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Language Arts

Accept vs. Except



Except vs. Accept - when to use, how to pronounce, and definitions of each. Find out when to use except or accept - define:except and define:accept. Also, tips on how to remember the difference between accept and except.

I accept responsibility for all the mess except for what happened in the kitchen: I did NOT coat the refrigerator doors with peanut butter! The two frequently confused words accept and except, with the same root word and similar or identical pronunciations cause many people trouble. Read on for clues about how to tell them apart.

Accept

Accept is both a transitive verb (one that takes and object) as well as an intransitive verb (one that does not require an object to make meaning). As a transitive verb, it often means “to receive,” as in this example:

I accept your invitation to go to the Symphony X concert.

It can mean “to view as proper, right, or true.”

Billy accepts my division of the inheritance.

or “to be prepared to endure.”

Lily accepted the judge’s sentence.

In a common but technical use, accept means that a transplant recipient’s body has acclimated to the transplant.

It is not unusual to find the object implied rather than stated:

A: I challenge you to a watermelon seed spitting contest!
B: I accept! [short for “I accept your challenge to a watermelon seed spitting contest!”]

but intransitive use, though similar in meaning to the transitive, is infrequent, so we needn’t discuss it.

Accept came into English through Middle English from the Latin acceptare, which is a form of the verb accipere (ad + capere), which means “to receive.” It is most often pronounced /ak SEHPT/ but can also be /ihk SEHPT/ or /ehk SEHPT/.

Except

Except is a transitive and intransitive verb, as well as a preposition and conjunction. As a verb, it has one main meaning for each form: the transitive meaning is “to exclude,” while the intransitive meaning is “to object,” but this meaning does not get much use.

Transitive: I’ll take care of all of our pets except the Gila monster: you get to feed him.

The preposition except means “other than” and an example is:

Everyone got a piece of cake with a flower decoration except me!

The conjunction except has several meanings, including “only,” “for anything but,” or “unless.”

As a transfer student, you will be assigned the regular pre-college courses except if you choose a vocational program.

Do not disturb the proxy except to announce a settlement.

Except came into English through Middle English from the Latin exceptus, which is a form of the verb excipere (ex + capere), which means “to exclude.” It is pronounced /ihk SEHPT/, which is one of the pronunciations (though not the most frequent) used for accept.

Differentiating Accept and Except

One way to try to differentiate the words is to consider that accept has been willing to receive a second c in its spelling, while except has excluded it. If you take the thought to distinguish the pronunciations of the two words, this may help you to keep them separate.

Written by Mary Elizabeth