Accept vs. Except

Do I accept an invitation or except it?

If someone is left off of an invitation list, has she been excepted or accepted?

What’s the difference between these two terms, and how can we keep them straight?

What does accept mean?

Accept means, most broadly, “to take or receive (something offered) or receive with approval or favor,” as in “I accept this trophy.”

What does except mean?

Except has a verb sense of “to exclude; leave out,: as in the phrase “present company excepted.” But, it can also be used as a preposition, as in “They were all there except me,” and a conjunction, as in “Every inch of the facility was well fortified except here.”Except is also widely used in the phrase except for, as in “She would travel more except for lack of money.”

Here’s a hot tip …

One easy way to keep these two terms straight is to remember the ex- in except and associate it with exclude.

When determining whether to use except or accept in a sentence, you can also consider what part of speech the sentence calls for:

  • If you need a verb, and if that verb could be replaced with exclude without losing the intended meaning of the sentence, then choose except. If the meaning is lost with exclude, then go with accept.
  • If you need a preposition or conjunction (or anything other than a verb), except is the term for you (accept is only used a verb).

A little history

As with some other commonly confused terms, accept and except share a linguistic ancestor. Both can be traced to the Latin verb capere meaning “to take.” The prefix ex- means “out of.” The prefix ac- is a variant of ad-, which occurs in loanwords from Latin where it meant “toward.”

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