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  1. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #1

    Rare usage of 'but'

    I was translating a magazine article into English the other day and there was a sentence that made me want to use the word 'but'.

    Natural resources are but the basis of Russia's wealth.

    Does this sound natural to you? After submitting the article, I started to have doubts as to whether the sentence was correct. I did some research and came up with a couple sentences that seem to sound almost the same way.

    1) Augustus Strong in his Systematic Theology strongly supported evolution, stating that "evolution is but the basis, foundation and background of Christianity, the silent and regular working of him who, in the fulness of time, utters his voice in Christ and the cross." (by Steven H. Propp)

    2)
    While I value acts and creations that are pleasing to the senses and to the mind, the capacity for joy is but the most positive realization of the capacity for feeling and emotion, and one must nurture that more fundamental capacity in order to be capable of the greatest joy. (by a native speaker)

    Based on the examples provided above, can my sentence be properly understood? Thank you in advance.



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    #2

    Re: Rare usage of 'but'

    I'm afraid not.

    In your sentence I see no reason to use 'but' — or indeed any other word in its place.

    We have a number of Russian-speaking members. You could try posting the original sentence in the Other Languages forum.


    Last edited by Rover_KE; 08-Jul-2015 at 22:36.

  2. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Rare usage of 'but'

    I just need someone who is a NATIVE speaker of English to explain to me whether it is technically possible to use 'but' in my sentence as an intensive. Like here:

    used as an intensive: 'Get there but fast'

  3. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Rare usage of 'but'

    Hi Bennevis,

    I think that intensive usage may be an AmE one. I don't recognise it in BrE and would never use it. What version of English do your readership expect you to use?

    Rover_KE very definitely is a native speaker of English. He is a retired English Teacher, from England whose first language is English.

    In relation to your first posting "are but" and "is but" can both be simply translated to mean the word "only". This is to what Rover_KE is referring when he says it does not work in the sentence: "Natural resources are but the basis of Russia's wealth." since it means "Natural resources are only the basis of Russia's wealth." , However, they simply are the basis of Russia's wealth.....which is why you don't need the "but".

    It's because "are only" and "is only" set the reader up to expect that what follows in the sentence will be less than something else in the sentence. Here are some examples which I have just made up:
    "The readership of The Guardian is but (is only) five percent of the UK adult population."
    "Those who eat cockles today form but (form only) a tiny fraction of those who ate them in the nineteenth century".
    "They are but (are only) a shadow of their former selves".

    So you are creating a conflict within your sentence where on the one hand you are saying how the source of Russia's wealth is based on natural resources, but then that is being modified by "are but" (are only) to make it seem that those natural resources aren't contributing very much to Russia's wealth after all!

    However, this is the reason the "is but" works in sentences 1) and 2) that you quoted:

    1); "evolution is but the basis, foundation....." = "evolution is only the basis, foundation and background of Christianity......"

    similarly,

    2) "
    ...the capacity for joy is but the most positive realization...." = "....the capacity for joy is only the most positive realization...."

    and in the very famous traditional song, where I have inserted "(is only)":
    Row, row, row your boat,
    Gently down the stream.
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but (is only) a dream.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOnLKxptQJE (from 0:00 to 0:19 gives you the tune)

    This is actually not that rare a usage of "but".

    Has that helped at all?


    Last edited by Eckaslike; 09-Jul-2015 at 00:02. Reason: Editing typos

  4. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Rare usage of 'but'

    I'm absolutely loving your reply, Eckaslike. Now I don't have any doubts as to using 'but' in that sense anymore. What a great forum this is!

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