but - definition and synonyms

adverb, conjunction, preposition strong

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But can be used in the following ways:
As a conjunction (connecting two phrases or clauses): She’s 83 but she still goes swimming every day.
As a way of starting a new sentence and connecting it to the previous sentence: It was in Cairo that he met Nadia. But that’s another story.
As a preposition (followed by a noun): There’s been nothing but trouble since he came.
As an adverb: We can but hope that things will improve.
  1. 1
    used for joining two ideas or statements when the second one is different from the first one, or seems surprising after the first one

    We’re making good progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

    Anna’s a highly intelligent girl, but she’s rather lazy.

    What we are about to do is perfectly legal. But please don’t discuss it with anyone.

    1. a.
      used after a negative for introducing what is true instead

      His death was not a tragedy, but a release from pain and suffering.

  2. 2
    mainly spoken used when you are saying that you should not talk any more about a subject that you have just mentioned

    It was a very complicated operation. But I don’t want to bore you with all the details.

    There’s also the question of how we’re going to pay for this, but we can discuss that some other time.

  3. 3
    spoken used after expressions such as ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ to introduce a polite question, request, or statement

    Excuse me, but is there a post office around here?

    I’m sorry, but all our operators are busy at the moment.

  4. 4
    used especially after words such as ‘nothing’, ‘everyone’, or ‘anything’ to mean ‘except’

    She does nothing but grumble all day long.

    I refuse to discuss my medical history with anyone but Dr Grant.

    There’s no alternative but to scrap the whole plan and start again.

  5. 5
    formal only

    We can but guess at the extent of the problem.

    Several Japanese companies already operate in the UK – Nissan, Honda, Fujitsu, to name but a few.

  6. 6
    spoken used when you are replying to someone and expressing surprise, disagreement, or annoyance

    ‘I’ve decided to resign.’ ‘But why?’

    But you promised not to do anything without asking me first.

  7. 7
    formal used after negative statements for saying that something does not happen without something else happening or being true

    I never take a bath but the phone rings or someone knocks at the door.

See also