When to use prepositions EXCEPT (EXCEPT FOR), BESIDES, APART FROM

These four prepositions are used in English sentences for similar purpose, but each of them has a slightly specific meaning. In particular context, we should use the correct preposition, so let’s dive right in and let’s take a look at the differences.

A. When we can use both EXCEPT and EXCEPT FOR:

With EXCEPT or EXCEPT FOR we express exception, which does not include what was mentioned in the main clause. It means that we exclude one option. In many cases EXCEPT and EXCEPT FOR can be used interchangeably. It is usually possible in sentences that include the following words:

everybody, everyone, everything, nobody, nothing, anybody, anything, all, whole and so on.

Everyone passed the exam except (for) Frank.
All devices were totally damaged except (for) the smartphone.
• I eat everything except (for) pizza.

B. When we use EXCEPT:

We use EXCEPT if there is an infinitive, preposition or conjunction after EXCEPT.

• I had nothing to do except to sleep all day. (Not except for)
• She is very pretty except when she laughs. (Not except for)
• There is a cold weather in northern Canada except in July and August. (Not except for)
• It is fun to drive fast, except (that) it’s illegal. (Not except for)

C. When we use EXCEPT FOR:

We use EXCEPT FOR in two situations:

1. If the main clause doesn’t contain words like everybody, everyone, everything, anybody, anything, nobody, nothing, all, whole and so on.

• The weather was fine, except for the thunderstorm in the evening. (Not except)
• Grandmother is still healthy, except for a little problem with her eyes. (Not except)
• I finished this task except for some minor details. (Not except)

2. If the EXCEPT FOR is used at the beginning of the sentence.

Except for Jane, everyone was at the meeting on time. (Not except)
Except for light rain , the trip was very nice. (Not except)

D. When we use BESIDES:

BESIDES is very similar to prepositions EXCEPT and EXCEPT FOR. So you probably ask what is the difference here?
The difference is that EXCEPT / EXCEPT FOR excludes one case from the set of options, while BESIDES includes (adds) one more case.

• All my friends except Peter came to the party. (all showed up -> Peter didn’t come)
Besides Peter, all other friends came too. (not only Peter, but all other showed up too -> Peter came)

Words BESIDES and BESIDE have very different meaning and are not related. BESIDES means including one more case and BESIDE means next to something.

If the sentence is negative BESIDES and EXCEPT (FOR) can have the same meaning:

• I don’t watch any sports except for hockey. (I watch only hockey)
• I don‘t watch any sport besides hockey. (I watch only hockey

E. When we can use APART FROM:

APART FROM has one great feature – it can be used instead of EXCEPT FOR and also instead of BESIDES.

Apart from (besides) mathematics I like also physics and literature.
• I like all cars apart from (except) Renault.

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