Is there any difference between the two?


You don't like to see others suffering, except (if) they're suffering for you.

If the version with or without the if the correct one?

  • Idiomatically most native speakers would include if in normal conversational contexts. Omitting it is acceptable in most contexts, but may be considered either "dated, formal" or "dialectal", so my advice to learners is to always explicitly include if (if only to avoid getting it "wrong" in some contexts). May 11, 2017 at 14:05
  • @FumbleFingers In this particular sentence I think both essentially mean the same, I mean except and except if. But I really can't think of any context where they would mean different things. Can you please give an example? May 11, 2017 at 14:13
  • @Man_From_India: I never considered the possibility of there being different meanings - and now you've asked me to, my first reaction is there can't be any differences. All I'm saying is that discarding if is at least slightly marked in OP's exact context - but that "markedness" could EITHER suggest a dated/formal register, OR a dialectal usage. May 11, 2017 at 14:19
  • Without IF, the OP's sentence is not grammatical in English. /You don't like to see others suffering except they're suffering for you/.
    – Lambie
    May 11, 2017 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


You don't like to see others suffering, except if they're suffering for you.

except if here is the same as unless.

except can otherwise only be followed by nouns:

You don't like fruit except for bananas.

You don't like driving except if [unless] you are the driver.

except + [if clause]=unless

You would have liked the movie except if it had been really bad.

In more formal writing, it's better to use unless, in everyday utterances except if is fine.


If I had ever said 'except if', my teachers would've come down on me like a ton of bricks. Please use 'unless'. Don't come unless you really want to. He won't see you unless you have an appointment. Etc. Don't complicate your lives trying to work out when to use 'unless' or 'except if' because 'except if' is clumsy and not great English. 'Unless' is the one to choose - except if you don't want to speak the best English! LOL From an English teacher ending her 46th year in the profession!


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