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Michael Swan writes in his Practical English Usage, "Except (for) is only used to talk about exceptions to generalisations. In other cases, without or but for may be preferable. Compare:

Without/But for your help, I would have failed.

(NOT Except for your help, I would have failed.)"

Do native speakers of English in their casual conversation care about the above rule?

If I say, "Except for your help, I would have failed," does it sound strange to native speakers of English?
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Thanks, CJ.
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Hmm, I'm not a native speaker, but I wouldn't use "except" that way. Used that way, "except" introduces and exception, I think.

The store is open every day except (on) Sunday.

In your sentence, "your help" is not an exception in that situation. This is just my opinion though, wait for confirmation. Emotion: smile
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Snappy "Except for your help, I would have failed," does it sound strange to native speakers of English?
I don't believe I've ever used it, but I accept it as a natural thing to say.
- A.

Edit. Re Kooyeen's post, I think "your help" arguably could be looked at as an exception. Emotion: thinking
A COMPREHENSIVE GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE says that, yes, many native speakers use "except for " instead of "but for." The authors say one should avoid doing this because there's a big difference. (1) But for = negative condition. "But for Tom. they would have all died+ = If it had NOT been for Tom, they would have all died. They all did not die because of Tom. (2) Except for = exception. "Except for John, they would all have died" = They would all have died, but not John. He would have been the exception.
AnonymousExcept for = exception. "Except for John, they would all have died" = They would all have died, but not John. He would have been the exception.
Well, yes, that's how I would interpret it.
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I am not familiar with "except" used like in the example given by the first poster, and so I would just choose "without" Emotion: stick out tongue
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SnappyIf I say, "Except for your help, I would have failed," does it sound strange to native speakers of English?
It sounds very strange to me, but understandable. I much prefer "without".

CJ
Anonymous (2) Except for = exception. "Except for John, they would all have died" = They would all have died, but not John. He would have been the exception.

To me, this quote would be ambiguous without context. I'd lean the opposite way from the author.
But I agree that in such a case, it would be better to use "but."
I have learned 'except for' could mean "were it not for".

"Were it not for your help, I would have failed."
"Had it not been for your help, I would have failed."
Does it sound strange to you?
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LiveinjapanI have learned 'except for' could mean "were it not for".

"Were it not for your help, I would have failed."
"Had it not been for your help, I would have failed."
Does it sound strange to you?
Not strange. Just formal.

CJ
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