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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
The difference between "beside" and "besides"
Monday September 15th 2014
Question
Can you please explain how to use beside and besides? — Kumara, Sri Lanka
Answer

Thank you for this interesting question. The spelling difference between beside and besides is a small one, but their meanings and uses are quite different!

BESIDE, with no “s” at the end, is used only as a preposition, which means there is always a noun following it. It means either “next to” or “compared to,” as shown in the examples below. The first meaning, “next to,” is more common.

  • She sat beside (= next to) him during dinner.
  • These problems seem unimportant beside (= compared to) the potential benefits of the new system.

BESIDES with an “s” at the end can also be used as a preposition, but it means “except” or “in addition to,” as in these examples:

  • There's no one here besides (= except) me.
  •  She wants to learn other languages besides (= in addition to) English and French.
  •  Besides (= in addition to) its famous cakes, the bakery also makes delicious breads and cookies.

However, BESIDES can also be used as an adverb, to introduce additional information. As you can see in the examples below, besides can be placed either before the additional information or after it. When it’s placed before the new information, a comma should be inserted after it.

  • They serve pasta and many other foods besides. (besides comes after the new information: “and many other foods”)
  • The play is excellent, and besides, the tickets don't cost much. (besides comes before the new information: “the tickets don’t cost much”)
  • I'm not ready to get married yet. Besides, I enjoy living alone. (besides comes before the new information: “I enjoy living alone”)

 

I hope this helps.

 

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