America : We the People

ESL Space ESL Space


To accept is to receive, and except is to exclude, usually. Both are busy little words skipping around to different meanings, but they never run into each other.

To accept is to receive something like tea, an idea, or a student into your college:

He accepted tea from Annette without looking at her. (Mary Cholmondeley)

Comments are accepted for a month before guidance is adopted. (Seattle Times)

Mary J. Blige Says She’s Been Accepted To Howard University, Howard Disagrees (Huffington Post)

It’s difficult to find accept used incorrectly. Score one for English speakers! It’s accept‘s nemesis, except, that poses problems. Except usually means “unless” or “excluding,” but it’s sometimes used as verb “to leave out.” Read all the examples below except the ones you don’t like:

He defined solitary confinement as an inmate being held in isolation from all except guards for at least 22 hours a day. (Reuters)

Quiet, benign, his gestures small but eloquent, he barely talks except about the music. (New York Times)

But thickness excepted, he made about the same figure in the street next day. (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson)

It’s the verb form that confuses, and it’s usually except when accept is wanted. So remember: to accept is to receive or believe something, but to except is to leave out. Accept something by giving it an A, or exclude it with a big fat X for except.