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The English language can be really tricky, especially with words that are almost identical. For example, how do you know when to use “beside” and when to use “besides”? 

Here are some basic explanations to help you understand the difference. 

What Is the Difference Between Besides and Beside? 

“Beside” is a preposition meaning “next to” or “at the side of.” A preposition is a part of speech that describes where or when an object is in relation to another object.

Examples of prepositions include the following, in bold: 

  • The baby sat in the crib.
  • The tree stood in the middle of the field.
  • Let’s meet after dinner. 
  • I was sitting beside him. 

Beside Can Mean ‘Next to’

One tip to check whether the word “beside” is used correctly is to replace it with the phrase “next to.” If it makes sense, then you have used “beside” correctly.

  • Sally wants to sit beside Rosy in class. 
  • Sally wants to sit next to Rosy in class. 
  • The house with seven gables stands beside a dark, fir wood. 
  • The house with seven gables stands next to a dark, fir wood. 
  • The dog ate all the bones that fell beside the table. 
  • The dog ate all the bones that fell next to the table. 

Beside Can Also Mean ‘Compared with’

Another use of “beside” is as a preposition to mean “compared with,” as in the examples below: 

  • His student loan seems trivial beside his wife’s credit card debt. 
  • His student loan seems trivial compared with his wife’s credit card debt. 
  • Beside Tony’s house, every other house on the street looked shabby with their windows tightly shuttered.
  • Compared with Tony’s house, every other house on the street looked shabby with their windows tightly shuttered.

How Do You Use ‘Besides’? 

On the other hand, the word “besides” functions either as a preposition or a linking adverb. An adverb is a word that describes how an action is done.

1. As a preposition, ‘besides’ can mean ‘apart from,’ ‘in addition to,’ or ‘except.’

Examples of using “besides” to mean “apart from” or “except” are as follows: 

  • Besides the trophy, the winner received a cash prize. 
  • Apart from the trophy, the winner received a cash prize. 
  • No one besides the mayor can make that decision. 
  • No one except the mayor can make that decision. 
  • He ate all the ice cream, besides all the cake.
  • He ate all the ice cream, in addition to all the cake.

2. As an adverb, “besides” can be used to give additional information.

When used as a synonym for “in addition to” or “also,” the word “besides” can be placed before or after the additional information. When it’s placed before the added detail, use a comma after it. 

Examples of “besides” used in this sense are as follows: 

  • She wasn’t too happy about what her sister said; besides, they already had a long-standing feud that made it worse.
  • She wasn’t too happy about what her sister said; also, they already had a long-standing feud that made it worse.
  • Ken wanted to go swimming at the lake. Besides, it was too hot to stay at home. 
  • Ken wanted to go swimming at the lake. Also, it was too hot to stay at home. 
  • The brothers’ heated argument over money quickly escalated; besides, they already had an unresolved problem with Tom stealing Rick’s girlfriend. 
  • The brothers’ heated argument over money quickly escalated; in addition, they already had an unresolved problem with Tom stealing Rick’s girlfriend. 
  • They serve coffee and many snack items besides
  • They serve coffee and many snack items also

Expressions Using ‘Beside’

Other than these traditional uses, we also have the following idioms or expressions in English that use the word “beside”: 

1. Beside oneself (myself, himself, herself etc.)

This is an expssion used to mean you are overwhelmed or so emotional about something to be almost out of control. In British English, it means “to be extremely angry.” 

  • When he proposed, Sheila was beside herself with joy. 
  • At the death of his favorite daughter, Captain Butler was beside himself with grief. 

2. Beside the point

This idiom refers to something being totally irrelevant. 

  • I know she told you the truth, but that’s beside the point.
  • Scarlett needed to marry Frank so she could have the money to pay her taxes, and she felt that his being engaged to her sister was beside the point.

3. To pale beside (something or someone)

This expression means to appear less impressive or important when compared to something or someone else. 

  • Lisa’s cooking prowess pales beside her sister’s pie-baking skills. 
  • Miguel’s boyishly handsome face paled beside his wealthy father’s dignified looks.

Can ‘Besides’ Start a Sentence?

“Besides” can be used to start a sentence, especially in less formal writing. Since “besides” is technically a conjunctive adverb, some grammar purists believe that it should not be used to begin a sentence in formal writing.

In general, however, the practice is acceptable, as even the Chicago Manual of Style uses “besides” to start sentences within its own manual.

Beside vs Besides Quiz

Test your understanding of the use of “beside” and “besides” with the quiz below. You can also print our downloadable Beside vs. Besides Quiz for your students.

  1. There was nobody in the house [beside / besides] me when I heard the crash downstairs. 
  2. Although the boys shared a room, they didn’t like having anyone sleeping [beside / besides] them. 
  3. What foreign languages would you like to learn [beside / besides] French and Latin? 
  4. [Beside / Besides] its famous pies, Sarah’s shop is also known for its delicious cookies and cookie dough spread. 
  5. He described himself as “not the marrying type.” [Besides / Beside], he didn’t like anyone meddling with his things. 
  6. The restaurant serves the best steak, [beside / besides] many international side dishes. 
  7. The musical called “The Chosen” was excellent, and [besides / beside], the ticket prices weren’t too steep. 
  8. The government’s problems seem trivial [besides / beside] the global pandemic ravaging the world. 
  9. There is no one who understands Michael [beside / besides] his girlfriend. 
  10. [Beside / Besides] the award, the new Miss Universe got a feature story in the newspaper. 

Answers: 

  1. There was nobody in the house besides me when I heard the crash downstairs. 
  2. Although the boys shared a room, they didn’t like having anyone sleeping beside them. 
  3. What foreign languages would you like to learn besides French and Latin? 
  4. Besides its famous pies, Sarah’s shop is also known for its delicious cookies and cookie dough spread. 
  5. He described himself as “not the marrying type.” Besides, he didn’t like anyone meddling with his things. 
  6. The restaurant serves the best steak, besides many international side dishes. 
  7. The musical called “The Chosen” was excellent, and besides, the ticket prices weren’t too steep. 
  8. The government’s problems seem trivial beside the global pandemic ravaging the world. 
  9. There is no one who understands Michael besides his girlfriend. 
  10. Besides the award, the new Miss Universe got a feature story in the newspaper. 

Using Beside and Besides 

Now that you understand the difference between “besides” and “beside,” you’ll be able to avoid one of the most common writing errors.

Be sure to always thoroughly proofread your writing to catch spelling errors, and to make sure you’re using the right word, especially when the difference comes down to just one letter.

What other confusing word pairs do you struggle with? Share them in the comments below.  

 

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