This is one of the examples from cambridge dict.

Do you play any other sports besides basketball?

Oxford dict consider "besides", "except for" and "aside from" are synonyms.

To simplify the discussion, assume there are 2 options, basketball and baseball. Are "aside from" and "besides" exchangeable in the example sentence? If yes, then "aside from" and "except for" are not exchangeable. Here is the inference

Let set_A (mathematically) denote the group of sports the guy loves.

"besides" implies that both of basketball and baseball belong to set_A while "except for" indicates that the guy only loves baseball in the scope of available options.

Is my understanding right?

  • Closely related to this questiion from the same poster. – David Siegel Sep 16 '19 at 2:19
  • @DavidSiegel Do you agree that "except for" indicate "not including" while "besides" indicate "including"? – fu DL Sep 16 '19 at 13:06
  • No "fu" I do not agree, as I tried to make clear in my answer. "except for" here means "other than" which in this case has the same effective meaning as "besides" – David Siegel Sep 16 '19 at 15:12

First of all, the question isn't what sports the person addressed loves, it is what sports the person plays. One may love a sport without playing it, and play a sport without loving it.

Secondly, these questions implicitly ask about any other sport, so it does not (IMO) make sense to limit the possible pool of answers, particularly not to only 2.

Thirdly, no, you have not understood correctly. In this example, "except for" does not significantly change the meaning from "aside from". To put it in set theory terms, all three are asking what the members of the set "sports person plays" are, other than 'basketball" All ask for a total enumeration of all other members of the set, All assume that "basketball" is a member of the set, and none make any assumptions about whether there are other members, and if so how many. (Technically they assume the set is finite, because it does not make sense to ask for the enumeration of an infinite set. But an infinite set of sports doesn't make sense anyway.)

  • Thanks for your answer. Does "address" imply the meaning of "to give attention to or deal with a matter or problem" (cambridge dict) in your post? – fu DL Sep 16 '19 at 3:11
  • @fuDL, no it does not. The word "addressed" in the phrase "the person addressed" means the person spoken to, the person to whom the question is directed, the person being asked the question, as opposed to the person asking the question. – David Siegel Sep 16 '19 at 22:04

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