are good for nothing except/but (to) bluff...

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
Such writings are good for nothing _____ the naive,among whom they spread bad influences.
A. except bluff
B. except to bluff
C. but bluff
D. but to bluff

Hi. This question is from an English exercise book. I think either A, B, or C would work but D is wrong.
What do you think?
Thank you.
 
  • thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, Barque. I see. I was just being influenced by this thread:
    do nothing except/but <to>

    So the verb form after except/but depends on the word immediately preceding “nothing”, right? In the op example, the word immediately preceding “nothing” is “for”, so we must nominalize the verb immediately after “except/but”. So either “except/but to bluff” or “except/but bluffing” would work in the op example. Right?
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Thank you, Barque. I see. I was just being influenced by this thread:
    do nothing except/but <to>

    So the verb form after except/but depends on the word immediately preceding “nothing”, right? In the op example, the word immediately preceding “nothing” is “for”, so we must nominalize the verb immediately after “except/but”. So either “except/but to bluff” or “except/but bluffing” would work in the op example. Right?
    I don't know what you mean by nominalize a verb in this case.

    The difference between these sentences and the ones in the linked thread is in the basic construction

    These books are good to read.

    The baseball players could hit a weak ground ball.

    When you insert "do nothing but " or "for nothing but" in these sentences it doesn't change the basic construction.
     
    Last edited:

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    When you insert "do nothing but " or "for nothing but" in these sentences it doesn't change the basic construction.
    I think there is a key difference between "do nothing but" and "for nothing but". Starting from "They could hit the ball", you can add "only" or "do nothing but".
    When you say "They could only X" or "They could do nothing but X", then X represents an action, and so we expect X to be a bare infinitive (plus its object, if appropriate, i.e. "hit the ball"). After all, we would not accept "They could to hit the ball" or "They could only to hit the ball", and for the same reason "They could do nothing but to hit the ball" also sounds wrong.

    We can't of course simply add "for nothing but" to the above without changing the opening "They could" to something like "They were good". But in this case we would expect X to be a noun phrase, and here the best fit would involve a gerund:
    They were good for nothing but hitting the ball. :tick:
    They were good for nothing but to hit the ball. :confused:
    They were good for nothing but hit the ball. :cross:

    The reason we need a noun phrase is because X is the ultimate object of the preposition "for", because "nothing but" can be left out:
    They were good for hitting the ball. :tick:
    They were good for to hit the ball. :confused:
    They were good for hit the ball. :cross:

    So “except/but bluffing” doesn’t work in the op example, right?
    On the contrary. It would be better than B or D. Remember that "the naive" is the object of the verb
    The writings are good for bluffing the naive. :tick:
    The writings are good for to bluff the naive. :confused:
    The writings are good for bluff the naive. :cross:
    The writings are good for nothing but bluffing the naive. :tick:
    The writings are good for nothing but to bluff the naive. :confused:
    The writings are good for nothing but bluff the naive. :cross:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I know this isn't strictly on topic, but I can't help adding this remark:

    It's a strange way to use "bluff". We can "bluff someone into" believing something, but I'm not familiar with this transitive use of "to bluff (someone)".

    These people are so naive; we can bluff them. :thumbsdown:
    These people are so naive; we can bluff them into thinking we're going to help him.:tick:
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    but I'm not familiar with this transitive use of "to bluff (someone)".
    It does seem a little unusual, but WRD has some examples:
    to mislead or deceive (someone) by putting on a bold front: [~ + object] Don't try to bluff me; I know all your tricks.
    to deceive (an opponent in poker) by betting heavily on a weak hand: [~ + object] He tried to bluff me with a pair of two's.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Yes, it is an odd use of bluff, but in context ( which the exercise lacks) it might be appropriate. However "spread bad influences" doesn't quite make sense with "bluff." Sounds a bit like a too-literal translation of something from the more ideological days of the People's Republic :).

    Actually we say something is a bad influence on someone, not that it spreads bad influence.
     
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