More on Besides vs. except

A problem can arise when one of these two words appears after "no," "nothing," "nobody" and similar words — they can mean the same thing, apart from. Sentences (g), (h), and (i) have the same meaning:

(g)

She has nothing besides/ except her good looks to get by in life.

(h)

She has nothing apart from her good looks to get by in life.

(i)

She has nothing more to get by in life — only her good looks.

 

Sentences (j), (k), and (l) have the same meaning:

(j)

Nobody besides/ except Dr. Rivera can deal with him.

(k)

Nobody apart from Dr. Rivera can deal with him.

(l)

Almost nobody – only Dr. Rivera – can deal with him.

 

In these cases, the meaning of both besides and except is "apart from." The meaning of "in addition to" does not apply here. The meaning is "only" — as in only this person/ place/ thing/ quality, etc. Using besides or except to mean apart from can cause confusion, so it is good to point out this unique meaning that goes with the negative words such as "no," "nothing" or "nobody."

Additionally, when apart from or except for (NOT besides) introduce exceptions to generalizations, they mean the same thing: they mean that what follows immediately is the only exception to the category. You can not use "besides" (as in (n) and (p) below) to introduce the exception first in a sentence, as you can in (m) and (o):

(m)

Except for / Apart from his asthma, the Olympic swimmer is in perfect health.

(n)

NOT POSSIBLE: Besides his asthma, the Olympic swimmer is in perfect health.

(o)

Except for / Apart from the early morning flight, all the flights to California make a stop in Chicago.

(p)

NOT POSSIBLE: Besides the early morning flight, all the flights to California make a stop in Chicago.

 

Other meanings for besides and except include:

Besides as an adverb, often used to emphasize an additional point that you are making. You cannot substitute except here, nor use apart from:

(q)

The house was out of our price range and too big anyway, Besides, I’d grown fond of our little rented house.

(r)

You get to sample lots of baked things and take home masses of cookies besides.

 

Except as a conjunction (usually with "that") to introduce a kind of negative condition. It is often interchangeable with except for the fact that or apart from the fact that, as in (s) and (w) in the sentences below. It means that the idea introduced here is in opposition to the original statement. You can also use apart from the fact that or except for the fact that, as an introductory phrase, as in (t) and (x).

(s) For an athlete, he was considered exceptionally intelligent, except that/ except for the fact that/ apart from the fact that he tended to gamble away his huge salary. =
(t) Apart from the fact that/ Except for the fact that that he tended to gamble away his huge salary, he was considered exceptionally intelligent for an athlete.

 

You can not substitute besides here:

(u)

NOT POSSIBLE: Besides he tended to gamble away his huge salary, he was considered exceptionally intelligent for an athlete.

(v)

NOT POSSIBLE: For an athlete, he was considered exceptionally intelligent, besides he tended to gamble away his huge salary.

 

These sentences are correct:

(w)

The house would have sold for more than a million dollars except that/ except for the fact that/ apart from the fact that the roof was in very poor condition. =

(x)

Apart from the fact that the roof was in very poor condition,
the house would have sold for more than a million dollars.

 

These sentences are not possible:

(y)

NOT POSSIBLE: Besides the roof was in very poor condition, the house would have sold for more than a million dollars.

(z)

NOT POSSIBLE: The house would have sold for more than a million dollars besides the roof was in very poor condition.

 

So, besides and except become more complicated to explain because as you can see, they sometimes have distinct meanings and sometimes the same meaning.


Back to Besides vs. except

Return to the Key Word Index