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