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  • “Accept” vs. “Except”: A Grammar Challenge


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    The words “accept” and “except” are called homonyms, which means they sound the same when you say them out loud but have completely different meanings. This can understandably be confusing when you’re learning English as a second language, and even native speakers sometimes struggle to remember the difference between the two words when writing.

     

    Let’s look closely at the different meanings of both words and some examples of when you should use each.

     

    “Accept” is always a verb

     

    “Accept” is only ever used as a verb, but it can have three slightly different meanings.

    1. “Accept” can mean “to acknowledge something as true.”

      1. I accept the logic of your argument, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

      2. Elise accepted the premise of John’s essay after he presented concrete evidence.

    2. “Accept” can also mean “to say yes to something.”

      1. She accepted his marriage proposal.

      2. I’m going to accept your invitation to the party.

    3. Finally, “accept” can mean “to receive something willingly.”

      1. Bert accepted Allen’s apology because it seemed genuine.

      2. He accepted the Achievement Award graciously, even though he had not prepared a speech.

    “Except” is usually a preposition

     

    “Except” is a little trickier because it’s usually used as a preposition, but it can also be a conjunction or even a verb.

    1. When it’s used as a preposition, “except” means “excluding.”

      1. We’ve packed everything except the kitchen sink. (“The kitchen sink” is an English idiom.)

      2. I’ve been to every country in Western Europe except Ireland.

    2. As a conjunction, “except” means “but” or “other than.”

      1. I’d meet up with you this weekend, except I already made plans.

      2. The first day of classes would have gone well, except Ashley went to the wrong lecture hall.

    3. “Except” is also occasionally used as a verb that means “to leave out.”

      1. I really dislike dentists, present company excepted.

      2. New students are excepted from some of the rules upperclassmen have to follow.

    Remembering the difference between “accept” and “except”

     

    If you’re having trouble remembering when to use “accept” and when to use “except,” coming up with a memory trick may help. I find that coming up with alliterative phrases (phrases where each word starts with the same letter) can be helpful, so to remember that “accept” is used as a verb, you might think of a phrase like

     

    “Always accept advice.”

     

    In this phrase, you can see that “accept” is used as a verb that means “to willingly receive.”

     

    While “except” can be several different parts of speech, you might remember that it is most commonly used as a preposition by thinking of a phrase like

     

    “Ellen eats every food except eggs.”

     

    In this phrase, you can see that “except” is used as a preposition that means “not including.”

     

    You should feel free to come up with your own memory tricks to tell the difference between “accept” and “except”—use whatever makes the most sense to you!

     

    If you’ve found this guide to “accept” vs. “except” useful, please share it with a friend who might also benefit.


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  • Comments on this post (1 comment)

    • Orrin Hoopman says...

      I accept your instruction with the minor exception that my full acceptance is based upon seeing a modest introduction of nouns forms, except if doing so troubles you any.

      On October 13, 2014

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