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Except vs Accept | Grammar Differences

3 min read
22 January 2021

Deciding whether to use accept or except is something that gives first language English speakers a hard time, but the two words are actually very different. We'll go through what they mean, and how to use them.


Going Back to the Roots

Both accept and except come from the same original Latin word capare, captus (Latin verbs often come in two forms), which means "to take". We now need to see how accept vs except came to take on their different meanings!



Accept has taken a rather long route from Latin to English. 500 years ago there was no such word in English. English speakers of the time would have used a different word they borrowed from old German and Scandinavian languages (the word was "niman", which has become "nehman" in German, and means "take"!)

But the French had a better word for this: accepter

We usually use accept when we receive something: 

  • The shop will only accept cash as payment.
  • Please accept my apology.

Other forms: accepted (when you accept something, that thing is accepted), accepting (if someone is willing to accept something), acceptable (if a thing is good enough to be accepted)


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Except has also been borrowed from French, but it has a different beginning. The "ex-" part of except is more negative, and means "without" or just "out". So "Except" literally means "to take out", rather than "take in".

We usually use except when we are showing something that has been left out:

  • The phone bill shows everything except this week's charges.
  • I did all of my homework, except chapter 5, which I didn't finish.

Other forms: exception (something that is left out), exceptional (something that stands out from the rest)


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