The meaning of ‘nothing but’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The meaning of “nothing but” in English is closely related to the usage of “but” in all/anything/everything but, which is more idiomatic, however. “But” in the expression “nothing but” means “except”, i.e. “nothing but” is just a more emphatic way of saying “nothing except”, “only”; for example

We could see nothing but fog.
He causes nothing but trouble.

which means the same as

We could see nothing except fog.
He causes only trouble.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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