Many students have difficulty understanding the difference between beside and besides. In fact, sometimes even native speakers have doubts about the distinction between the two words. When should you use each one?
Although there is only a tiny difference in their spellings, the two words are used in very different ways. They represent distinct parts of speech and have separate grammatical functions. It is important to learn the difference between beside and besides, because both words come up frequently in everyday speech and writing. In addition, if you use the two words properly you will be able to impress even native English speakers.
Let's look at some examples to help you understand the difference.
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The word beside is a preposition. This means that it is a word that connects two nouns. Usually beside is used as a synonym for next to, but it can also mean near or close to. Beside is more formal than next to, near and close to, but it is still a very common word.
In addition to this meaning, beside is commonly used in the following two expressions:
The word besides can be used as both a preposition and an adverb. As a preposition, besides usually means in addition to or as well as. However, it can sometimes also mean except. The distinction between these two uses is usually clear from the context.
Besides tomatoes, she also needs carrots.
(In addition to tomatoes, she also needs carrots.)
There's no one here besides me.
(There's no one here except me.)
After besides you have to use either a noun or a gerund (the form of the verb that ends in –ing).
As an adverb, besides also means in addition. It is used to add extra facts or reasons to what you are saying, similar to moreover, furthermore and in any case.
I should go home now. Besides, they won't even notice if I leave.
(I should go home now. Moreover, they won't even notice if I leave.)
Bear in mind that this use of besides is relatively informal, and is more common in speech than in writing. You can use besides alone, or you can pair it with words such as this, that, the fact that or a specific detail.
Sometimes native English speakers have doubts about whether the expression is, "to be beside the point" or "to be besides the point." Although in speech people sometimes say both, only the first expression is considered grammatically correct.
Mrs. Shaw takes the number 22 bus home from work every day. Besides being convenient, it's an inexpensive way to travel around the city. Mrs. Shaw usually sits at the front, and tries to get a seat beside the window. Sometimes she runs into one of her friends, who comes and sits beside her. Besides Mrs. Shaw and her friend, there usually aren't very many people on the bus.
One day, Mrs. Shaw realized that she had lost her bag. She thought she might have left it on the bus, but she couldn't remember if she put it on the seat beside her, or on the floor beside her feet. Mrs. Shaw was beside herself with worry. Besides her wallet, her cell phone and house keys were in the bag. She just did not know what to do. She didn't have a lot of money in her wallet, but that was beside the point.
Luckily, when Mrs. Shaw got home, Mr. Shaw was already there. Mrs. Shaw had indeed left her bag on the bus, right at the front beside the driver's seat. The bus driver had called about 20 minutes before to say that he found it. He was able to recognize the bag, because besides being an unusual color, it had a distinctive pattern. When she learned this, Mrs. Shaw was beside herself with joy. She decided to buy a present for the bus driver to say thank you. Besides a thank you note, she bought him a homemade cake.
Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.
Part 1: 1. D | 2. C | 3. B | 4. A
Part 2: 1. B | 2. A | 3. D | 4. D | 5. C | 6. A
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