It could be <all but> unintelligible

< Previous | Next >
  • apricots

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You are correct that this is a sort of double-negative, however, that is not what the author (speaker?) really meant. It's an incorrect usage.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    "All but unintelligible" means "practically unintelligible" or "very nearly unintelligible".
    You are correct that this is a sort of double-negative, however, that is not what the author (speaker?) really meant. It's an incorrect usage.
    I don't see anything incorrect about this usage, apricots.:confused:
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I view it like Loob. "all but unintelligible" means to me that the voice sounded virtually (in essence) unintelligible.
     

    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I have to admit it is tricky, and if you take it literally it is misleading. And to prove that you can have a look at the two apparently opposite meanings. However, I notice that adjectives come with the first sense, and nouns (for they're countable) come with the second. Is this a rule? I don't know?

    Definition of all but in English (Oxford Dictionaries):
    1- Very nearly:
    the subject was all but forgotten
    More example sentences
    • She hasn't been on a train for 4 years and that was all but forgotten so she was a bit excited.
    • Tans have been all but forgotten in popular literature, but that suits us just fine.
    • They may be all but forgotten now but that doesn't mean they should not be left in peace.
    2- All except:
    we have support from all but one of the networks
    More example sentences
    • The plant is easy to grow in sun or partial shade and will tolerate all but chalky soils.
    • It would keep us on our toes and discourage all but those with the most urgent banking business.
    • Those who brandish or discharge firearms in a public place would, in all but the rarest cases, be locked up.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    For a native speaker, the two "all buts" feel quite different: we process the 'very nearly' one as a single entity, whereas we process the 'all except' one in two parts all ... but (and indeed we often separate the two: "... will tolerate all soils but chalky ones".)

    That said, I think your distinction is a helpful rule of thumb: if you say
    "all but" + adjective = very nearly
    "all [...] but" + noun or pronoun = all except

    I think you'll always be right:thumbsup::)


    Afterthought
    I suspect
    "all but" + verb = very nearly
    would also always be true: He all but killed me.
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top