but

but
1. general.
But is a preposition and conjunction, and is used contrastively: (preposition) Everyone seems to know but me / (conjunction) Everyone seems to know but I don't. In more modern usage, as the OED and Fowler (1926) have both recognized, the roles of but as a conjunction and preposition have become inextricably confused, and this fact gives rise to some vexed problems of usage. These are described in the following paragraphs, each headed by a typical example of the problem.
2. Everyone but she [or her?] can see the answer. Fowler explored this problem in some depth, and concluded that but in this meaning is more a conjunction than a preposition, and therefore the case of a following pronoun is variable. When the phrase introduced by but is associated with the subject of the sentence, the pronoun should be treated as subjective (i.e. No one saw him but I) and when the phrase is associated with the object, the pronoun should be treated as objective (i.e. I saw no one but him). When the association is not as clear-cut as this, the case of the pronoun is determined by the position of the but-phrase in the sentence: when the but-phrase is in the subject area, the pronoun should be treated as subjective (i.e. Everyone but she can see the answer) and when the but-phrase is in the object area it should be treated as objective (i.e. Everyone can see the answer but her). Usage is unstable when the verb is intransitive: Everyone knows but her is somewhat more natural than Everyone knows but she).
3. I disagree. But what do you think? The widespread public belief that but should not begin a sentence seems to be unshakeable. But it has no foundation in grammar or idiom, and examples are frequent in good literature:

• All animals have sense. But a dog is an animal. —Locke, 1690

• But this rough magic I here abjure —Shakespeare, Tempest, 1610

• Of course they loved her, the two remaining ones, they hugged her, they had mingled their tears. But they could not converse with her —Iris Murdoch, 1993.

The initial position of but, as with and, is a matter not of grammar but of style.
4. Who knows but that the whole course of history might [or might not?] have been different? When this construction is used with a negative or (especially) in a question, there is always a temptation to make the second part of the sentence negative. It is usually better to rephrase: Who knows: the whole course of history might have been different?
5. But your answer, moreover, is unacceptable. A further contrasting word, such as however, nonetheless, moreover, etc., should not be used in a clause introduced by but. If the second word is needed (i.e. if moreover is the right word to use), omit but: Your answer, moreover, is unacceptable. Note, however, that but still is a standard idiom, especially informally: It's late but still you did want me to stay.
6. He is not upset but he is relieved. The repetition of he is, when this is the same person as at the first mention, is normally redundant: He is not upset but relieved. However, it is often added in conversation, with rhetorical emphasis on the second is.
7. idioms.
But is used in a number of fixed idioms:
a) all but.

By the end of the war this attitude had all but disappeared —P. Wright, 1987

.
b) cannot (help) but. The insertion of help is not attested before the late 19c but is now common:

The frailty of man without thee cannot but fallBook of Common Prayer, 1549

/

She could not help but plague the lad —H. Caine, 1894

/

She could not help but follow him into the big department store —B. Rubens, 1987

.
c) but what.

It's no telling but what I might have gone on to school like my own children have —Lee Smith, 1983

(US). This use is now old-fashioned, and limited to informal and non-standard uses.
d) rhetorical use.

Ah, but who built it, that we tiny creatures can walk in its arcades? —Margaret Drabble, 1987

. This use is not normally found in everyday English.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • but — but …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • but — [ by(t) ] n. m. • 1245; probablt frq. °but « souche, billot » 1 ♦ Point visé, objectif. ⇒ 2. blanc, cible. Viser le but. Atteindre, toucher le but (cf. Faire mouche, mettre dans le mille). Manquer le but. Spécialt (Boules) Cochonnet. Pointer une… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • but — but·ler; but·ler·age; but·ler·ite; but·lery; but·ter·bump; but·ter·bur; but·ter·i·ness; but·ter·is; but·ter·less; but·ter·man; but·tle; but·ton·er; but·ton·less; but·tony; but·tress·less; but·ty; hack·but; hack·but·eer; hal·i·but; hal·i·but·er;… …   English syllables

  • But — (b[u^]t), prep., adv. & conj. [OE. bute, buten, AS. b[=u]tan, without, on the outside, except, besides; pref. be + [=u]tan outward, without, fr. [=u]t out. Primarily, b[=u]tan, as well as [=u]t, is an adverb. [root]198. See {By}, {Out}; cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • But if — But But (b[u^]t), prep., adv. & conj. [OE. bute, buten, AS. b[=u]tan, without, on the outside, except, besides; pref. be + [=u]tan outward, without, fr. [=u]t out. Primarily, b[=u]tan, as well as [=u]t, is an adverb. [root]198. See {By}, {Out};… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • but — BUT. s. m. L endroit où l on vise. Viser au but. frapper le but. mettre sur le but. atteindre, toucher le but. donner au but. Il sig. fig. La fin que l on se propose. Je n ay autre but en cela, que &c. c est mon but. se proposer un but. On dit… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • but — but1 [but; ] unstressed [ bət] prep. [ME < OE butan, buton, without, outside; WGmc comp. < * be , *bi ,BY + * utana, from without: see OUT] 1. with the exception of; excepting; save [nobody came but me ]: earlier, and still sometimes,… …   English World dictionary

  • But.fr — BUT Pour les articles homonymes, voir BUT (homonymie). Logo de BUT Création 1972 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • But ! — But ! Pays  France Langue Français Périodicité Hebdomadaire Genre Presse sportive Date de fondation …   Wikipédia en Français

  • But! — But !  But ! {{{nomorigine}}} Pays …   Wikipédia en Français

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