but (bŭt; bət when unstressed)
1. On the contrary: the plan caused not prosperity but ruin.
2. Contrary to expectation; yet: She organized her work but accomplished very little. He is tired but happy.
3. Usage Problem Used to indicate an exception: No one but she saw the prowler.
4. With the exception that; except that. Often used with that: would have joined the band but he couldn't spare the time; would have resisted but that they lacked courage.
5. Informal Without the result that: It never rains but it pours.
6. Informal That. Often used after a negative: There is no doubt but right will prevail.
7. That ... not. Used after a negative or question: There never is a tax law presented but someone will oppose it.
8. Informal Than: They had no sooner arrived but they turned around and left.
Usage Problem Except.
1. Merely; just; only: hopes that lasted but a moment.
2. Used as an intensive: Get out of here but fast!
A concern or objection: My offer is final, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Were it not for: except for: We would have reached the summit but for the weather.
[Middle English, from Old English būtan; see ud- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Should it be No one but I has read it
or No one but me has read it
? The traditional argument for I
is that but
is a conjunction in these sentences, coordinating the two parallel subjects of read
("no one" and the speaker), and thus should be followed by the subjective form I.
A problem for this analysis is that the objective form me
is appropriate when the but
phrase occurs at the end of a sentence, as in No one has read it but me.
In fact, but
is a preposition in both of these constructions. If but
were truly a conjunction, the verb would agree in person and number with the noun or pronoun following but,
yielding No one but the students have read it,
which is clearly wrong. Furthermore, but me
in these sentences acts just like a prepositional phrase in being detachable from the rest of its phrase: No one but me has left / No one has left but me
is similar to the alternation between John, along with everyone else in the class, left
and John left, along with everyone else in the class
—both of which contrast with a similar sentence using a conjunction such as and
: one can say John and everyone else in the class left,
but not John left and everyone else in the class.
For these reasons but
should be treated as a preposition in these constructions, taking the objective pronouns me
in all positions. A large majority of the Usage Panel agreed with this analysis in our 2016 survey; only 46 percent accepted No one has read it but I
and only 36 accepted No one but I has read it,
whereas at least 92 percent accepted the same sentences with me.
is generally not followed by a comma. Correct written style requires Kim wanted to go, but we stayed,
not Kim wanted to go, but, we stayed.
· Some people believe that but
may not be used to begin a sentence, but in fact this usage is acceptable in all levels of style. See Usage Notes at and, cannot, doubt, however, I1.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
but (bʌt; unstressed bət)
1. contrary to expectation: he cut his knee but didn't cry.
2. in contrast; on the contrary: I like opera but my husband doesn't.
3. (usually used after a negative) other than: we can't do anything but wait.
4. (usually used after a negative) without it happening or being the case that: we never go out but it rains.
5. (foll by that) except that: nothing is impossible but that we live forever.
6. archaic if not; unless
informal used to introduce an exclamation: my, but you're nice.
7. except; save: they saved all but one of the pigs.
8. but for were it not for: but for you, we couldn't have managed.
9. just; merely; only: he was but a child; I can but try.
10. informal Scot and Austral and NZ though; however: it's a rainy day: warm, but.
11. all but almost; practically: he was all but dead when we found him.
an objection (esp in the phrase ifs and buts)
[Old English būtan without, outside, except, from be by + ūtan out; related to Old Saxon biūtan, Old High German biūzan]
(Architecture) the outer room of a two-roomed cottage: usually the kitchen
(Architecture) in or into the outer part (of a house). Compare ben1
[C18: from but (adv) outside, hence, outer room; see but1]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
but (bʌt; unstressed bət)
1. on the contrary: My brother went, but I did not.
2. and yet; nevertheless: strange but true.
3. except; save: did nothing but complain.
4. without the circumstance that: It never rains but it pours.
5. otherwise than: There is no hope but by prayer.
6. that (used esp. after doubt, deny, etc., with a negative): I don't doubt but you'll do it.
7. that … not: No leaders ever existed but they were optimists.
8. (used to introduce an exclamatory expression): But that's wonderful!
9. Informal. than: It no sooner started raining but it stopped. prep.
10. with the exception of: No one replied but me.
11. other than: nothing but trouble. adv.
12. only; just: There is but one answer. n.
13. buts, reservations or objections: You'll do as you're told, no buts about it. Idioms:
but for, except for; were it not for.
[before 900; Middle English buten, Old English būtan for phrase be ūtan on the outside, without]
is understood as a conjunction and the pronoun following it is understood as the subject of an incompletely expressed clause, the pronoun is in the subjective case: Everyone lost faith in the plan but she (did not lose faith).
In virtually identical contexts, when but
is understood as a preposition, the pronoun following it is in the objective case: Everyone lost faith but her.
The prepositional use is more common. When but
and its following pronoun occur near the beginning of a sentence, the subjective case often appears: Everyone but she lost faith in the plan.
See also and, doubt, than.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
You use but to introduce something that contrasts with what you have just said.
1. used to link clauses
But is usually used to link clauses.
It was a long walk but it was worth it.
I try to understand, but I can't.
You can put but at the beginning of a sentence when you are replying to someone, or writing in a conversational style.
'Somebody wants you on the telephone.' 'But nobody knows I'm here.'
I always thought that. But then I'm probably wrong.
2. used to link adjectives or adverbs
You can use but to link adjectives or adverbs that contrast with each other.
We stayed in a small but comfortable hotel.
Quickly but silently she ran out of the room.
3. used with negative words to mean 'only'
But is sometimes used after negative words such as nothing, no-one, nowhere, or none. A negative word followed by but means 'only'. For example, 'We have nothing but carrots' means 'We only have carrots'.
John had lived nowhere but the farm.
He cared about no one but himself.
4. meaning 'except'
But is also used after all and after words beginning with every- or any-. When but is used after one of these words, it means 'except'. For example, 'He enjoyed everything but maths' means 'He enjoyed everything except maths'.
There was no time for anything but work.
Could anyone but Wilhelm have done it?
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012