"All but" as almost, vs. far from

gilespy

Senior Member
Serbian
Hi everyone,

What is the rule (if there is any) for distinguishing between usage of all but phrase in context of almost, vs. far from?
E.g. Pennsylvania’s Democratic boss is all but declaring victory in his state’s 2012 Senate contest.

How can one know if the sentence above means that he is close to declaring victory or far from declaring victory?

Thanks,
Gile
 
  • gilespy

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    Collins dictionary defines all but in American English as

    1. all except - aka far from
    2. nearly; almost

    There are also other numerous examples of the "all except/far from" usages on tye internet and in the news.

    On that I heard this morning is "This statement is all but true" where a political advisor wanted to point out that some claim could not be further from the truth.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Collins dictionary defines all but in American English as

    1. all except - aka far from
    2. nearly; almost
    "All but" certainly can mean "all except":
    A: Is everyone here?
    B: All but Peter. He said not to wait and he'll catch us up.
    Did you add the "aka far from" yourself?
    On that I heard this morning is "This statement is all but true" where a political advisor wanted to point out that some claim could not be further from the truth.
    Well, it certainly sounds unusual, but I would take it to mean that the statement was very nearly true. However, with truth, something is either true or it is not, and this is not.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    On that I heard this morning is "This statement is all but true" where a political advisor wanted to point out that some claim could not be further from the truth.
    It sounds as if the person meant "anything but", i.e. not at all.
     

    gilespy

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    "All but" certainly can mean "all except":
    A: Is everyone here?
    B: All but Peter. He said not to wait and he'll catch us up.
    Did you add the "aka far from" yourself?
    Well, it certainly sounds unusual, but I would take it to mean that the statement was very nearly true. However, with truth, something is either true or it is not, and this is not.
    Yes, I added "aka" part. Maybe I am wrong, but e.g. "This statement is far from truth" is the same as "This statement is all except truthful". This is the context I had in mind when saying that "all but" is also used in the context ad far from.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It sounds as if the person meant "anything but", i.e. not at all.
    Yes, of course. I thought there was a simple error but could not work out what it was.

    "Anything but" is a very different expression from "all but".
    Maybe I am wrong, but e.g. "This statement is far from truth" is the same as "This statement is all except truthful".
    "This statement is all except truthful" does not make sense.
     

    Xyz123456

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Simple answer: 1."all but" normally means "everyone/thing except": "All but the red car were destroyed" = all the cars except the red car were destroyed.

    2. "All but" when used as an idiom means "Almost", and it's usually used to condemn or make fun of something. "He all but ate the whole damned cake!" = He ate so much of the cake that it was almost completely gone. "We all but drank the bar dry" = "We drank so much alcohol that the bar almost had no alcohol left".
     

    gilespy

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    Simple answer: 1."all but" normally means "everyone/thing except": "All but the red car were destroyed" = all the cars except the red car were destroyed.

    2. "All but" when used as an idiom means "Almost", and it's usually used to condemn or make fun of something. "He all but ate the whole damned cake!" = He ate so much of the cake that it was almost completely gone. "We all but drank the bar dry" = "We drank so much alcohol that the bar almost had no alcohol left".
    Why you guys have to make such a simple case complicated? :-D :-D just kidding. It is quite hard for the non-English speakers to distinguish the "except" usage from the idiom usage, especially in case where there is a "but" involved, being that "but" usually gets associated with something that is in contrast to the first part of the sentence.
    Take for example, "The cake is all but gone". For an average European this would mean "There is almost the entire cake left", but when that same European puts it in the idiom context (which I do not even know if it would be semantically correct), we could also perceive it as "The cake is almost gone". :)
     
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