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I have the following sentence:

Who am I? Picture James Bond, except without the British Accent. Or the six-pack.

My question is about two words: except versus only; also, or versus and.

Seems like or and and have the same meaning here. Which is better? Is there a rule?

Same goes with except and only: is one better that they other, and is there a rule about this?

1

Reviewing the basics is always a good start:

  • Only is an adverb (long story short: only can accompany except as an option).
  • Except can be a preposition (before a noun) or a conjunction.
  • Or & and are conjunctions that are mutually exclusive. (in your case, or is used to cope with without - negation)

[Breakdown] In general, try reforming your sentences into simpler chunks to get a better sense.

"1. except without the British Accent" OR 2. "only except without the British Accent"

  1. "except" is unnecessary here.
  2. If you choose to keep "except," you may precede it with "only" as an emphasis. However, this is most relevant when there is a single condition. In fact, using "only" with "or" causes confusion (I only lack the British Accent or the six-pack. In this case, it gives "either/or" nuance.)

[Answer] With those two pieces in mind,

the revision:

"Who am I? Picture James Bond, without the British Accent or the six-pack."

Just for fun, you could also say this:

"Who is James Bond? Picture @ygoncho, except he has British Accent and six-pack."

  • 1
    Can't upvote because I don't have enough rep, but thanks a lot! – ygoncho Sep 27 '14 at 20:43
  • @ygoncho In case it wasn't clear, you may combine only with without as well (under part 1). @KarlRookey has a more in-depth analysis if you need it. – Crosscounter Sep 27 '14 at 22:09
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In your example text, the word except is used as a conjunction and it could be replaced by the conjunction only — as you suggest — with very little change in meaning. The difference is nuanced and a matter of preference. So it is your choice:

"Picture James Bond, except without the British Accent."

OR

"Picture James Bond, only without the British Accent."


Your second question, about and / or is harder to answer. Because the two words have very different meanings (as noted by Crosscounter), it is usually easy to decide between them: do I want both (cookies and milk) or do I want one (cookies or milk)?

In the text you are examining, there is nothing so concrete to guide us, since I am without the items described. This may be another matter of preference, but I have a strong feeling that or is better. I cannot find a rule to support my preference, but here's my logic:

In English usage, there are word pairs that belong together, called correlatives. These include both—and / either—or / neither—nor. It seems to me if you use and you imply the word both, and if you use the word or you imply the word either. When I ask myself if it should be "without either a British accent or a six-pack" or "without both a British accent and a six-pack", the word either emerges the clear winner.

So, with the understanding that my logic may be flawed, and this may actually be a matter of preference, the word or is preferred:

"Picture James Bond, except without the British accent. Or the six-pack"

NOT

"Picture James Bond, except without the British accent. And the six-pack"

  • Initially, using or seemed counter-intuitive. In my head, I kept thinking "not having a British accent won't undo a six-pack" but reading your point about correlatives adds to the reasoning and clarity. In order to enable {and}, it would be "lacking/minus both the accent and the six-pack." – Crosscounter Sep 27 '14 at 22:05

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