You can't do anything but wait


New Member
A friend of mine is getting a tat tomorrow, and it contains that phrase. The original was "You can't do nothing but wait" but I said that was not correct, that is true, right? Additionally, the phrase "You can't do anything but wait" doesn't convince me 100%, I'd preciate if someone could check it for us and tell us if there's something wrong about it. We're obviously non native english speakers and a tat is almost permament, so I want to be sure that my friend gets the phrase correct tomorrow

Thanks for your help in advance!
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "You can't do nothing but wait" is wrong because of the double negative but it is used colloquially. If English speakers see it 90% will point out the mistake. :D
    "You can't do anything but wait" is correct

    Why not have "All you can do is wait."? (fewer words, same meaning, less pain :D )


    Senior Member
    English - US
    Where did your friend get the idea for this tattoo? Is it a quote from a book/movie or did he just make it up?
    Is it supposed to be funny or serious? (I think it's a bit funny because "getting a tattoo" is not "waiting." It's sort of like the Magritte painting of a pipe that says "This is not a pipe." --- I have a strange sense of humor.)
    Is your friend a native English speaker? If not, he should be aware that both his ungrammatical form and the grammatical alternative are odd for a tattoo. Better alternatives might include PaulQ's version "All you can do is wait", or perhaps "You can do nothing but wait", or "The only thing you can do is wait", or even "Just wait".