A common idiom is, when speaking to someone, to raise a general criticism and then amend it by saying "present company excepted". This is taken to mean that the criticism is not intended to apply to the listener.

Does this phrase also express that the speaker, too, is to be excepted from the criticized group? Perhaps taking the etymology too seriously, when one speaks of "company" he usually means those who are with him, but not himself (one does not "accompany oneself"). Then again, situations where this phrase are used don't generally include explicit criticism of the speaker.

  • It means whatever you want it to mean. But generally, unless context indicated otherwise, it would include the speaker.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 19:39
  • I hate everyone! (Present company excepted.) No self loathing implied. (But you have to ask yourself ...)
    – bib
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 22:23

2 Answers 2


Present company excepted or present company excluded is something that we say which means the criticism we have just made doesn't describe "present company", where "present company" includes both the listener and the speaker.

  • It isn't clear what you mean by saying the speaker would be included; would they be included in the criticism, or would they be included in the group that was excluded from the criticism? Commented May 9, 2016 at 22:15
  • Yes the speaker and the person listening, both. They are both not part of the criticism.
    – user173450
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 22:36
  • I've edited your comment into your answer; please re-edit if you feel I haven't captured your meaning correctly. Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:15

An interesting one...

I would say that it's normally (perhaps almost exclusively) used in the third person, in that you'd be talking about a group (or class/category) of people and then using that idiom to exclude the person or people to whom you're talking.

Oxford Dictionaries

he’s the hardest bargainer in the business, present company excepted of course

Google Books

Linguists - present company excepted of course - tend to be extremely boring people

However, I see no reason why it couldn't be used in the first person plural (and thus include the speaker) - although I doubt it would be understood that way unless it was clear from context or perhaps merely inferred that the speaker is separate from the insulted group. Contrast these:

Everyone around here is an idiot - present company excepted, of course

... would probably be understood to not include the speaker, or solicit a humorous question of "oh, so you're not part of that company, then?".

... while

Everyone around here dresses impeccably - present company excepted, of course

... would probably be understood to include the speaker. If the speaker was dressed like a sack of rags, then it would be understood to be ironic.

  • I don't think the point of view of the initial statement matters; in both third person and first person plurals the statement could include both the speaker and the listener. Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:12

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