Word Confusion: Beside versus Besides

Posted March 7, 2019 by kddidit in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Ooh, beside vs besides is a tricky bugger what with both being adverbs and prepositions with essentially the same definitions.

The basic difference is physical vs notional:

  • If you keep in mind that beside is about where something or someone is physically located, you’ll be gold.
  • Besides is more about an exception.
Who beside me is hungry?

He’s asking which person near him is hungry.

Who besides me is hungry?

He’s asking who else is hungry. It doesn’t matter if the person is near him or not.

Sit down beside me.

Sit here. Next to me.

Sit down besides me.

Okay, it’s an awkward sentence, but he doesn’t want to be the only person sitting, and he wants other people to sit down as well.

That’s beside the point.

It misses the mark and settles nothing

That’s besides the point.

There’s something missing between that’s and besides. That’s “something going on”, and besides, the point I’m trying to make…

I’m beside myself with envy.

Dang, I am so envious!

I’m besides myself with envy.

Another awkward sentence, as I’m envious and so are others.

He commissioned work from other artists beside Cavanaugh.

These other artists were standing next to Cavanaugh.

He commissioned work from other artists besides Cavanaugh.

He asked other artists to create artwork in addition to asking Cavanaugh.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Beside Besides
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: beside and besides

A seagull is perched on the rail beside a man in a cognac colored leather jacket leaning on the railinga nd looking at the city skyline across the channel of water.

Excuse Me, Are You Gonna Eat That? by tinto is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

Man and gull are beside each other.


A tennis net blowing in the breeze with snow lying on the ground

Round Extensions Explained by John Sutton is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Local Tennis Leagues.com.

I doubt anyone will play in the cold, besides it’s winter.

Part of Grammar:
Adverb 1; Preposition 2 Adverb; Preposition
Location


Adverb:
In addition

At, by, to, or along the side of something or someone

Preposition:
At or by the side of

  • Next to
  • Compared with
  • Near

In addition to

  • Apart from
  • Not connected with

Over and above

Other than

  • Except
Notional


Adverb:
In addition

  • As well
  • Moreover
  • Anyway
  • Furthermore
  • Also

Otherwise

  • Else

Preposition:
In addition to

  • Apart from

Over and above

Other than

  • Except
Examples:
Adverb:
The family rode in the carriage, and the dog ran along beside.

The nightstand is beside the bed.

That factor is beside the point.

Preposition:
He sat beside me in the front seat.

It’s on the table beside the bed.

Beside Beth’s idealism, my priorities looked shabby.

He commissioned work from other artists beside Rivera.

She’s beside herself with worry.

Oh, that’s beside the point!

Sit down beside me.

Beside him other writers seem amateurish.

Adverb:
I’m capable of doing the work, and a lot more besides.

I had no time to warn you. Besides, I wasn’t sure.

Besides, I promised her we would come.

There are three elm trees and two maples besides.

They had a roof over their heads but not much besides.

Preposition:
I have no other family besides my parents.

Besides being a player, he was my friend.

Besides a mother, he has a sister to support.

There’s no one here besides Bill and me.

Who besides me is hungry?

History of the Word:
  1. Old English be sīdan meaning by the side.
  2. Old English be sidan meaning by the side of (only as two words), from be- + sidan dative of side as a noun. By 1200, it was formed as one word and used as both adverb and preposition. The alternative Middle English meaning outside led to the sense preserved in beside oneself meaning out of one’s wits by the late 15th century.
Middle English word dating back to 1150–1200 of the same origin as beside, but adding -s, a native English suffix used in the formation of adverbs.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Group of People Look Through Binoculars by Ronald Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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