Definition of but in English:

but

conjunction

  • 1Used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.

    ‘he stumbled but didn't fall’
    ‘this is one principle, but it is not the only one’
    ‘I am clean but you are dirty’
    ‘the problem is not that they are cutting down trees, but that they are doing it in a predatory way’
    • ‘To develop a production facility in Ireland means a cheaper unit cost but do sales justify it?’
    • ‘Now, everyone in the group knows about these things, but they are never mentioned.’
    • ‘I'm sure this has been pointed out a million times already but I feel that I have to as well.’
    • ‘I would have liked to have had a longer deal but the get out clauses were prohibitive.’
    • ‘It was a scene which could have come out of a cheap thriller - but there was a difference.’
    • ‘I was quite happy being a mum, but I fell into it and it has just gone from there.’
    • ‘I believe leaving the bases will be a cheaper option but also help North Sea fish stocks.’
    • ‘The parliament's visit to Aberdeen last week was not cheap, but it was money well spent.’
    • ‘He could lower prices to increase the audience, but income would fall dramatically.’
    • ‘We can destroy with a cutting quip or a damning phrase but nobody expects us to create.’
    • ‘We continued to talk all though the lesson, but there was no mention of the dance.’
    • ‘I know that at least two other ladies have also had falls down there but not been as seriously injured.’
    • ‘In that Washington heat it seemed to take forever, but was still delicious an hour or so later.’
    • ‘On the subject of value for money, Prestonfield may not be cheap, but it is not outlandish.’
    • ‘The riverside bar can not have been cheap to open, but the chain is more than reaping its reward now.’
    • ‘Sure, most of the produce is much cheaper, but a lot of it isn't organically grown.’
    • ‘Once you have paid the entrance fee, you feel you deserve a cracking day out, it is not cheap but it is worth it.’
    • ‘This is fine in principle, but much depends on the more precise meaning given to the idea of abuse.’
    • ‘It was deserted and I didn't see a soul, but I did stumble across a bunch of Red Deer in a meadow.’
    • ‘It was a little different to what I would normally eat at home but it was delicious.’
  • 2[with negative or in questions] Used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.

    ‘one cannot but sympathize’
    ‘there was nothing they could do but swallow their pride’
    ‘they had no alternative but to follow’
    • ‘Cause and effect are related in such a way that, if the first occurs, the second cannot but occur.’
    • ‘This is another one of those Korean films that you cannot but have mixed feelings about.’
    • ‘She knew he did not want to go, but she could still not help but feel anger at him.’
    • ‘What choice did the little fellow have but to respond positively to such instruction?’
    otherwise than, except
    View synonyms
  • 3Used to introduce a response expressing a feeling such as surprise or anger.

    ‘but that's an incredible saving!’
    ‘but why?’
    • ‘But I was trying to prove my point and the only way to do that was to speak French.’
    • ‘I was slow to acknowledge their response as I broke my leg, but thank you, one and all.’
    • ‘It is also very funny, but don't be surprised if you have to cross a protest line to see it.’
    • ‘But, without the need for slaughterhouse nor butcher.’
    • ‘We did not know what to expect, but what a fantastic surprise night, it was a real thrill.’
  • 4Used after an expression of apology for what one is about to say.

    ‘I'm sorry, but I can't pay you’
    • ‘Please forgive me, but it is the only way I know of getting my point of view across.’
    • ‘Sorry to sound pious but what about the homeless, the sick, the poor and neglected?’
    • ‘Sorry to be repetitive but this guy was in the tube in Russell Square when the bomb went off!’
    • ‘He told the woman that he was very sorry but he seemed to have left his wallet at home.’
    • ‘Apologies for posting out of my normal TV category but it's simply too good not to post.’
    • ‘Sorry Spurs but a point is all you are ever going to get from that game at Old Trafford.’
    • ‘Sorry to say this but there are some areas where I don't trust the men in white coats.’
    • ‘Sorry, but this must be the most ridiculous piece of research we've ever heard of.’
    • ‘Apologies to Sylvia for swiping her quote, but it was such a good one I couldn't resist.’
    • ‘Apologies for getting poetic on you, but mornings like this make me think of this poem.’
    • ‘I apologise but it's being moved to a new server and should be up again by Saturday.’
    • ‘Sorry but you would have to be completely bonkers to consider this method of control as humane!’
    • ‘Miss Gallafent, you have put it extremely well, but I am sorry to say I am against you.’
    • ‘For that I can only apologise but it will be interesting to see who has missed the cut.’
    • ‘He came to me one day and said he was sorry, Madame, but he wanted to go and work for someone else.’
    • ‘I am sorry to go on but I feel it is not fair that my hobby should be put at risk like this.’
    • ‘I'm sorry, but she laughs in her sleep and can never remember the joke in the morning.’
    • ‘Terribly sorry, but we are not insured to give you a lift if you are not a prisoner anymore.’
  • 5archaic [with negative] Without its being the case that.

    informal ‘it never rains but it pours’
    • ‘Her Own Tribesmen Never but Say Her Age Is 300 Years.’
    • ‘It never rains but it pours.’
    • ‘I did read the names that one time, and never but that one time.’

preposition

  • 1Except; apart from; other than.

    ‘in Texas, we were never anything but poor’
    ‘I trusted no one but him’
    ‘the last but one’
    • ‘It's going to be a long road, but shinty has no alternative but to keep right on to the end.’
    • ‘She was shocked, too shock to do anything else but stare as he pulled her forward.’
    • ‘Each notice said that the Board had no alternative but to cut back production and reduce costs.’
    • ‘So I didn't have any alternative then but to get up in front of everyone and attempt to play the thing.’
    • ‘Fair enough, help out people in the Highlands who have no alternative but to drive.’
    • ‘On some London high streets it is becoming difficult to go food shopping anywhere but Tesco.’
    • ‘She also said that she would have no alternative but to contact my family if I didn't seek help.’
    • ‘Aden was a year older than herself and she never saw him as anything else but her goofy nerd friend.’
    • ‘In fact, I have no alternative but to fine her a crisp crunchie for being just too good to be true.’
    • ‘We have to be able to imagine what it is like to feel there is no alternative but to fight and die.’
    • ‘But in a calibration of this sort he has little alternative but to take it as he finds it.’
    • ‘The sovereign commands the people in general ‘never but by a precedent law, and as a politic, not as a natural person’ .’
    • ‘If we want vehicles to be less polluting, then we have no choice but to find an alternative fuel.’
    • ‘Last week a high court judge ruled that the brigade had no alternative but to give them their jobs back.’
    • ‘In this event we will have no alternative but to look to you for recompense for all incurred costs.’
    • ‘She was too shaken and frightened to do anything else but feel safe in the arms of Peter Grayson.’
    apart from, other than, besides, aside from, with the exception of, short of, bar, barring, excepting, excluding, omitting, leaving out, saving
    outside of
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Used with repetition of certain words to give emphasis.
      ‘nobody, but nobody, was going to stop her’
      • ‘Nobody, but Nobody, knows Mauritius like we do!’
      • ‘Nobody, but nobody knows more about the wants and wishes of consumers of fresh agricultural products than the commodity groups that promote those products.’
      • ‘Why nobody, but nobody will ever take mass transit as long as they have a choice.’
      • ‘Nobody, but nobody, should eat a two pound burrito.’
      • ‘This is what I love about science: anybody but anybody can become involved at least in trying to understand what it is saying!’

adverb

  • No more than; only.

    ‘he is but a shadow of his former self’
    ‘choose from a colorful array of oranges, cherries, and raspberries, to name but a few’
    • ‘I admire many artists like Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon, and Edward Hopper to name but a few.’
    • ‘Fast food, the gas station (as we knew it until the 1980's), the neon sign, and the motel to name but a few, are the affectations of the early highways.’
    • ‘In an important article in April 22 Haaretz Gideon Levy points out but a few cases within the year illustrating that movement equals death.’
    only, just, simply, merely, no more than, nothing but
    a mere
    nobbut
    View synonyms

noun

  • An argument against something; an objection.

    ‘no buts—just get out of here’
    ‘as with all these proposals, ifs and buts abound’
    • ‘No excuses, no ifs and buts, enforcement is what we need.’
    • ‘‘No buts,’ she cut me off, ‘Tomorrow you and I are going shopping!’’
    • ‘Of all the ifs and buts, as far as I am concerned and as far as the players are concerned if we get three points on Saturday then everybody else can worry about each other.’
    • ‘In the past 30 years, the food industry in Ireland, as represented by both the public and the private sectors, has created more ifs and buts than any other.’
    • ‘‘No buts,’ she said with a shake of her head as she lowered her gaze from his.’
    • ‘We are not going to talk about ifs and buts, like I say, just wait for the procedure to take its place and then at the end of that, if no one has made the decision for us, we'll have to make the decision.’
    • ‘No buts, no girls in this house while I am not home.’
    • ‘There were no mights, no ifs, no buts, no doubts, no qualifications.’
    • ‘No ifs, no buts, no questions - they're sending me to Cambridge for the nine-month Masters program.’
    • ‘I will not accept any longer, ifs and buts from the council.’
    • ‘No buts, I've heard enough of those for today.’
    • ‘No buts Christopher, she couldn't have gotten any of your possessions if you didn't give them to her yourself.’
    • ‘It is a right - no ifs, no buts, and it doesn't matter who tried to take it away when.’
    • ‘I'm going to go check out Jason, and then I'm going to check you out, no buts.’
    • ‘Good days probably weren't on Lawler's mind as he sat out the dying minutes of the Westmeath game but for him the ifs and buts are always there.’
    • ‘His mother, Amy, who was washing the dishes, interrupted, ‘No buts.’’
    • ‘When a great new revolutionary idea hits the public, there are always doubters, raising niggling ifs and buts.’
    • ‘She brought her child into the world without any ifs and buts.’
    • ‘It allows one to put out misleading simplifications as long as the caveats, ifs and buts are buried somewhere in the detailed material.’
    • ‘Sydney - no ifs, no buts - is the commercial capital of Australia.’

Usage

For advice about using but and other conjunctions to begin a sentence, see and

Origin

Old English be-ūtan, būtan, būta outside, without, except (see by, out).

Pronunciation:

but

/bət/