All but: almost & except - when/how?

Crazymoon84

New Member
Italian
Hello Again!

I know there are already many threads regarding "all but", but I couldn't find the one that clearly explains in which case "ALL BUT" means "ALMOST", and in which one it means "EXCEPT". I know, it must be a trick! ;)

Yesterday, I tried to use it...In my sentence it was supposed to mean "almost", it ended up that it meant "except". Obviously, it totally changed the meaning of my paragraph.

My sentence was: I am sure it is the same for all but you.

Meh...I meant "for almost all of you". And my friend, instead, looked at me asking: what do you mean?! (She was reading my Essay...but couldn't explain why in that case "all but" meant except. Ha!)

I am now asking you: is there a rule or so?

Thank you!
 
  • I don't understand your question.

    The statement is a bit vague and hard to contextualize.


    /My sentence was: I am sure it is the same for all but you.
    /

    It seems a bit odd, but the meaning, as I read it, is 'except you.' A clearer example might be, supposing I told a Polish joke, and one Polish person was present, and she confronted me. I might say--besides 'I'm sorry'-- I think my joke was funny for all [in the room]but you.

    If there is any rule, it's that where 'all' refers to some set of people (animals, etc.--countable items), the 'except' meaning generally applies.

    "All but"
    meaning almost is in rather different sentences, e.g. "The game was all but over when I left."
    "That contestant was all but destroyed, in the poker tournament, by the end of Round Two."
    "I was all but despairing (of being friends) after I read your last letter" (said upon subsequently meeting the person who wrote me a harsh, dismissive letter).

    Notice that the entities are uncountable, and it's some quality, attribute or condition which has degrees, which is involved.
     
    Last edited:

    Johnny519

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Hello Again!

    I know there are already many threads regarding "all but", but I couldn't find the one that clearly explains in which case "ALL BUT" means "ALMOST", and in which one it means "EXCEPT". I know, it must be a trick! ;)

    Yesterday, I tried to use it...In my sentence it was supposed to mean "almost", it ended up that it meant "except". Obviously, it totally changed the meaning of my paragraph.

    My sentence was: I am sure it is the same for all but you.

    Meh...I meant for almost all of you, and my friend looked at me asking: what do you me? (She was reading my Essay...but couldn't explain why in that case "all but" meant except. Ha!)

    I am now asking you: is there a rule or so?

    Thank you!
    I think all but in your sentence I am sure it is the same for all but you means except. "All but" here has the same meaning as Everyone was there but him.
     

    Crazymoon84

    New Member
    Italian
    I try to simplify my question: "all but" can either mean "almost" or "except". It depends on the context or how the sentence is built, I guess. May you help me to understand when it means "almost" and when "except" in a sentence? (Since I made a mistake). :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If I were you I wouldn't try to use it, since it's not used so much nowadays, even in writing.

    When "all but" means almost, it is interposed between subject and verb: "I all but wept when I saw ... " or between verb and adjective or participle: "He is all but exhausted by his endeavours", "It had all but disappeared." In your sentence it cannot be used in this way.

    When "all but" comes before a noun or pronoun, it means "all except": "All but Catherine were beautiful".
     

    Johnny519

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I am just trying to avoid to repeat the mistake, and learn how to use "all but" in both meanings.
    Except:

    The shipwrecked people were rescued all but one. only one person died.

    Almost:

    The game was all but over when we arrived. When we arrived there, it was almost the end of the game, we missed the beginning and middle.
     
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