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Hi~

I want to know meaning of <but (that)> in this sentence.



1) I would go abroad but that I am poor.

2) But that I saw it, I could not have believed it.

3) Nothing would satisfy him but he must go there.



According to dictionaries published by Korean, this but has the same usage of =If ~ not / Unless / Except if.

Is it correct explanation ?

If right, could I look up this sentence as the following sentences?

1) I would go abroad but that I am poor.
=I would go abroad if I am not poor.
=I would go abroad unless I am poor.



2) But that I saw it, I could not have believed it.
=If I did not saw it, I could not have believed it.
=Unless I saw it, I could not have believed it.



3) Nothing would satisfy him but he must go there.
=Nothing would satisfy him If he must not go there.
=Nothing would satisfy him Unless he must go there.

Last edited by TaeBbongE
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@TaeBbongE posted:

I want to know meaning of <but (that)> in this sentence.

1) I would go abroad but that I am poor.
2) But that I saw it, I could not have believed it.
3) Nothing would satisfy him but he must go there.



Hi, TaeBbongE—The first two sentences are  incorrect. When "but" means "except," it is a preposition, as it is in a sentence like "No one but John was present" (= "No one except John was present").

"But that" can be used when "that" is the object of "but" as preposition ("He bought everything but that") or when "that" begins a new independent clause: "I would travel there, but that wouldn't be good."

However, "but that" does not function as a complex preposition or complex subordinating conjunction. Your sentences (1) and (2) do not work, and (3) only works if "but he must go there" is understood as an independent clause.

@TaeBbongE posted:

According to dictionaries published by Korean, this but has the same usage of =If ~ not / Unless / Except if.



As I explained above, "but" can mean "except" when "but" is a preposition. "But that" is not a complex preposition. It is possible to use "but for" with a gerund, but it is rather old-fashioned and formal:

  • I would go abroad but for my being poor.
  • But for my seeing it, I could not have believed it.
@TaeBbongE posted:


Is it correct explanation ?

If right, could I look up this sentence as the following sentences?

1) I would go abroad but that I am poor.
=I would go abroad if I am not poor.
=I would go abroad unless I am poor.



2) But that I saw it, I could not have believed it.
=If I did not saw it, I could not have believed it.
=Unless I saw it, I could not have believed it.



3) Nothing would satisfy him but he must go there.
=Nothing would satisfy him If he must not go there.
=Nothing would satisfy him Unless he must go there.

No, all of what you say here is incorrect (see above).

Last edited by David, Moderator

Hello, David! 

I have two further questions.



First one,

"But" doesn't mean "If ~ not", "Unless" and "except if"?

As you already said, Just "But" can only mean "except", right?

If yes, I am a little bit confused. Because I saw this sentenceㄴ.

I don think this "but" has just meaning of "except".

Sometime it could be understood as "Unless(except if) / If ~ not".

e.g.)

It never rains but it pours. - Old saying

She never passed her old home but she thought of the happy years she had spent there. - from Oxford dictionary,

No man is so old but that he may learn. - Old saying

Not a day goes by but that I think of him. - Longman - No. 8 example_ (https://www.ldoceonline.com/ko...y/english-korean/but)


Second one,

The revised sentences below are sill wrong, are they?

1) I would go abroad but I am poor. (Still wrong X )

2) But I saw it, I could not have believed it. (Still wrong X)

Last edited by TaeBbongE
@TaeBbongE posted:


If yes, I am a little bit confused. Because I saw this sentenceㄴ.

I don think this "but" has just meaning of "except".

Sometime it could be understood as "Unless(except if) / If ~ not".

e.g.)

It never rains but it pours. - Old saying

She never passed her old home but she thought of the happy years she had spent there. - from Oxford dictionary,

No man is so old but that he may learn. - Old saying

Not a day goes by but that I think of him. - Longman - No. 8 example_ (https://www.ldoceonline.com/ko...y/english-korean/but)


Second one,

The revised sentences below are sill wrong, are they?

1) I would go abroad but I am poor. (Still wrong X )

2) But I saw it, I could not have believed it. (Still wrong X)

Hello again, TaeBbongE—Yes, your sentences are still wrong. However, you are right that "but (that)" had a special usage in somewhat archaic English, a usage that is typified in the saying "It never rains but (that) it pours."

Before I wrote my first reply, I asked myself whether you might be trying, quite unsuccessfully, to use "but that" in this rather archaic way, and I decided that it was unlikely that you were trying to do so.

My advice is that you not attempt to create novel sentences with this usage of "but (that)." Even I would hardly dare to do so. If you want to use "but (that)" in this way, stick to the sayings in which that usage is fossilized.

There is a better paraphrase for this slightly archaic usage of "but (that)." I recommend paraphrasing it with "without [NP V-ing]." This paraphrase works in all but one of the old sayings you have given:

(i-a) It never rains but (that) it pours. =
(i-b) It never rains without it pouring.

(ii-a) She never passed her old home but (that) she thought of the happy years she had spent there. =
(ii-b) She never passed her old home without thinking of the happy years she had spent there.

(iii-a) Not a day goes by but that I think of him. =
(iii-b) Not a day goes by without me thinking of him.

There are two constant features of these rather archaic "but (that)" constructions that your examples don't have. There must be negation in the main clause, and the sentence must be about a general regularity.

Here are some other examples, from Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). I wrote them down when I read the novel precisely because of how unusual they are. Nonnative learners shouldn't try to imitate this style:

  • "'You old hands got so wise, that a child cannot cough, or sneeze, but you see desperation and ruin at hand.'"
  • "'But really, Eliza, you are getting altogether too proud of that little fellow. A man can't put his nose into the door, but you think he must be coming to buy him.'"
  • "'Go thar; they're kind folks. Thar's no kind o' danger but they'll help you,--they're up to all that sort o' thing.'"
Last edited by David, Moderator

Yes, that is what I guessed it is~!!! However I am not sure because I am not native. You have clearly pointed out it.

In conclusion, the under sentences shown in Korean dictionaries are wrong! definitely wrong!!!

1) I would go abroad but that I am poor.

2) But that I saw it, I could not have believed it.

Because there is no negation in each main clause.

Okay got it. I may as well take "but" meaning as two main meanings.

1. But - its own meanings as stated in many English dictionaries.

2. Except.

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