There are a lot of confusing words in English. Some sound the same; some look the same; some have very similar definitions but differ in function. Such is the case for the two words beside and besides. Many writers aren’t sure when to use beside or besides in their writing since both words look alike. Can they be used interchangeably? Or do they have different functions?
Today, I want to answer any questions you may have about these two words.
What is the Difference Between Beside and Besides?
In this post, I want to discuss the differences between besides and beside. I will outline their definitions, their functions in a sentence, and their use in popular phrases. Plus, at the end, I will give you a trick to keep track of them. After reading this post, you shouldn’t mix up besides vs. beside ever again.
When to Use Beside
The word beside (without the “s”) functions as a preposition and its most common definition is at the side of; next to.
- My best friend will always stand beside me.
- The soldier had his pistol beside his hips.
- We all sat beside the fire and cooked smores.
- “The greatest player in the game today, alongside the Great One, standing beside the kid poised to take over their legacy.” – USA Today
Beside also has a few figurative definitions: in comparison with; on equal footing with.
- This policy seems quite mainstream when it’s beside the others.
- You have earned your place beside the best reporters in the industry.
Both of these still have to do with the first definition of being next to something or someone, but they are more figurative or imaginary, as opposed to literally sitting beside someone.
Popular Phrases Using Beside
There are two popular phrases that always use the word beside, not besides. Those phrases are beside the point and beside oneself.
- That is completely beside the point. (Irrelevant to matter at hand)
- I am completely beside myself right now. (Extremely excited or agitated)
When to Use Besides
The word besides (with the “s”) can function as both an adverb and a preposition.
As an adverb, besides is defined as in addition to, as well; moreover, furthermore.
- I’m perfectly willing to take on more work and, besides, I want to.
- I’m too tired to go swimming. Besides, the water is too cold.
- “Besides, I had no doubt that in the future we would be close friends or more.” – New York Daily News
As a preposition, besides is defined as in addition to; apart from.
- Besides the award, there was a write-up in the local paper.
- No one besides the store manager can make that call.
- Besides your father, no one else understands where I’m coming from.
How to Avoid Confusion
In best usage, beside is used exclusively for the meaning at the side of. Similarly, besides, as a preposition, is used exclusively for the meanings in addition to and except for.
Sometimes writers ignore this distinction and it leads to confusion in the mind of the reader. For example,
- Beside all of the ice cream, the dog ate the cake.
If the distinction between the two meanings in preposition form is not observed, it is not clear whether the above sentence is saying the dog was near the ice cream while it ate the cake or that the dog ate both the ice cream and the cake.
In order to avoid such ambiguity, it’s best to observe the distinction.
Remember the Difference
A great way to remember the difference between besides or beside is to look at the length of each word.
Besides has one additional letter on the end and means in addition to. You can remember that the longer word means in addition to.
Even though these words are very close to each other in spelling, it’s best to observe the distinctions that separate beside vs. besides.
Beside is a preposition that means nearby; at the side of.
Besides is an adverb and a preposition and means in addition to; as well and apart from.