brother failed every subject except for math.
He sold everything he owned except for his beat-up old car.

All of these examples are about a group (of days, of people, of subjects, of items) with one thing that is separate or not included. The separated thing is indicated with "except (for)."

Except as a conjunction

As a conjunction, except is usually used together with "that" and means "other than~."

Those two trucks are almost identical except that one is a Toyota and one is a Chevy.
The menu is always the same except that they have a special dessert around Christmas time.

For this usage, you can remove "that," but "except for" would not be correct.


Did you catch all of that? It may seem a little confusing at first, but thinking about whether you want to refer to additions or exclusions can help you to remember the difference between the two.

If you ever need to refresh your memory, you can always come back to review these examples we've provided here!