Besides vs. except



Do you have any suggestions on a clear way to teach the difference in usage between besides and except?

Danielle Somai-Ho


With one meaning for besides, and another for except, it is easy to show a difference between these two words:

Besides (alternatively given as "beside" in some dictionaries) as a preposition means "in addition to, or "plus":


Besides "a," "e," "i," "o," and "u," the English alphabet often uses "y" as a vowel, as in "early" and "myself."


Florida has several industries besides tourism — citrus, cattle, and the Space Coast, for example.


Candidates need to demonstrate other qualities besides intelligence; they need to be compassionate and restrained, too.

Except as a preposition means with exclusion, rejection, or exception; everything other than; it carries the meaning of "minus":


Brazil borders on every country in South America except Chile and Ecuador.


The stores in the mall are open every day except on national holidays.


A year — except those divisible by 4, such as 1996 and 2000 — has 365 days.

There is no trouble keeping these clear distinctions between besides and except.

There are other meanings, however, for besides and except, which can make these words problematic.

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