Accept, Except, Exempt – Common Mistakes in English as a Second Language (ESL)

Accept, except, and exempt are three confusing words for ESL learners.
Accept, except, and exempt are three confusing words for ESL learners. | Source

Accept, except and exempt are three common words that are frequently used in wrong ways in English as a Second Language or ESL.

Many of the confusions about these three English words come from the fact that they rhyme and have very similar spellings.

However, accept, except and exempt have different definitions.

For that reason, they are used differently in sentences.

Below is a quick guide on accept, except and exempt and some example sentences to explain their usage.

When to Use Accept

Many of us learners of English as a Second Language make mistakes in using accept and except because they are pronounced alike.

However, accept and except are not the same.

In most cases, the former is a verb while the latter is either a preposition or a conjunction.

A verb implies action or state, a preposition relates a noun or a noun substitute with other words in a sentence, while a conjunction connects words, phrases, and clauses in sentences.

In some rare cases, however, accept and except both act as a verb.

In that case, however, the meanings of accept and except are almost opposites.

We use accept in the following situations:

  • When we refer to an action, we almost always use accept. Sometimes though we use except.
  • When we mean receiving or getting something, then we use accept.
  • When we refer to the act of letting in or passing, then we use accept, not accept.
  • When we agree to something, then we accept that thing.
  • When we believe something to be true, then we accept the beliefs in that thing.
  • When we try to either take on or put up with something, then we accept and not except.

Examples of Accept in Sentences

  1. You would not accept shady business proposals, would you?
  2. He was accepted to a prestigious national university.
  3. I would gladly accept his business offer.
  4. I accept his financial estimates as accurate.
  5. I accept my fate and try my best to make it great.

When to Use Except

We use except in the following cases:

  • When we need a preposition or a conjunction in a sentence, then we choose except over accept.
  • When used as a preposition, except means “not including.”
  • When used as a conjunction, except means either “aside from” or “it is just that.”
  • When we need a verb in a sentence, we sometimes use except. In this case, except means “to exclude.”

Examples of Except in Sentences

  • During Christmas, I enjoy buying gifts for everyone except my mother.
  • Mother hardly talks except to praise herself.
  • I would love to have peace at home except she always starts hostilities.
  • She will accept her favorites from her house rules.

When to Use Exempt

Another tricky word pair for us learners of English as a Second Language is except and exempt.

We use exempt in this situation:

  • When we say that someone is free from a duty or a responsibility, then we use exempt.

Examples of Exempt in Sentences

  1. I was exempted from the civil service exams.
  2. The government exempted me from paying the full amount of tax.

Mini Test on Accept, Except, and Exempt

  1. Has she _____ the salary package yet?
  2. All company rules will apply to her _____ the ones about attendance.
  3. Executives are _____ from paying the 40% income tax.
  4. She was _____ to the public medical college.
  5. She works well _____ that she sometimes works too much.

Mini Test Answers

  1. accepted
  2. except
  3. exempted
  4. accepted
  5. except

Copyright © 2012 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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Comments 3 comments

JGoul profile image

JGoul 4 years ago

For better or for worse, writing that signals that the author is not a native speaker is seen as less valuable. Avoiding homonyms like "accept" and "except" is one of the most important steps in losing that "she's not from around here..." flavor. Great advice, kerlyn!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Another great lesson learned! Keep them coming, I am always challenged and come away better informed.


Bhanu.Jas profile image

Bhanu.Jas 4 years ago from Australia

Very very informative hub. I am really impressed the way you have explained it. I will also follow you and read your other hubs.

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