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I came across these two examples and I don't see why one takes に and one takes は.

彼女のほかに知り合いはいません。
I have no acquaintances besides her.

ビールのほかは何もいりません。
I don't need anything other than beer.

I searched for older questions on the same topic but didn't find anything conclusive.

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Based on the Weblio entries to these expressions, it seems to me that ほかに can be equated to "besides" and ほかは to "apart from".

Moreover the は is putting emphasis on the ほか, putting the focus on the other thing, whereas ほかに sounds a little more casual.

Ex.:

そのほかにしかたがない。 these is no other way besides this one

そのほかはしかたがない。 these is no other way apart from this one

ほかに is used in situations where you'd ask someone if they want something else from the store, whereas ほかは is used in more serious scenarios, like when you want to say that there's no other way to do something.

However, the difference is very subtle and both can be used in either situation.

The sentence "ビールのほかは何もいりません。" puts more focuses on the other things than "彼女のほかに知り合いはいません。" does.

If the second sentence was used in an argument with a girlfriend, I'd also use ほかは rather than ほかに like so: 彼女のほかは知り合いいません。

When looking at the translation DeepL gives for either sentence, the grammatical difference becomes quite clear I think:

彼女のほかに知り合いはいません。 I don't know anyone else besides her.

彼女のほかは知り合いはいません。 Other than her, I don't know anyone else.

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    I don't see any difference between "besides" and "apart from". I might claim that 'besides' is just a tiny bit more formal, but really they feel the same to me. – user3856370 Jun 20 at 8:18
  • Agreed, I see no real difference between "besides" and "apart from". – kandyman Jun 22 at 12:01
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I'd imagine this to be part of a bigger conversation, as in, something similar to:

柔道をやっている知り合いの方、いませんか?

彼女のほかに知り合いはいません。

In this case, you are stating that you don't have friends other than her (who knows Judo), because you are being asked if you have acquaintances who does Judo, even if you have other friends or have non-friends that does Judo. On the other hand, had you replied:

彼女のほかは知り合いがいません。(note the I changed the second は→が)

You are stating unequivocally that you have no friends other than her, and it wouldn't be clear whether she knows Judo from that answer. Probably a very good way to kill the conversation quickly.

-- Starfox

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