1

I would like to know if except and besides can mean different things in some sentences and have the same meaning in others.

For example,

  1. It's hard for me to say anything to him except "hello" = Saying something that is not "hello" to him is hard for me.

It's hard for me to say anything to him besides "hello"= Saying anything more than "hello" to him is hard for me.

  1. It's easy for me to trust anyone besides you = I trust you and all others easily.

It's easy for me to trust anyone except you = It's easy for me to trust anyone but not you.

It seems that when there are words that entail "negative meaning", such as impossible and hard, except and besides mean the same thing, while in other sentences, they are different.

Is this right or is there any other way to explain the difference?

What do you guys think about it?

Any opinion and advice is welcome

Thanks in advance!

1

Look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary

besides (prep)
1: OTHER THAN, EXCEPT
Nothing besides a miracle could help them.
2 : TOGETHER WITH
a decision that, besides being practical, is morally right.

I believe you are correct that the first definition (other than, except) applies in negative contexts and the second in positive contexts.

Deciding whether something is a negative or a positive context can be tricky in English, so it might be possible to come up with a sentence that is ambiguous between the two meanings.

  • Yes. I agree with that. But if someone said to me "I can trust anyone besides you" I am not sure I would take it as a compliment. It sounds a bit like "except" in that instance. – WS2 Feb 5 at 9:58
  • Thank you for replying. I agree with you. It's hard to decide whether "impossible" or "hard" are negative adjective; in most of the examples, the negative meaning is expressed through words like "no one", "nothing", "no", and "not ". I am not sure if words such as "hard" and "difficult" have the same effect. – Chien Te Lu Feb 5 at 11:19
  • @ChienTeLu, I think it's the any rather than the hard that triggers the except meaning. – Peter Shor Feb 5 at 12:00
  • @PeterShor However, according to the definitions you found in the dictionary, the negative part is the cause of the "except meaning". – Chien Te Lu Feb 6 at 6:07
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look at the following examples:

let's assume asterisks(*)are my sisters and the @ sign is you.

I can trust my sisters besides you. (you are included in the group of people who I trust)

here is the group of people I trust: (****@) (needless to say that I have five sisters)

I can trust my sisters except you. (you are excluded from the group of people who I trust. In this very sentence, you are a sister of mine)

here is the group of people I trust: (****) here is the group of people I don't trust: (* = @)

now let's see another example to check if this model works:

It's hard for me to trust my sisters besides you : (****@) It means it's hard to trust **** and @ as a whole at the same time

The other sentence: It's hard for me to trust my sisters except you: **** It means I can't only trust (****) only and refuse to trust @.

  • Thank you for replying. But whats tricky is that if you add adjectives that entail negative meaning to the sentence, it's totally different. For example, "It's hard for me to trust my sisters besides you"=It's hard for me to trust my sisiters except you. – Chien Te Lu Feb 5 at 8:20
  • Let's see if my answer works: It's hard for me to trust my sisters besides you : (****@) It means it's hard to trust **** and @ at the same time. the other sentence: It's hard for me to trust my sisters except you: **** It means I can't only trust **** and It's hard to refuse to trust you and accept what the four sisters claim. – Reyhaneh Amouie Feb 5 at 8:41

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