Word Choice: Accept vs. Except
  • 2-minute read
  • 8th April 2023

Word Choice: Accept vs. Except

Many English words can seem confusing to those learning the language, but even native speakers sometimes get accept and except mixed up. This is because they sound similar, so despite differing in spelling it isn’t always obvious which you should use when writing.

Yet the distinction is an important one, as accept and except have very different meanings. And since you’re likely to encounter both words fairly frequently, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with how they are used.

What Does “Accept” Mean?

The word “accept” typically means “admit” or “receive something willingly.” In the former case it means to understand something as true. For example:

After the experiment, Karen’s colleagues had to accept she was right.

In terms of receiving something willingly, meanwhile, “accept” can refer to either tangible things:

Bob accepted the package from the mail carrier.

Or it can be used with more abstract things:

She didn’t like it, but Shirley had to accept her fate.

In addition, “accept” can also mean to say “yes” to something:

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

Quivering with excitement, Frank accepted Jenny’s invitation.

The common factor in all of these cases is consenting to something.

What Does “Except” Mean?

The term “except” means “apart from” or “excluding.” Usually, it’s a preposition indicating that something is excluded from a general statement. Take this famous example from Oscar Wilde:

I can resist everything except temptation.

You can also use “except” as a conjunction meaning “but”:

I would go shark fishing with you, except you need a bigger boat.

Accept or Except?

So, how to remember which of accept or except to use in any given situation? It can help to focus on the start of these words, especially “except”: the “ex-” at the beginning of “except” is the same as at the start of “exclude,” which makes it easier to remember that “except” means “to leave out” or “other than.”

Hopefully this guide has helped you to understand the difference between accept and except. And don’t forget that further advice on vocabulary can be found in the word choice archive section of our academic blog.

Comments (2)
Elizabeth Compton
10th April 2023 at 17:53
This is something everyone should have learned in grade school. It's really sad that there have to be whole articles about it. Also something I'd like to point out. It's NOT "could OF," "would OF," or "should OF." It's could've, would've or should've. Could HAVE, would HAVE, should HAVE.
    21st April 2023 at 12:42
    Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, it’s interesting to see how these perceptions came about for them to be so commonly used; in both cases here the pronunciation has influenced the spelling to a degree that many people think it’s the correct one.

Got content that needs a quick turnaround?

Let us polish your work.

Explore our editorial business services.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.