Definition of but for in US English:

but for


  • 1Except for.

    ‘I walked along Broadway, deserted but for the occasional cab’
    • ‘I'll never forget her pool in the winter - empty but for a fabulous ebony drum kit and a punch bag.’
    • ‘High pastures rise, bare but for a wedge of trees, and redshanks swooped in quickly to the rushes by our feet.’
    • ‘It’s All Good (but for the playing of the games).’
    • ‘The way down is a smooth diagonal, great for the legs, easygoing mile after mile, but for the stiles.’
    • ‘Clint's daughter no longer speaks to him, leaving him empty but for his guilt.’
    • ‘In the end, there's not much here but for the pulp entertainment value.’
    • ‘There really is nothing behind his eyes but for a leaky roof dripping into a pale blue bucket.’
    1. 1.1 If it were not for.
      ‘the game could be over but for you’
      • ‘Well I might subscribe to this line of reasoning but for three little letters.’
      • ‘Clapton would have snatched a draw but for another late goal from never-say-die Dorking.’
      • ‘He could have added to his test figures but for an apparent indiscretion with alcohol.’
      • ‘The match itself could have been one of the greats but for the sour incidents that marred it.’
      • ‘It would never have been made but for the influence of French duo Daft Punk.’
      • ‘How different would wages in advanced countries be if they were not - that is, how different would factor prices be but for the opportunities offered by the rise of the NIEs?’
      • ‘For example, but for running the red light, the collision would not have occurred.’
      • ‘Our ancestors said we would not know the summer from the winter but for the leaves on their trees.’
      • ‘But even this was something that should never have happened but for the fickle hand of fate.’
      • ‘It would have been even better but for the last hole when he selected a seven iron over an easy six and pulled his approach.’
      if it were not for, were it not for, except for, without, barring, notwithstanding
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