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English Lesson 8: Correct Use of Accept and Except

May 3rd, 2008

english-usage-accept-except.jpgThe words accept and except are similar in pronunciation, but have very different meanings. Perhaps not surprisingly, this has led to a significant amount of confusion and incorrect usage. In this week’s lesson, I will clarify and summarize the actual meanings of these two words and provide examples of correct usage.

In general, accept is used as a verb and means “to take or receive something willingly” — that is, without objecting, contesting, or otherwise challenging it. For example:

  1. We will accept the site owner’s invitation to participate in the contest.
  2. Even if you don’t have a credit card, we can still pay for our meal because this restaurant still accepts checks.
  3. Although there were many irregularities, the majority of the American public seems to have accepted the outcome of the election.

Another variation on the meaning of accept is when it is used with the connotation of believing in something or regarding something as correct or proper.

  1. Atheists do not accept the idea of an invisible, omnipotent sky daddy.
  2. Skeptics do not accept that a small amount of global warming will have such catastrophic effects.
  3. I accepted her theory as plausible even though I did not have any specific proof of it.

Meanwhile, the word except is most commonly used as a preposition or conjunction and means “besides, excluding, or other than”. For example:

  1. The mainstream media coverage was not fair because they reported on all candidates except for independents and members of third parties.
  2. I used all of the text in the article except for the portions that were duplicate content.
  3. Politicians like to talk about corruption except when it occurs within their own parties.

Alternatively, except can be used as a verb meaning “to exclude” or “to leave out”. Although this usage is less common than the first, it is still grammatically correct.

  1. The Commission on Presidential Debates has routinely excepted all candidates that were not Democrats or Republicans. The inclusion of Ross Perot in 1992 was a rare exception to this.
  2. At many public events, children are often excepted from paying admission fees or are allowed to attend at significantly reduced rates.
  3. The rel=’nofollow’ attribute excepts links from passing PageRank to the linked web pages.

Now we can look at some examples of incorrect usage and their corrected versions:

Incorrect: We except aluminum cans for recycling.
Correct: We accept aluminum cans for recycling.

Incorrect: All members were paid accept the cheaters.
Correct: All members were paid except the cheaters.

Incorrect: Keyword-stuffed pages should be accepted from high rankings in the search results.
Correct: Keyword-stuffed pages should be excepted from high rankings in the search results.

As was the case last week, there is no clear winner for the topic of next week’s lesson. My overall tendency is to continue with similar-sounding word groups that are often misused such as site vs. sight vs. cite, but I could also switch tracks and cover a somewhat larger topic such as commas, quotation marks, or capitalization. As usual, if there is a consensus among the commentators, I will select the chosen topic; otherwise, I will randomly choose another one from my ever-growing list.


2 Responses to “English Lesson 8: Correct Use of Accept and Except”

  1. comment number 1 by: CrAzY Working Mom

    OMG, this is a pet peeve of mine! Thanks for posting.

  2. comment number 2 by: ireland5

    Well - another big one is tenses - drink, drank, drunk. I also like the ‘could of, should of’ problem. How about doing one on - simple misspellings such as alot instead of a lot, apologize or apologise. I know - how about subject-verb agreement…there are so many…

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