Confusing Words: Accept and Except

by Davina on April 1, 2012

Two commonly confused words

The confusion between “accept” and “except” arises from their similar spelling and pronunciation. What is interesting about this is that the meaning of “accept” is the opposite of the meaning of “except.”

Accept: A verb, which means “to take” or “receive”; to accept a gift, for example. Or “to agree” or “consent”; to accept the consequences.

Except: A preposition or conjunction, which means “excluding” (all but) or “otherwise.” Occasionally, except is used as a verb, in which case it means “to exclude” or “leave out.”

Accept and except used in a sentence

Here are a few examples of how you might use them in a sentence:

1. (To receive): I accept your compliment with gratitude.

2. (To consent): I will accept the consequences of my decision.

3. (Otherwise):  I would dance with you, except that I’m too tired.

4. (To exclude): Wheat is one grain that is excepted from the gluten-free diet.

How might you use them both in the same sentence?

I would accept your offer, except that it is not favourable.

It seems there is a pattern here whereby “accept” has a more positive connotation, while “except” has a negative connotation.

A tip to remember the difference between accept and except

The bottom line here is that “accept” means “to receive” and “except” means “to exclude.” What better way to remember this than with Xs and Os.

“X” for X-cept or exclude.

“O” for Accept; accept the whole, so to speak.

Focus on the X and the rest will fall into place. I hope that helps.

Do you have any other tips for remembering the difference?


Please note: The owner of this image has disabled downloading of her images on Flickr. I emailed to ask for permission to use this one and she graciously “accepted” — there’s that word again :) Thank you for the use of this image, Pat. It’s beautiful.

If anyone else decides they would like to use this image I would ask that you contact Pat through her Flickr account to ask for permission and to link to her site, giving her credit. Thank you in advance.

Thanks to Dorothy Sander over at Aging Abundantly for requesting that I write on this topic. Her blog was voted as a finalist in “Best of the Web 2012.”

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Dorothy Sander April 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

Thank you Davina! I will pass this along to my writer friends. Wonderful explanation. You are always so clear in your explanations, making the little nuances easier to understand.

Mike Goad April 1, 2012 at 9:16 am

For some reason, I never have problems with these. It is one of those grin-and-bear-it word pairs that I notice when misused; accepting this very appropriate post, of course. ;)
Mike Goad´s last blog post ..Friday Faire–Six Miscellaneous Travel Photos.

Barbara Swafford April 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Great lesson Teach…

I like how you use the “x” and “o” as a reminder on how to use each of these words. Although I usually don’t have a problem with these two, I often see them misused online.
Barbara Swafford´s last blog post ..They’re Just Not That Into Us

Davina April 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm

You’re welcome, Dorothy!
I appreciate requests because there are so many topics I could write about! Thanks for your feedback :)

Hi Mike.
I like your use of the word “accepting” :) It’s funny how we all have our nuances, eh?

Thanks, Barbara :)
I always try to think of an easy way to remember things. And I find that visual clues seem to do wonders!

patricia April 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I do not think I have a problem with these two. I tend to use the word exception and I understand I graciously accept compliments :)

I like how you spell it out here, because I certainly do see them used incorrectly in many blog posts. They often just stand out boldly to me whereas I am getting accustomed to the sloppiness of many written posts and casual usage of words.
I read a post recently where the spelling was so bad it could not have been typos, and I debated whether is was someone working in a foreign language, but then tend to error on strange word placement and can still make a point. I could not figure out what this writer was trying to say other than God was on his side.

My typing has accelerated again and wow am I making typos lately – as common as the wind and rain. I am thinking I need a few days off and am now only 4 books behind and a conference to go to get caught up….my eyes are tired, maybe that is part of the typing problem?

Thanks you for your great post. These are becoming a favorite of mine
patricia´s last blog post ..The Dressmaker of Khair Khana ~Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Mike Goad April 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm

As I wrote it, my thoughts were of “accepting” the way the author presented the material, with a couple of words left out:

(I am) accepting this (author’s) very appropriate post, of course.
Mike Goad´s last blog post ..Friday Faire–Six Miscellaneous Travel Photos.

Hilary April 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Hi Davina .. great explanation. These two words I don’t get mixed up – but I know others do …

I have to say I don’t like the sentence “Wheat is one grain that is excepted from the gluten-free diet.” … it ‘feels’ uncomfortable .. the word exempted came into my head .. that’s probably ‘wrong’ …

I was going to ask about all together and altogether … at least I think I was .. I must get to the point where I jot stuff down?!

Cheers – I do think of things .. and when I do – I’ll send them on …

We are about to get an arctic shock tomorrow – sunny cold day today .. weather and the Brits .. ?! Still it’s longer days now – and does that make a difference …

Bye for now – Hilary

Davina April 3, 2012 at 8:13 am

LOL, Patricia.
It’s difficult for a lot of folk to “accept” compliments, so that makes you an “exception”! :-) You know, I’m thinking that as more writing becomes sloppy, more folk will either sway one way or the other. I don’t mind a few typos here and there, but if there are too many, it takes away from the message; just like if there are too many swear words or too many adjectives. I hope you can take a rest, Patricia! I’m glad that you’re enjoying these posts. :)

Hi Mike.
The semicolon made your first comment work! But I kinda like the sound of the word “author” being added in though :-)

Hi Hilary.
You know, you’re right about excepted vs exempted! Thank you for pointing that out.

“Exemption” is when you don’t have to do something and “exception” is whatever doesn’t follow a rule. So, a better way to use “exception” might be to say, “With the exception of dining out, I found the gluten-free diet easy to adapt to.”

To used “exempted” you might say, “You are exempted from the gluten-free diet because you have no reaction to gluten.”

I think you did mention all together and altogether. I’ve been keeping a list of folk’s requests and will be covering them in future posts. But, I’ll be happy to answer your question about this now.

If you can substitute a word with “completely,” then you know you would use “altogether.” For example: “I’m altogether too happy to answer your question” vs “I’m completely happy to answer your question.

“All together,” on the other hand means putting a group of things together. For example: “The books are all together on the shelf.”

Thanks for asking. By all means, if you think of something else, please let me know, Hilary. The longer days DO make a difference, and the sun makes the cold easier to handle. I hope you are enjoying the sun. We’re hoping to see some of it this afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Hilary April 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

Hi Davina .. thanks – I’m not v organised at what I’ve asked, not asked, got to do .. etc ..

They had six inches of snow in Scotland yesterday and a week ago had the hottest temperatures on record?! Weather and the Brits … sadly we just need rain down here – it hasn’t come yet and no sign soon, by the look of it – just sincerely hope it doesn’t dampen the spirits for our special summer – Diamond Jubilee and Olympics let alone our normal serving of strawberries – Wimbledon ..

Thanks for the All together, and altogether types .. helpful to see it written out .. Cheers and enjoy your sun .. hope it comes out .. Hilary

Nick April 4, 2012 at 2:36 am

Hey there Davina,

A great post, with a great explanation for these 2 confusing words. To tell the truth, there times I have problem with these two words. The pronunciation is so similar. However, from now on I’ll remember the tip with the “X” and “O”. Thanks :)
Nick´s last blog post ..Backcountry Coupon Code and Review

Pete Goumas April 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Hi Davina,
My father taught me this difference when I was a child and thanks to him after knowing this difference I never did any mistake like this.You did a good effort to share this difference with your readers.
Pete Goumas´s last blog post ..Penguin Coupon & Review

Syeda Mehwish April 4, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hi Davina,
I fully understand the difference between the two but I think we could do this mistake when we are hurry and of course a person whose 2nd language is English could do this mistake.Thanks to put light on this difference.
Syeda Mehwish´s last blog post ..Webhosting Plans

Davina April 5, 2012 at 9:10 am

You’re welcome, Hilary.
Wow, that’s crazy weather!! I hope you get your rain soon — I wish I could give you some of ours (!) — so that it doesn’t spoil the summer. I heard you guys have been having summer-like weather lately. Enjoy it while you can! :)

Thanks, Nick.
Yes, the pronunciation is very similar. It can be easy to confuse them, especially when you’re in a hurry and not really thinking about their meaning. I’m glad you found the “X” and “O” tip helpful.

Hi Pete.
Thank you. You started good language habits young, thanks to your father. I love that he took the time to teach you.

Hi Syeda.
You’re welcome. Yes anyone can make this mistake quite easily. The English language is tricky; there are a lot of confusing words!

Hilary April 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

Hi Davina .. Summer weather has gone – but we have a hosepipe ban!! It’s serious the dam levels are very very low .. at least here in the South East … the snow has gone in the north .. but it’s cloudy and not v warm … perhaps some rain this weekend -but we need six months of soaking rain – not sure that will happen!

Cheers and a very Happy Easter … Hilary

Davina April 7, 2012 at 10:35 am

Happy Easter to you too, Hilary.

I’m sorry to hear about the water situation though. I hope things improve. Seems like a lot of folk have been experiencing abnormal weather.

Rhonda April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I love your precise explanations. Proper punctuation when using quotes is now firmly embedded in my mind. However, while accept and except don’t give me a problem, it’s effect and affect that really throw me for a loop sometimes. Any light you can shed on those two would be appreciated.


Davina April 24, 2012 at 8:42 am

Thanks, Rhonda.
Regarding “affect” and “effect,” right off the bat I can tell you that “affect” is most often used as a verb and “effect” is used as a noun.

Affect means to influence, as in “The sun affected her spirits.”

Effect is a result of something, as in “The sound of her voice had a profound effect on my spirits.”

I will add this to my list of upcoming grammar posts. Thanks for asking.

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