Grammar, Writing

Confused About “Accept” and “Except”?

In our recent articles (which you can find here and here), we have been focusing on word pairs that many of our TextRanch customers find confusing. They get mixed up over which word should be used in a particular context. Now, to continue our “Confused About” series of articles, we will look at “accept” and “except”.

“Accept” and “except” have a very similar sound. They may even sound exactly the same to you, depending on which dialect of English you are speaking. But despite the similarities in their sound, “accept” and “except” have very different meanings. Let’s look at each one, and then we will learn a trick to help you keep them straight.

When to use “accept”

“To accept” is a verb. It means to confirm or “say yes” to something that is offered to you. This could be a physical object, such as a gift. It could also be an offer, such as a deal, a marriage proposal, or a promotion at work.

Here are some example sentences that include the word “accept”:

Do you think Katia will accept Viktor’s marriage proposal?

I am planning to accept the job offer, but first I need to find out if I can get a permit to work in the UK.

I just heard from Elio at ABC Company, and he informed me that they accept the terms of the contract.

Yes, we accept our invitation to the charity banquet.

The elderly gentleman offered to buy Yuna a car, but she could not accept such an expensive gift from someone she barely knows.

Since “to accept” is a verb, you might see different forms of it—accepts, accepting, accepted—depending on the subject of the sentence and when the events in that sentence are taking place. However, these forms of the verb are not often confused with “except”.

When to use “except”

In most cases, “except” is used as a preposition, but it can also be used as a conjunction or a verb. It means to exclude something/someone, or leave something out. It means “everything, but not this thing” or “everyone, but not this person”.

Let’s look at some example sentences. Here, “except” is used as a preposition:

All of these balls are round except the American football.

I finished all of my homework except for my biology report.

All of the children in the family can play the piano except Tomoko.

Every employee has completed their training except Wally.

I am available for a conference call every day this week except Monday.

When “except” is used as a conjunction, it connects two clauses. The first clause is a statement of some sort, while the second clause (after “except”) tells us about something that the first statement does not apply to.

I didn’t say anything to Pete about the accident except that Curtis could tow the car.

These two houses are exactly the same except the house on the left has a patio in the back.

The nurses are required to wear masks except when they are not in direct contact with patients.

As a verb, “except” is used mainly in legal or other very formal contexts. It is a synonym for “to exclude”.

They except XYZ from the lawsuit.

I except the employees from responsibility as the owners were the ones who introduced toxic chemicals into the water.

Here’s a trick that might help…

As noted above, “except” and “exclude” have related meanings. They also both begin with “ex”. Thus, if you can also use “exclude” in your sentence, then you would use “except” and not “accept”.

In some contexts, you can think of the “x” in “except” as a mark that crosses out the thing that does not belong. In our example sentence about the balls, imagine a picture with different kinds of balls that are round. Now imagine an American football in that same picture, but it is crossed out because all of the balls are round except that one.

If you still aren’t sure if you should use “accept” or “except”, click the blue box below. One of our TextRanch editors will review your sentence and make corrections, if needed.

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