Confused Words: Accept, Except

Except This Animal As the Dog You Want, Accept That It’s a Cat! “Meowoof!”

by Owen Fourie

How confusing! A cat that tries to bark! There is even greater confusion in the way the two words except and accept are used in the subtitle.

Let’s correct it:

Accept This Animal As the Dog You Want, Except That It’s a Cat!

To be safe, we’ll get away from the barking cat and deal only with the confusion between accept and except.

Not homophones

Many lists of homophones include accept and except; however, these two words do not qualify as homophones.

Proper enunciation makes a clear distinction between these words. Their first syllables do not have the same sound.

Accept and except do not qualify as homophones, homonyms, or homographs.

We simply have to regard them as confused words where the user appears to be unaware of the distinction or unaware of the existence of the other word.

Sorting out the confusion

Let’s get a practical understanding of each of these words to use them correctly.


Accept is used as a verb and simply means to receive something or to agree to something.

  • He decided to accept their kind invitation to join them on their European tour.
  • They will accept her desire to be a member of the mountaineers’ society.
  • Please accept my apology for not remembering to cook your favorite stew for your birthday.
  • She was sure he would accept her plan to extend their garden.

Perhaps it will help you to remember how to use accept correctly if you associate it with another word that begins with the syllable ac: In a list of related words that you might find in a dictionary, the word acknowledge should appear in association with accept.

Here is a sentence that will demonstrate how this could work:

After his debut as an actor, he was acknowledged (accepted) as a strong contender for the leading role in the director’s next film.

In some instances, to accept something (a theory, a claim, an order) would be to acknowledge its validity. Accept and acknowledge begin with “ac.” If you associate these two words, it should help you to use accept correctly.


Except is used as a verb, a preposition, and a conjunction. It can be used when showing the difference between a set of things and another thing or between a group of people and a particular person. It refers also to something that is excluded from a situation. Whatever it is, it is the exception.

As a verb, except is often used in its past tense form:

  • That private school’s tuition is expensive, but the benefit is that the third sibling in each family is excepted.
  • The senior citizens in the touring party were excepted from the requirement to pay an additional fee to cover the increase in the price of fuel.

As a preposition, except speaks of exclusion and difference:

  • This problem concerns the whole class except Emma who wasn’t involved at all.
  • All failed except Justin who had applied himself with enthusiasm to his studies.

Except is also used as a conjunction:

  • I would like to buy that old car except that it will cost too much to maintain it.
  • The news disturbed him, and he would not say anything except to excuse himself from their company.

To help you to use except correctly, remember that one of its synonyms is the word exclude. Both words begin with the same syllable. Associate except with the idea of excluding something.

Remember: accept, acknowledge; except, exclude.

To conclude, please note that I accept the existence of many strange things except, of course, barking cats.


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