Access versus Excess: What’s the Difference?

English can be a confusing language—for native and non-native speakers alike. Many words that have completely different meanings are both spelled and pronounced very similarly. The words access and excess are good examples of just how confusing certain English words can be.

What is the Difference Between Access and Excess?

While the difference between access and excess isn’t always night and day, there is usually a pretty clear difference between the word you should use and the word you shouldn’t use. Today I want to go over both of these words, their definitions, their functions in a sentence, and a few ways to remember the difference between them.

When to Use Access

Access can function as both a noun and a verb in sentences.

As a noun, it has a few different meanings. The most commonly used meanings are a means of approaching, entering, exiting, communicating with, or making use of and the ability or right to approach, enter, exit, etc. For example,

  • My apartment has easy access to the fire escape.
  • I won a backstage pass with access to the restricted area of the show.

But, access also has a few more definitions as a noun that not many people are familiar with. Access can also mean an increase in addition and an outburst or onset. For example,

  • After the news, he suddenly saw an access of wealth in his bank account.
  • After being told no, the child has an access of rage.

When to Use Excess

what is the grammar of excess or access?Excess can function as a noun, adjective, and a verb in sentences.

As a noun, its general meaning is an amount or quantity beyond what is normal or sufficient. For example,

  • These steaks are for dinner, but you can give any excess to the dogs.
  • I sold the entire inventory so there is no excess left.

As an adjective, its definition is very similar, being more than is usual, required, or permitted. For example,

  • When you trim the steak, be sure to remove any excess fat.
  • I sold most of the inventory and put the excess stock in the warehouse.

Excess also can be used as a verb and is defined as to eliminate the job or position of For example,

  • Many factory workers were excessed during the recession.

Problem Sentences

The tricky area is in the choice of a word to indicate a surge, or alternatively a surfeit, of emotion. There is a clear difference in meanings when moving from an access of loyalty, wickedness, willingness, etc., to an excess of the same.

An access of loyalty would be a burst, onset, or surge of loyalty. Perhaps the patriotism that unites countries after a national tragedy. This would be an access of loyalty.

An excess of loyalty, however, would be someone who displays too much loyalty. Perhaps someone who remains loyal to a politician or boss despite corruption and fraud. This person would display an excess of loyalty.

Remember the Difference

There is a good memory aid that can help you remember the difference between these two words. Excess means something extra or exceeding the required amount. Excess and extra both start with ex, so if you associate these two words together, it makes it easy to remember.

You can also associate the word access with the word accessible for a memory trick.


These two words may sound similar, but excess vs. access actually have very different meanings.

Access means the ability to or means of approaching or entering a place. Associate this word with accessible.

Excess means extra or more than necessary.