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Accept this!

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The two English words accept and except are often confused by non-native and native speakers alike. Perhaps it is due to their somewhat similar spellings and pronunciations. However, upon gaining a better understanding of the respective meanings for the two words, it may actually seem rather strange that there is confusion over them, because the meaning of accept and the meaning of except, when used as a verb, are more or less opposites. 

Accept is a verb that means to receive willingly, to authorise or admit, to regard as true, or to say yes or give approval to. Examples: (1) I can't accept this gift. (2) She was accepted into Abac. (3) Will you accept his proposal of marriage? (4) They were accepted into the exclusive club.

Except is commonly used as a preposition. However, it can also be used as conjunction, and occasionally as a verb.

Used as a preposition, it means "apart from", "excluded", "left out", or "not included". Examples: (1) He bought a gift for everyone except me. (2) I know everyone here except the children. (3) They all went to the party, except Uamporn. (4) I teach every day this week except Sunday.

Except used as a conjunction means "if not for the fact that" or "but". Examples: (1) I would help you, except that I'm too busy. (2) He would join you for lunch, except he has work to do.

Except used as a verb, means "to exclude" or "to excuse". Example: (1) You will be excepted from punishment.

Tip:

A helpful way to remember the differences between properly using accept and except is with a mnemonic alliteration. For example, accept/agree begin with the same letter, as do except/exclusion. Accept implies agree. Except implies exclusion. It's so easy!

Challenge:

I would (except/accept) your criticism, (accept/except) that you don't know what you're talking about.

Answer:

I would accept your criticism, except that you don't know what you're talking about.

Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. She can be contacted at heatherv@isb.ac.th .

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