Except vs except for

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Jiung, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. Jiung Junior Member

    Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese, Taiwan
    Hi,

    How to use "except" or "except for",
    is there any rule that says clearly when to use except and when to use except for?

    Thanks!
    Jiung
     
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Can you give us some examples to comment on, Jiung?

    Loob
     
  3. PhudE New Member

    Luton, England, English
    all the colours of the rainbow "except for" blue
    all the colours of the rainbow "except" blue
    i think it's the same apart from except for is correct and except is abbreviated
     
  4. kenny4528

    kenny4528 Senior Member

    Taipei
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    Do a search and you will get lots of threads. Here
     
  5. Jiung Junior Member

    Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese, Taiwan
    I looked the usage up in "Collins Cobuild dictionary for advanced learners" and here's its definition:

    1. You use "except" to introduce the only thing or person that a statement does not apply to, or a fact that prevents a statement from being completely true.
    ex: I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe.

    2. You use "except for" to introduce the only thing or person that prevents a statement from being completely true.
    ex: Everyone was late, except for Richard.

    But I can't understand what's the difference of these two difinition, so, someone can offer a simpler definition or clear usage?

    Thanks!
    Jiung
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi again, Jiung

    I agree that the Collins entry you quote is difficult to understand, though I suspect it's right when it says that "except" can apply to things, people or facts; "except for" can only apply to things or people.

    I prefer the explanation given in this web site, which provides three guidelines, summarised below:

    1. We use both "except" and "except for" after general statements including words like 'all', 'every', 'no', 'everything', 'anybody', 'nowhere', 'whole';

    2. In other cases we usually use "except for", not "except"; but

    3. We use "except", not "except for", before prepositions and conjunctions.

    Have a look at the examples in the link, and see what you think. Feel free to come back if you still have questions!:)

    Loob
     
  7. Fenoxielo Junior Member

    United States
    United States - English
    I'm pretty sure "except" can be used before a subordinate clause or just a noun clause, while "except for" can only be used before a noun clause.

    All the colors of the rainbow except blue
    All the colors of the rainbow except for blue

    Everyone was there, except Richard was late.
    *Everyone was there, except for Richard was late.

    The last one doesn't sound right to me, although you still occasionally hear it
     
  8. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    Does it mean that both are correct?

    1) I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe.

    2) I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe.

    Would really be grateful to know what you think of these two.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2014
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I can think of no reason for it, but I very much prefer (2).
    (1) seems to me to be suggesting a very different meaning, but I haven't yet worked out what it is.
     
  10. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    No 2 is normal English and means that the only acceptable thing is a job in Europe.
    No 1 is strange. It's saying that you would accept anything, if accepting it gave you a job in Europe.
     
  11. JordyBro Senior Member

    English - Australia
    Looks like it was switched around honestly.

    anyway, to solve the problem myself I classed the two usage types listed above, and fitted them to example sentences:
    (A) introduce the only thing or person that a statement does not apply to,
    (B) a fact that prevents a statement from being completely true.


    I would be rich, except for all the money. (B)
    My car is completely fixed, except for the windscreen wipers. (B)
    Except for a few extremists, most people are comfortable with the idea of porn. (A)
    Except for people with allergies, most people don't mind dogs. (A)
    I got A's in all my classes except maths. (B)
    I have all the toys except the large red dinosuar. (B)
    Everyone had a good laugh except me. (B)

    As in except fo allows both uses while except only the second.
     
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    1) I wouldn't have accepted anything except for <...>.

    I've been thinking about this. Not always a good idea, but it's been troubling me.
    This sentence seems to be saying that I would not have accepted anything - I would have rejected everything - if it had not been for some reason set out in <...>.
    It's almost as if this sentence is equivalent to:
    (3) I wouldn't have accepted anything if it had not been for <...>.
     
  13. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    Would it be correct to interpret it as "I would have rejected everything for the sake of a job in Europe."?
     
  14. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I certainly can't get that meaning out of the sentence, Ivan_I. It's a very confusing sentence in English. I think what the sentence is trying to say is "I wouldn't have accepted anything besides a job in Europe" or "I wouldn't have accepted anything other than a job in Europe". If that is the intended meaning it is failing to communicate it very well.

    "I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe" is simple and clear. It immediately communicates the meaning.
     
  15. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Let's recast this "I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe." to clarify its possible meaning.

    "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe."

    It's the use of "anything" that creates confusion in trying to make sense of it. Change "anything" to something definite and it immediately makes sense - that is, if the person speaking believes that a job in Europe is something desirable.

    The "anything" form can be understood as "I would have accepted anything for a job in Europe".
     
  16. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    Could it also mean:
    "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut if it hadn't been for a job in Europe."
     
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe."
    That's how I understand it.
     
  18. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    That is the only way to understand it. That shows us that in this case the word 'for' does not belong with 'except': it belongs with the phrase 'for a job in Europe'.

    My rule as regards 'except' in written English is simple: do not use it with 'for'. 'For' is unnecessary and adds nothing, except possibly confusion.
     
  19. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe."
    "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except a job in Europe." :confused:

    Funny rule there, wandle.
     
  20. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    As mentioned earlier,
    In other words, the sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe' is not an example of the phrase 'except for'.
    The word 'for' is performing a different function. The meaning is 'except in the case of a job in Europe'.

    One could equally say, 'For a job in Europe, I would willingly take a pay cut'.
     
  21. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    As I see it, except has two meanings -> excluding; unless
    "Everyone was there except Richard." = excluding
    "I wouldn't accept a pay cut except for a job in Europe." = unless (note that for = in exchange for)

    (Compare: "I wouldn't accept a pay cut except under certain circumstances." = unless (note that for = in exchange for))

    The context should say which.
     
  22. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Clearly I disagree, otherwise I would not have questioned your 'rule'. The meaning of the sentence depends on 'except for' being a phrase. You can certainly reword if to 'except in the case of', but all you are doing is exchanging a 5-word phrase for a 2-word phrase. As for
    different from what? It's complementing the word 'except' to give it a meaning in the phrase 'except for'.

    You could certainly say
    but if you did you would be saying something significantly different from 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe'. The original sentence says nothing about willingness.

    This use of 'except for' is normal and grammatical, and I can see no reason why it should cause confusion if used appropriately (that is, not as in the sentence "I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe" where it is the choice of 'anything' which causes the confusion.)
     
  23. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    That was a badly-chosen phrase. I ought to have said 'for the sake of a job in Europe'. That is the real meaning. 'For' is part of the phrase 'for a job in Europe' and is not an adjunct of 'except'.

    In the sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except {for a job in Europe}', the phrase 'for a job in Europe' is a unit whose function is to express the only condition acceptable to the speaker.

    The structure is the same as in the comparable sentence put forward by PaulQ: "I wouldn't accept a pay cut except {under certain circumstances}."
    Other adverbial phrases expressing possible conditions could equally well be substituted.

    As for the sentence
    all we have to do is remove the word 'for' and it makes clear sense: 'I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe'.
     
  24. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    But you are again changing the meaning of the sentence. We've already said that "I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe." is a normal, unexceptionable sentence in English. Look at the posts around post #9. The question we have been discussing is whether or not we can make sense of "I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe." We've already said it doesn't make a lot of sense - again read posts around #9. The answer is "no", but we can make sense of it if we replace "anything" with something specific. I still think that you are wrong to separate 'except' and 'for' in this context. This 'except for' is as much a standard phrase as 'but for' which could replace it in this sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut but for a job in Europe'.
     
  25. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Of course: we are in agreement there.
    As pointed out in posts 17 and 18, this sentence does have a realistic, valid meaning, namely: 'The only thing I would have accepted was a job in Europe'.
    By leaving out 'for', we do not change the meaning, but simply clarify it.

    As PaulQ points out, 'except' can mean 'unless' (conjunction) and 'excluding' (preposition). This gives us two different situations.

    (a) When it means 'unless', we can say that it is incorrect to insert 'for' as an adjunct to 'except'.
    Example: 'I will not make the purchase except with your prior agreement'. (It would be wrong to say 'except for with your prior agreement').

    (b) When it means 'excluding', it is optional to insert 'for' as an adjunct to 'except'.
    Example: 'Our cat Tiddles will not eat anything except fish'. (It is possible but not necessary to say 'except for fish'.)

    The sentence 'I wouldn't accept a pay cut except for a job in Europe' is confusing because it appears to be a sentence of type (b) (where 'except' would mean 'excluding': which would make 'for' an optional adjunct of 'except'); whereas in reality it is a sentence of type (a), where 'except' means 'unless' and 'for' is not an adjunct of 'except' at all, but is separate in meaning, being the preposition which introduces the phrase 'for a job in Europe' (this means 'for the sake of a job in Europe').

    The rule which I have followed since my schoodays can be accurately expressed as 'Do not use 'for' as an adjunct of 'except'.
    I do not say that this is a rule of English grammar. I regard it as a rule of good style in writing, which makes for cleaner, clearer English and sidesteps a good deal of possible confusion.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  26. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Neither of those posts refers to "I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe". They refer to "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe.", the meaning of which is destroyed by removing 'for'.
    No it isn't. It's perfectly clear that it means the same as:
    'I wouldn't accept a pay cut but for a job in Europe'
    'I wouldn't accept a pay cut other than for a job in Europe'
    'I wouldn't accept a pay cut unless I obtained a job in Europe'

    What meaning do you confuse it with?

    We see this sentence differently "I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe". I think that is a misuse of 'except for', and to me it does not mean "I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe". To me 'except for' in that sentence expresses purpose or cause, just as it does in "I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe.", I suspect that is the source of our disagreement.
     
  27. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    My mistake: I meant the latter.
    No one has suggested removing 'for' from that sentence. As already mentioned, 'for' in that sentence belongs to the phrase 'for a job in Europe' (meaning 'for the sake of a job in Europe') and it is essential to that phrase. It is the preposition which introduces the phrase. It is not an example of 'for' as an adjunct of 'except'. It does not belong to 'except' at all.
    It is the word 'for' which expresses purpose or cause: it means 'for the sake of'. The word 'except' in that sentence means 'unless'. They are separate in meaning, since each can do its job without the other.
    For example:
    'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except in a financial crisis';
    'I would have swum the Channel for a job in Europe'.

    Just to be clear, the rule of style which I follow is: Do not use 'for' as an adjunct of 'except'.
    This rule does not affect the sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe' because in this case 'for' is not an adjunct of 'except'.

    The potential source of confusion in that sentence is just that one might think that 'for' belongs with 'except', simply because the one word follows the other, whereas in fact they are unconnected In meaning.
     
  28. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Ah well, we shall continue to disagree. As far as I am concerned sometimes we need 'except', sometimes we need 'for', and sometimes nothing else will do than 'except for'. When we need 'except for', it is futile to argue that they can be used alone, since in contexts where 'except for' is needed, they can't.
     
  29. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Clearly there are contexts which make it appropriate or necessary to put the word 'for' after the word 'except', even though they are not connected in meaning (i.e. neither one is an adjunct of the other); and the sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe' is one such case.
     
  30. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    So, you are saying that there are three cases?

    1) Except - I like all of our guest except Jim.
    2) Except for (connected) - I ate everything except for the bananas.
    3) Except for (not connected) - 'I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe'
     
  31. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I agree with PaulQ that we can, broadly speaking, identify two cases:

    (a) where 'except' means 'excluding' and is followed by a substantive;
    (b) where 'except' means 'unless' and is followed by an adverbial expression.

    For example:
    (a) 'This cat will eat nothing except fish';
    (b) 'This cat will eat nothing except when it is hungry'.

    In case (a), it is optional to insert 'for' after 'except' (it is possible but unnecessary to say 'This cat will eat nothing except for fish').
    In case (b), it is incorrect to insert 'for' after 'except' (it would be incorrect to say 'This cat will eat nothing except for when it is hungry').

    All your three cases are really the same type.
    They are all examples of case (a), where 'for' is optional but uneccessary. Each sentence works equally well with 'for' and without 'for'.

    On the other hand, the sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe' is an example of case (b), because the phrase 'for a job in Europe' (which means 'for the sake of a job in Europe') is an adverbial expression equivalent to 'when it is hungry' in the cat example. The word 'for' is integral to the phrase 'for a job in Europe': it is not connected in meaning with 'except'.
     
  32. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    If the third is not of the same type then your statement 'All your three cases are really the same type." is not really correct, I suppose. Plus, are you saying that "for" is always optional? What about this one "I cleaned the house except for the bathroom."
     
  33. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    How do you see the sentence "I wouldn't be alive except for you"? To me, the "for" is integral and does not mean "for the sake of".
     
  34. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Your sentence (3) 'I wouldn't have accepted anything except for a job in Europe' is an example of type (a), because 'job' is a substantive and 'a job in Europe' is a substantival expression. We can leave out 'for' and its meaning is unchanged:
    'I wouldn't have accepted anything except a job in Europe'.:tick:

    My third sentence 'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe' is an example of type (b) because 'for a job in Europe' is an adverbial expression, which gives the condition on which the pay cut would have been accepted. In this case, 'for' belongs with the adverbial phrase, not with 'except'. If we leave out 'for', the result is nonsense:
    'I wouldn't have accepted a pay cut except a job in Europe'. :cross:
    I am saying it is optional in cases of type (a).
    This is type (a). We can say 'I cleaned the house, except the bathroom'.:tick:
     
  35. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    This is type (b): 'for you' is an adverbial expression; it is equivalent to 'on account of you'.
     
  36. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Russian
    Well, I am not an expert but Michael Swan disagrees with you on this. In his grammar book it is said that "for" is not optional, but is a must.
     
  37. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't see how that makes sense, wandle. "I wouldn't be alive except on account of you." :thumbsdown:

    To me it means "Had it not been for you I would not be alive." The "for" is doing a great deal of work in the original sentence that can't be converted to an adverbial phrase.
     
  38. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I usually find myself agreeing with Michael Swan. Could you quote his exact statement on that example?
     
  39. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    That is how I see the meaning, too.
    In order to make a parallel to the original expression, though, we need an alternative phrase to 'for you': something that will give the meaning of 'for' in this case.
    I grant that 'except on account of you' is not very elegant, but I think it is better than 'except because of you' or 'except thanks to you'.
     
  40. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't think any of those alternatives work, wandle. I think this is an example where "except for you" has a specific meaning that is distinct from "except" and "for you".
     
  41. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Well, I see nothing wrong, apart from style, with those alternatives. What other objection is there to them?

    We are agreed on the meaning 'Had it not been for you I would not be alive'. This is another way of expressing a unique condition. That shows that the sentence is similar to 'I would not have accepted a pay cut except for a job in Europe'.
    In both cases, the phrase with 'for' is giving the unique condition which could satisfy the idea of the main clause. That means the phrase with 'for' is equivalent to a conditional clause: in other words, it is an adverbial expression.
    That makes the sentence in each case an example of type (b), in which 'for' cannot be removed without nonsense resulting.
     
  42. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I agree that "for" cannot be removed.
    I disagree that it can be replaced with an adverbial expression. "Except on account of", "Except because of" and "Except thanks to" don't communicate what "Had it not been for you" does.
    I don't think your adverbial expression rule holds up in this case.
     
  43. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I was not suggesting 'for' could be replaced with an adverbial expression. 'For' is a preposition. Thus it can be replaced by an appropriate prepositional expression. In fact, that is the only way to identify the specific meaning of 'for' in any particular case.

    I said the phrase with 'for' was an adverbial expression. The fact that it can be replaced with a clause such as 'Had it not been for you' confirms this. That is a conditional clause (which is an adverbial expression).

    The OED, for the third and last meaning of 'except', gives two sub-meanings, first 3 (a):
    They include examples such as:
    Then they give 3 (b):
    This is given without any analysis or examples. Thus they have offered substitutions for 'except', but not for 'for', which is what we are looking for.
    Presumably, therefore, they understand the phrase with 'for' in 3 (b) as adverbial in the same way as the phrases in 3 (a).
    Well, these are just prepositional phrases. They cannot communicate the idea of 'you' without the word 'you'. If we include 'you', they are then equivalent.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  44. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I guess we just have to agree to disagree. "Except on account of you" doesn't even make sense to me. "Except because of you" is slightly better but still very odd. "Except thanks to you" doesn't even sound like English to me. So including "you" doesn't help, in my estimation.

    "Except because of you I wouldn't be alive." ???
    "Except on account of you I wouldn't be alive." :cross:
    "Except thanks to you I wouldn't be alive." :cross:

    The same is true for the reverse, in my opinion:

    "I wouldn't be alive except because of you." ???
    "I wouldn't be alive except on account of you." :cross:
    "I wouldn't be alive except thanks to you." :cross:
     
  45. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Is it just the unfamiliarity of those phrases, or do you mean they are wrong in some respect?

    An internet search yields plenty of examples of these expressions used by good sources. As a matter of style, they may not be the smoothest English; but as a matter of grammar, they seem to me unexceptionable. Here are a few:

    EPLex - Brazil - Substantive requirements for dismissals
    The Constitution prohibits the dismissal of a unionized employee, except on account of a serious misconduct from the moment he or she registers as a candidate

    Fate of the Wild By Bonnie B. Burgess
    the Endangered Species Act is a failure because so few species have been taken off the endangered list (except because of data error or extinction)

    Another November by Roger Grenier
    As for myself, I wasn't altogether sure that I had the right, except thanks to some precarious privilege, almost a misunderstanding.


    Examples including 'you':

    RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:JEWISH RENEWAL
    He said to him: I know that the Holy One, blessed be He, did not shake His world except on account of you.

    Cool Hands, Luke & Bo
    Rosco and me wouldn't be here in the first place, except on account of you two miserable troublemakers.

    a year of prayer: 365 Rosaries
    I may feel shame for myself, and renounce myself, and choose you, and please neither you nor myself except because of you.

    Hadfield snaps another shot of Niagara from space
    Thanks Commander. Of course we here on Earth would never get to see this perspective except thanks to you!
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  46. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I think a practical rule can be produced. First, we can identify different situations when 'except' is used:

    (a) Sometimes 'except' is followed by a noun (or its equivalent: pronoun, noun-phrase or noun-clause). For example:

    'This cat will not eat anything except fish.' :tick:
    'This cat will not eat anything except what it is used to.' :tick:

    (b) Sometimes 'except' is followed by an adverb (or its equivalent: adverbial phrase or adverbial clause). For example:

    He never does anything except in a hurry. :tick:
    This cat never eats except when it is hungry. :tick:

    We can now formulate the following rule:

    In sentences of type (a), it is optional to put 'for' between 'except' and the following noun (or equivalent).
    Thus it is possible, but not necessary, to say 'This cat will not eat anything except for fish'. :tick:

    In sentences of type (b), it is incorrect to put 'for' between 'except' and the following adverb (or equivalent).
    Thus it would be wrong to say 'He never does anything except for in a hurry'. :cross:

    (My own style rule is that, in writing sentences of type (a), I never put 'for' with 'except'. Leaving it out is briefer and clearer and in my view better style.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2014
  47. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Speaking of good sources, the British National Corpus has no occurrences for "except because of", "except thanks to" or "except on account of". The Corpus of Contemporary American English has no occurrences for "except because of" or "except on account of" and only two occurrences for "except thanks to", both in different types of context than the one we are discussing here (for example, "I got choked up and couldn't say much except thanks to everybody...").

    As for Google searches, there are a whopping 36 hits for "except thanks to you", most in a different type of context. "Except on account of you" brings up 8 results, and "except because of you" brings up 20 results, six of which are the same quote from the Quran. That's not what I would call plenty of examples.

    Please explain the structure of "I wouldn't be alive except thanks to you." If it's an idiom, it's not one I'm familiar with, as you guessed. As a grammar exercise I wouldn't know how to relate "thanks to" to the first half of the sentence. If we take "except" to mean "other than" (which is one way to interpret it), "I wouldn't be alive except thanks to you" becomes "I wouldn't be alive other than thanks to you." ??? How does that work? I can see "...other than because of you", although it's odd to me, but "other than thanks to you" and "other than on account of you" just don't make sense to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  48. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    There are good sources on the internet, including those mentioned in post 45. Those and others are in my view sufficient to confirm the three prepositional phrases as valid English expressions. They crop up for example in legal and religious writing, where a particular causal connection needs to be made explicit. Infrequent use does not make these expressions invalid. I suppose I am not the only one to consider them poor style.

    What do they mean? For 'except', see post 43; for the other terms, the OED gives the following meanings:
    Obviously there is some circularity in the above definitions ('on account of' means 'because of' and 'because of' means 'on account of') but that is to some extent inevitable in a dictionary. Nevertheless, it is clear that all these phrases express the idea that some state or event is the result of, or is caused by, something else. That is the key idea expressed in the sentence 'I would not be alive except for you'. The speaker is saying that it is only because of the other person that he or she is alive.

    If we substitute 'other than' for 'except' and 'as a result of' for 'thanks to' (both substitutions in accord with the OED), we have 'I would not be alive other than as a result of you'.
    You may say this is an awkward expression, but it is really no more so than 'I would not be alive except for you'.
    If you object that it would make better sense to say 'I would not be alive other than as a result of your action', then I reply that it would equally make better sense to say 'I would not be alive except for your action'.

    If 'I would not be alive other than as a result of you' seems a stretch , then by the same token 'I would not be alive except for you' is also a stretch. The only difference is that we are more familiar with the latter. In logic, they are equally valid (or invalid).

    Now please bear in mind that I do not put forward the above substitutions in order to recommend them for use in contexts such as the present. I invoke them reluctantly and for explanatory purposes only. My own rule is not to use such phrases in such contexts except as a last resort, where no other means exist of expressing the causal relationship.

    That is exactly the situation which faces us when we analyse the sentence 'I would not be alive except for you'. We need to identify the specific meaning of 'for'. For that, we need to substitute an equivalent expression. The only equivalent for the preposition 'for' is another prepositional expression. The only options for this are phrases such as the three I have given.

    Why make any substitution at all? That is simply in response to post 37. As I remarked in my reply:
    That is what the phrases I chose have done, as near as it can be done in my view. I do not claim absolute exactness for this equivalence: just sufficient nearness to bring out the causal relation presented in the sentence 'I would not be alive except for you'.

    What does all that prove? It shows that the phrase 'for you' is an adverbial phrase (it must be adverbial, since it is expressing a cause) and that means that the sentence 'I would not be alive except for you' is a sentence of type (b), in which 'for you' is an integral adverbial phrase expressing the unique cause involved.

    This means (see rule in post 46) it would be incorrect in this case to put 'for' between 'except' and the following adverbial phrase; in other words, it would be wrong to say 'I would not be alive except for for you' :cross: and it would be equally wrong to say 'I would not be alive except for because of you' :cross: and so on.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  49. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I'm convinced that you're convinced your answer is correct. :) My opinion hasn't changed.
     
  50. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I see you have not expressed an opinion on my rule put forward in post 46, which I hope may be helpful to Jiung and others. Would you care to do so?
     

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