Consider this sentence:

She has no other family ___ me.

Should I use "except" or "besides" here? I already know that "besides" means to include while "except" means to exclude. However I think both explanations work:

She has no other family except me

=If I am excluded as her only family, then there is no other.


She has no other family besides me

=Even if I am included as her family, there is no other.

Can anyone help me with this confusion? Thanks

4 Answers 4


Trisct, you are correct that both sentences work. They are both grammatical and idiomatic. They put across the same message (i.e., you are the only family member she has got).

In Collins, "besides" means "apart from" or "in addition to".

If we break down your sentence, it would read like this: "She has no other family apart from me" or "In addition to me, she has no other family". The second option here is not commonly used at all, but is technically correct.

You could also say "She has no other family but me".

The choice between "except" and "besides" in this particular sentence/context is a matter of choice/style.


AIQ mentions that the choice is a matter of style, and I thought I would say something about the stylistic choice.

All three choices (including "but" as well as the two you mentioned) are suitable for the most formal writing and also the most informal conversations. But still, some words sound more formal than others. "Except" comes from Latin, and "besides" from Old English, and words coming from Latin usually sound a little more formal. As for "but", it's shorter, which is a plus, but it has a wider range of meanings, so there's more chance of ambiguity. I'm sure there are other considerations.

  • 1
    I thought so too that "except" is just a tad bit more formal than "besides". I would probably use "except" in a formal email.
    – AIQ
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:55

Besides and except are synonyms here. The two sentences mean the same thing.

As an alternative, you could say She has no other family than me.


Both answers are correct. You can use 'besides' or 'except' and the meaning would not change.

Other ways that you could change this answer in order to make it sound better are:

  • She has no family other than me.
  • I am the only family that she has.
  • She has no family but me.
  • She has no family apart from me.

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