dorsetgirl (dorsetgirl) wrote in linguaphiles,

Meaning of "aside from" in British English

Someone posted this today:

"At the moment, aside from PlayerA, PlayerB, PlayerC, PlayerD and PlayerE are scheduled to play at < tournament name >"

My immediate response was "But I thought PlayerA had withdrawn?" because I read the post as meaning Players A to E would all be playing, as did another (non-native) commenter.

If I were writing that sentence myself, I would have used "apart from" rather than "aside from" (which sounds American to me), and I would have put "...are also scheduled to play" for the avoidance of any possible ambiguity, but as far as I know this is a non-native speaker, and I am fairly used to filtering out oddities in their use of the language. (The time when they used "alas" to mean "luckily" took a while to work out though...)

Anyway, the poster clarified that they meant Player A would not be playing and the rest would, but acknowledged that perhaps they had worded it wrongly. In a spirit of tactful helpfulness I replied that "aside from" and "apart from" [in this context] tend to mean "as well as", to which I got this reply from the non-native speaker:

"Not really. Most people use it to mean except."

So, now I’m questioning my use and understanding of my own language. I want to go back and say "Not where I come from, sunshine" but I thought I’d see what others have to say first! So, do you read the sentence above as meaning Player A is playing, or Player A is not playing?

I’m a native speaker of British English, and I know this poster lives in England so I’m guessing it’s British English they’re meaning to use. However, please do chip in with American English usage too.

(By the way, I want to clarify that I don't mean in any way to mock this person's use of English. It's infinitely better than my knowledge of whatever their native tongue is. It's just that they seem utterly convinced their English is perfect and I've never been comfortable with non-native speakers telling me I'm wrong in my own language!)
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February 6 2014, 21:03:05 UTC 1 year ago

I'm a southern Californian, though I've read a lot of British authors.

If I said, "Aside from X, what are we having?" what I would mean is "I stipulate that we are having X, and dismiss it as not a question that I wish to address. What other things are we having in addition to X?" Using it to mean "We are not having X" is against my sense of what the words mean.


February 6 2014, 21:45:50 UTC 1 year ago

Yes, British and Canadian native speaker here, this is what I would take "aside from" to mean.


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February 6 2014, 21:04:33 UTC 1 year ago

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February 6 2014, 21:29:17 UTC 1 year ago

BrE -> AmE migrant here.

"Aside from" seems to be one of those words and phrases, like "sanction" and "cleave", that can have two near-opposite meanings.

If I say "aside from A, B", am I saying that

* B is completely true, OR
* B is largely true, but has possible exceptions specified by A ?

Both are possible meanings. Here are two random sentences I found in Google Books:

1. "However, there are some very troubling ethical issues here, quite aside from the legal issues."

This is saying that there are ethical issues, and there are legal issues. The legal issues are not an exception to the ethical issues.

2. "Aside from One Little, Tiny Detail, We Are So Incredibly Normal"

This is saying that we are normal, except for one little tiny detail.

I'm not sure that there's a hard-and-fast way to know which meaning is intended, but sense (1) often uses the word "quite", as here.


February 6 2014, 23:19:27 UTC 1 year ago

These examples I would have understood as the dictionary suggests, and yet the original phrase I read the same way as the OP. An, I do not see any contradiction there.

Aside A, no other player is playing.
Aside A, B and C are [also] playing.

It seems to me that the meaning of "aside" is exactly the same here: the statement about A is true no matter what, and whether the same is true about [some] others depends on the contest.


February 6 2014, 21:09:49 UTC 1 year ago

Oy. That sentence would confuse me, too. I mean it makes sense, but you really have to read it carefully. (I don't know whether an Oxford comma after Player D would help.)

The problem is that you don't know where the "aside from" clause ends until you get to the verb. You know that a list needs "and" before the last item, but you can read the sentence as far as "Player E" and still think that there are five players who are excluded from play, and that there will follow a still longer list of players who will be playing as scheduled. It's not until you get to "... are scheduled" that you are able to deduce that only Player A goes with "aside from ..." and all the rest go with "... are scheduled to play."

I don't think it has anything to do with the meaning of "aside from" vs. "apart from". The sentence is technically correct, but it could have been constructed a lot more clearly.


February 7 2014, 01:08:45 UTC 1 year ago

Brit Eng speaker, yeah, the construction is ambiguous but I read it to mean Player A's status wasn't yet confirmed or was in an opposing state to the other players (that is, not playing, or not confirmed to be) but now that you mention it, I can see how it would read that A's status might change.


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February 6 2014, 21:11:27 UTC 1 year ago

The sentence could have been made easier to read by surrounding "aside from player A" with parentheses or a pair of dashes.


February 6 2014, 22:20:30 UTC 1 year ago Edited:  February 6 2014, 22:20:39 UTC

But I would still read that as Player A was playing. No way can I see

"At the moment (aside from PlayerA) PlayerB, PlayerC, PlayerD and PlayerE are scheduled to play at < tournament name >"

as meaning that Player A is not playing.


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February 6 2014, 21:33:43 UTC 1 year ago

I read that the same way as you did (Players A-E all playing). British English speaker.


February 6 2014, 22:18:01 UTC 1 year ago

That's a relief! This was one of those situations where the more you look at something, the more it doesn't mean anything at all, so I was doubting my original interpretation and wondering if I was just going mad and completely failing at my own language.


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February 6 2014, 21:41:22 UTC 1 year ago

(Native British English speaker)

I'd think that you can't tell for sure, from that sentence alone, whether or not Player A is scheduled to play. I'd assume that an earlier sentence tells you about Player A, and this sentence says: OK, we've already talked about Player A; now let's talk about the other players. But I agree that it doesn't feel like a 'natural' English sentence.


February 6 2014, 22:12:08 UTC 1 year ago

It was a tweet, so that was the whole of it. It seems not to have occurred to the poster that there was any ambiguity, but I'm relieved that you agree it exists!

I suspect they just translated their native word for "except" and chose "aside from" as being fancier than "except". I've seen posts this person makes in another (again not their native) language, and sometimes it's fairly obvious that they've started from an English sentence and translated word for word rather than using the normal structures of the other language.


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February 6 2014, 21:53:25 UTC 1 year ago

(BrE) I read it as the writer intended, with Player A not playing. But I can totally see how it could be read the opposite way, the phrase is ambiguous to me in this context. "Who's playing, aside from Player A?" would to me mean Player A is definitely playing, but others could be, whereas "Everyone's playing, aside from Player A." would mean Player A is definitely not playing but other people are.


February 6 2014, 22:15:15 UTC 1 year ago

I agree with your examples, and that the original phrase is ambiguous. Thanks for replying!


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February 6 2014, 21:56:34 UTC 1 year ago

I would have written it as

"Since PlayerA has withdrawn, PlayerB, PlayerC, PlayerD and PlayerE are scheduled to play at < tournament name >"


February 6 2014, 22:14:02 UTC 1 year ago

Interesting - I would read your version as meaning "Because Player A has withdrawn..." In other words, B to E would not have been playing had A not withdrawn.


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February 6 2014, 22:37:15 UTC 1 year ago

AmE, and I initially read it as 'Player A is not playing.' That said, after staring at it for a while I can see where you would get your interpretation.


February 6 2014, 23:35:41 UTC 1 year ago

American here and I read it as "excluding player A, players B, C, etc. are playing". Honestly, I am used to both meanings and if I think about it, normally delineate from 1) context and 2) pronunciation. For some reason I equate an elongated "siiiide" as being excluding in nature while shorter is inclusive. This could just be my addled brain's need to make sense of the world though :)


February 7 2014, 00:28:14 UTC 1 year ago

AmE speaker here. My immediate understanding of this was that PlayerA IS playing. I read it like this:

"At the moment, in addition to PlayerA, PlayerB, PlayerC, PlayerD and PlayerE are scheduled to play at < tournament name >".

Or, to put it another way, "At the moment, aside from PlayerA, who we already know is scheduled to play, PlayerB, PlayerC, PlayerD and PlayerE are scheduled to play at < tournament name >"


February 9 2014, 20:51:23 UTC 1 year ago

Also AmE, and I had the exact same interpretation.


February 7 2014, 00:52:00 UTC 1 year ago

American English speaker here. Where I live, there is absolutely no difference between "aside from" and "apart from". I have always understood "aside from" to mean "except". That sentence is still awfully hard to follow but, for me, it's due to the comma situation. Not the "aside from".


February 7 2014, 10:17:49 UTC 1 year ago Edited:  February 7 2014, 10:19:44 UTC

I´m German and I was taught to translate "aside from" as "abgesehen von" which means player A is not playing. I also looked it up in my PONS dictionary and it says this is American English.


February 7 2014, 11:05:41 UTC 1 year ago Edited:  February 7 2014, 11:17:59 UTC

Polish native speaker.

I understood "aside from" as "except" in that sentence, so player A is not playing. I was a little confused whether B-E did not play either and it wasn't until I finished the sentence that I realized that "aside from" was meant for player A only.
It could have been written better, but "aside from" sounds good to me.

However, in whswhs's example ("Aside from X, what are we having?"), I immidiately understood "aside from" as "in addition to".

I cannot explain why I understood it like this. I would not even think that in the first example "aside from" could mean anything other that "except" and, in the second example, anything other than "in addition to".