Why are accept and except commonly confused for each other when writing? This is unlike most cases, where misspellings come from homophones.

In my idiolect at least, accept is /ək.'sɛpt/, and except is /ɪk.'sɛpt/. They are not homophonic, and are about as close as butter and bitter. However, this pair seems strangely prone to misspelling all over the place. Are these words homophonic in standard English? I am technically not a native speaker (picked up English while really young), live in Canada, and people tend to comment me having a weird accent...

  • 1
    I am AmE, and they sound different to me as well, but not as dramatically as butter/bitter. I wouldn't confuse them on hearing them. Unlike you, I have not seen these two confused in writing much. Apr 8, 2014 at 2:44
  • 2
    Rather than phonetic similarity (which does make matters worse), it is more likely a confusion over which word has which meaning that is responsible here. There may be more such non-homophonic pairs/groups as well that tend to confuse.
    – Kris
    Apr 8, 2014 at 4:51
  • 3
    I'd throw in affect and effect as oft-confused verbs :)
    – oerkelens
    Apr 8, 2014 at 7:04
  • @oerkelens and nouns.
    – bib
    Apr 8, 2014 at 13:20
  • And nouns, indeed :)
    – oerkelens
    Apr 8, 2014 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


The phonetic difference is in an unstressed syllable, and English in general tends to reduce unstressed syllables toward the mid-central schwa sound. In some accents these words are homophones. In others, except is pronounced with a near-close, near-front /ɪ/ or an open-mid front /ɛ/, but in casual or rapid speech, they may be difficult or impossible to distinguish from a mid-central /ə/.

  • 1
    True, but learners tend to get confused with other pairs as well. See my comment at OP.
    – Kris
    Apr 8, 2014 at 4:51
  • @Kris Agreed, you don't need to have a homophone to confuse words, although it helps. And these words are very close, much closer than bitter and butter. Apr 8, 2014 at 5:21

To accept is from Latin accipere meaning basically to take and to except from Latin excipere meaning to exclude. Though they sound almost similar, the context of their use is different. You can accept a proposition and you can except certain people from a tax. So you hear from context and the verb construction what is what.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.