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  1. Senior Member
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    but for = at the beginning


    but for: except for something or someone: All was silent but for the sound of the wind in the trees.

    I'd like to ask if we can put 'but for' at the beginning of the sentence or not: But for the sound of the wind in the trees, all was silent.


  2. Skrej's Avatar
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    Re: but for = at the beginning

    It's understandable, but it doesn't sound as natural. It sounds overly poetic.

    If you're writing a poem or other similar creative work, it's acceptable. However, I wouldn't use it for daily speech or normal writing.

    Edit. There's a similar expression I'll cite as an example.

    "There but for the grace of God go I". It's used as a poetic literary device to express that you yourself could be in a similar situation if not for divine intervention. You'll also hear it used somewhat sarcastically in more modern English.

    I occasionally use this as a humorous way of teasing my colleagues when they get stuck with some task none of us really wanted to do in the first place. The word inversion makes it sound overly dramatic, and therefore clarifies I'm being humorous or sarcastic, rather than literally thanking God for divine intervention.
    Last edited by Skrej; 14-Jul-2016 at 10:23. Reason: yet more typos
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