1 conj You use but to introduce something which contrasts with what you have just said, or to introduce something which adds to what you have just said.
`You said you'd stay till tomorrow.'<emdash10001`I know, Bel, but I think I would rather go back.'..., Place the saucepan over moderate heat until the cider is very hot but not boiling..., He not only wants to be taken seriously as a musician, but as a poet too.
2 conj You use but when you are about to add something further in a discussion or to change the subject.
They need to recruit more people into the prison service. But another point I'd like to make is that many prisons were built in the nineteenth century.
3 conj You use but after you have made an excuse or apologized for what you are just about to say.
Please excuse me, but there is something I must say..., I'm sorry, but it's nothing to do with you..., Forgive my asking, but you're not very happy, are you?
4 conj You use but to introduce a reply to someone when you want to indicate surprise, disbelief, refusal, or protest., (feelings)
`I don't think I should stay in this house.'<emdash10001`But why?'..., `Somebody wants you on the telephone'—`But no one knows I'm here!'
5 prep But is used to mean `except'.
n PREP n
Europe will be represented in all but two of the seven races..., He didn't speak anything but Greek..., The crew of the ship gave them nothing but bread to eat.
6 adv But is used to mean `only'.
FORMAL ADV n, ADV num
This is but one of the methods used to try and get alcoholics to give up drink., ...Napoleon and Marie Antoinette, to name but two who had stayed in the great state rooms.
7 n-plural You use buts in expressions like `no buts' and `ifs and buts' to refer to reasons someone gives for not doing something, especially when you do not think that they are good reasons.
`B-b-b-b-but' I stuttered.<emdash10001`Never mind the buts,' she ranted..., He committed a crime, no ifs or buts about it.
8 You use cannot but, could not but, and cannot help but when you want to emphasize that you believe something must be true and that there is no possibility of anything else being the case.
cannot but phrase PHR inf (emphasis)
The pistol was positioned where I couldn't help but see it..., She could not but congratulate him.
9 You use but for to introduce the only factor that causes a particular thing not to happen or not to be completely true.
but for phrase PHR n/-ing
...the small square below, empty but for a delivery van and a clump of palm trees...
10 You use but then or but then again before a remark which slightly contradicts what you have just said.
but then/but then again phrase PHR cl
My husband spends hours in the bathroom, but then again so do I.
11 You use but then before a remark which suggests that what you have just said should not be regarded as surprising.
but then phrase PHR cl
He was a fine young man, but then so had his father been..., Sonia might not speak the English language well, but then who did?