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Beside vs. Next To — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 14, 2023
Beside and Next To both refer to being adjacent to something, but "beside" often carries a figurative sense, while "next to" is typically more literal.
Beside vs. Next To — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Beside and Next To


Key Differences

Beside is a preposition that describes the position of one entity in relation to another. Similarly, Next To serves the same function, emphasizing the closeness of two entities. The beauty of English lies in its varied expressions to denote similar ideas, and the interplay between Beside and Next To exemplifies this.
Beside, while often used to show physical proximity, can also carry metaphorical or figurative meanings. On the other hand, Next To is generally more straightforward, commonly denoting literal spatial relationships. For instance, "beside oneself" is an idiom meaning extremely upset or surprised, whereas "next to" rarely diverges from its spatial meaning.
When considering syntax, Beside and Next To can be interchangeable in many instances, especially when referring to physical positioning. For example, "The pen is beside the notebook" and "The pen is next to the notebook" both communicate the same spatial relationship. However, context can determine which word feels more appropriate or natural.
Lastly, while both Beside and Next To are prepositions, the latter comprises two words, making it a phrasal preposition. This distinction might seem trivial but can be essential for understanding the nuances of grammar and ensuring correct usage in written communication.

Comparison Chart

Literal vs. Figurative

Can have both literal and figurative meanings.
Typically more literal.


Single word preposition.
Phrasal preposition (two words).

Common Usage

"She sat beside him."
"She sat next to him."

Idiomatic Presence

Found in idioms (e.g., "beside oneself").
Rarely found in idioms.


Often interchangeable with "next to" in spatial contexts.
Generally not used in figurative senses like "beside".

Compare with Definitions


In addition to; also.
Beside its functionality, the design is visually pleasing.

Next To

Very close to achieving or experiencing.
The project is next to completion.


Not involved in.
I remained beside the main discussion.

Next To

Almost; nearly.
He's next to impossible to please.


Apart from or not taken into account.
Beside the main issue, there were other minor problems.

Next To

Sit next to me during the movie.


Compared with.
Beside professional athletes, my skills are amateurish.

Next To

Directly adjacent or in close proximity.
I live next to a grocery store.


At the side of; next to.

Next To

In comparison with; especially when showing an inferior position.
Next to her genius, I feel quite ordinary.


In comparison with
A proposal that seems quite reasonable beside the others.


On an equal footing with
Has earned a place beside the best performers in the business.


In addition to
"Many creatures beside man live in communities" (Stuart Chase). See Usage Note at besides.


Except for. See Usage Note at besides.


Not relevant to
A remark that was beside the point.


In addition.




Next to; at the side of.
A small table beside the bed


Not relevant to.
That is beside the point


Besides; in addition.


Otherwise; else; besides.


At the side of; on one side of.


Aside from; out of the regular course or order of; in a state of deviation from; out of.
[You] have done enoughTo put him quite beside his patience.


Over and above; distinct from; in addition to.
Wise and learned men beside those whose names are in the Christian records.
Paul, thou art beside thyself.
Lovely Thais sits beside thee.
Only be patient till we have appeasedThe multitude, beside themselves with fear.
It is beside my present business to enlarge on this speculation.
Besides this, there are persons in certain situations who are expected to be charitable.
And, besides, the MoorMay unfold me to him; there stand I in much peril.
That man that does not know those things which are of necessity for him to know is but an ignorant man, whatever he may know besides.


Positioned adjacent to.
The library is beside the school.

Common Curiosities

Is "next to" a single word or multiple?

It's a phrasal preposition comprising two words.

Can "next to" have a comparative sense?

Yes, e.g., "Next to her, I feel unskilled."

Can "beside" and "next to" be used interchangeably?

Often in spatial contexts, but "beside" can have figurative meanings unlike "next to".

Are there instances where "beside" and "next to" cannot be used interchangeably?

Yes, especially when "beside" is used in a figurative or comparative sense.

Can "beside" indicate a sense of exclusion?

Yes, as in "beside the point" meaning irrelevant.

Which is more common in everyday speech, "beside" or "next to"?

Both are common, but "next to" might be more frequently used for literal proximity.

Can "beside" indicate comparison?

Yes, as in "Beside modern technology, older methods seem outdated."

Does "beside" appear in idioms?

Yes, such as "beside oneself" meaning extremely upset or surprised.

Which is more literal, "beside" or "next to"?

"Next to" is typically more literal, while "beside" can carry figurative meanings.

How is "next to" used to show near achievement?

In contexts like "The project is next to done," indicating near completion.

Does "beside" have a meaning related to addition?

Yes, it can mean "in addition to" or "also."

Is "beside" always about spatial proximity?

No, it can also mean "apart from" or "compared with."

Can "next to" be used to denote beside in American English?

Yes, "next to" often means the same as "beside" when referring to proximity.

How does "next to" convey almost or nearly?

Phrases like "next to impossible" mean "almost impossible."

How do the structures of "beside" and "next to" differ grammatically?

"Beside" is a single-word preposition, while "next to" is a phrasal preposition.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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