What is 'but' in "nothing but"?

English Language Learners Asked by Sandip Kumar Mandal on January 12, 2021

“It did nothing but make us ridiculous.”

It means : “It did nothing but It did make us ridiculous.”

Here, ‘but’ seems to be a conjunction.

But I know, ‘but’ is a preposition (meaning ‘except’) in the phrase ‘nothing but’!

Again, if ‘but’ is a preposition, the verb following it should be in -ing from. But here the verb is in the base from – ‘make’!

Then, what is the parts of speech of ‘but’ in the phrase “nothing but”?

One Answer

Like the others mentioned, the 'but' in 'nothing but' is basically a synonym for 'except'. So the sentence would be 'It did nothing except make us ridiculous'. Using 'but' instead of 'except' does not change the meaning of the sentence whatsoever. English speakers use 'but' as that is a more common word and easier to say.

Correct answer by cbracketdash on January 12, 2021

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