Grammar Bite #3: The use of ‘besides’

7 October 2010

 

Today’s grammar review covers the use of the word ‘besides’.

 

Besides has two primary uses: as a preposition and as an adverb.

 

Besides as preposition

We use besides to add new information to what is already known.

 

It has a meaning that is similar to these two phrases: in addition to and as well as.

 

Here are examples of the correct way to use these phrases:

In addition to the 12-course banquet, the guests also enjoyed a live dance band.

As well as the 12-course banquet, the guests also enjoyed a live dance band.

Besides the 12-course banquet, the guests also enjoyed a live dance.

 

Structure: Besides A, also B.

 

Common mistake

A common mistake happens when writers or speakers use besides to mean in addition or moreover. Let’s illustrate this mistake using the examples above.

Incorrect use

The guests enjoyed the 12-course banquet. Besides, they also enjoyed a live dance band.

The guests enjoyed the 12-course banquet. In addition to, they also enjoyed a live dance band.

The guests enjoyed the 12-course banquet. As well as, they also enjoyed a live dance band.

 

If you want to use two sentences in this example, here’s how to do it correctly:

Correct use with two sentences

The guests enjoyed the 12-course banquet. Besides that, they also enjoyed a live dance band.

[Again, note that I’ve used the Besides A, also B structure in this sentence.]

 

Note: You can use the phrase in addition in these cases (‘In addition, they also enjoyed a live dance band.’). But besides does not mean in addition.

 

Tip: To check that you’re using besides correctly as a preposition, substitute the phrases in addition to or as well as in place of besides.


Besides as adverb

Now here’s where it gets confusing! And it’s probably why so many people make the mistakes shown above.

 

Besides can also be used to reinforce an argument. Let me illustrate.

 

Let’s say that you’re at home after a long day at work. You’re tired, and you just want to relax and watch TV. Your friend calls up and says, ‘Hey Joe, let’s go out to dinner! I’ve found a great new restaurant.’

 

You say, ‘No thanks, I’m really tired and I’d just like to stay home.’ [But then you add this:] ‘Besides, I’m not even hungry.’

 

You’ve added the second reason (you’re not hungry) to reinforce the first one (you’re tired) – maybe because you think your friend will keep bothering you to go out.

 

Other substitutes for besides in a case like this are anyway and in any case.

No thanks, I’m really tired and I’d just like to stay home. Anyway, I’m not even hungry.

No thanks, I’m really tired and I’d just like to stay home. In any case, I’m not even hungry.

 

Tip: To check that you’re using besides correctly as an adverb, substitute anyway or in any case in place of besides.

 

Is that clear?

I can see how these points might be confusing – so please let me know in the comments if you’re still not sure about the right ways to use besides.

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