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  1. enydia's Avatar

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    #1

    'but do' or 'but to do'

    Hi, everyone.

    Please see the following sentences:
    Nobody can help but be fascinated.
    I can not choose but believe him.
    I had no choice but to report him.
    I have nothing to do but go back.

    Are these sentences grammatically correct?
    How to chose between but do and but to do?

    Thanks in advance.

    Enydia

  2. Soup's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Look to the verb:

    1. Nobody can ... be fascinated.
    2. I can not ... believe him.
    3. I had ... to report him.
    4. I have ... to go back.

    As for the last example, 4., to is optional in the extended version "I have nothing to do but (to) go back" because there are 2 tos.


  3. enydia's Avatar

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    #3

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Look to the verb:

    1. Nobody can ... be fascinated.
    2. I can not ... believe him. [Is it 'I can ... believe him'?]
    3. I had ... to report him.
    4. I have ... to go back.

    As for the last example, 4., to is optional in the extended version "I have nothing to do but (to) go back" because there are 2 tos.

    Thank you for your reply.

    I guess that your method is to regard the original sentences as compound sentences with subjective ellipsis. Am I right?
    In this way, can I say he wrote nothing but drew a picture?


    • Join Date: Feb 2008
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    #4

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Hi, everyone.

    Please see the following sentences:

    Nobody can help but be fascinated.
    I can not choose but believe him.
    I had no choice but to report him.
    I have nothing to do but go back.
    -The but in sentences like 3 and 4 is more or less equivalent in meaning to the word except.

    -For the but in sentence n°1, this is what Michael Swan* has to say about it:

    "Can't help is sometimes followed by but + infinitive (without to); the meaning is the same as can't help ... -ing , but the structure is not very common, and is unusual in spoken English."

    I could not help but realize that something was wrong.

    I don't think sentence n° 2 is acceptable(I cannot choose but believe him). I'd be interested to know where it comes from.


    *“Practical English Usage”, Michael Swan, OUP 1988, 133.

  4. enydia's Avatar

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    #5

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by naomimalan View Post
    -The but in sentences like 3 and 4 is more or less equivalent in meaning to the word except.

    -For the but in sentence n°1, this is what Michael Swan* has to say about it:

    "Can't help is sometimes followed by but + infinitive (without to); the meaning is the same as can't help ... -ing , but the structure is not very common, and is unusual in spoken English."

    I could not help but realize that something was wrong.

    I don't think sentence n° 2 is acceptable(I cannot choose but believe him). I'd be interested to know where it comes from.


    *“Practical English Usage”, Michael Swan, OUP 1988, 133.
    Hi, Naomimalan.

    I found the phrase, cannot choose but do, from a grammar guide written in Chinese, and then invented the sentence (I cannot choose but believe him). After seeing your reply, I consulted some materials, but the result seemed more confusing.



    This is from American Heritage Dictionary:
    Idiom:
    cannot choose but
    Can only do; cannot do otherwise: We cannot choose but to observe the rules.
    As you see, the example use cannot choose but to do.

    This is from cannot choose but - Definitions from Dictionary.com
    cannot choose but, cannot do otherwise than; is or are obliged to: He cannot choose but obey.
    The example use cannot choose but do.

    And you can see here:
    cannot help but, can but, cannot but, cannot help, cannot choose but, can't but, can't help, can't help but. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993

    Hope this help.

    Regards

    Enydia

  5. RonBee's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Thank you for your reply.

    I guess that your method is to regard the original sentences as compound sentences with subjective ellipsis. Am I right?
    In this way, can I say he wrote nothing but drew a picture?
    That is not the same. Instead, say:
    He wrote nothing, but he drew a picture.


    • Join Date: Feb 2008
    • Posts: 484
    #7

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Hi, Naomimalan.

    I found the phrase, cannot choose but do, from a grammar guide written in Chinese, and then invented the sentence (I cannot choose but believe him). After seeing your reply, I consulted some materials, but the result seemed more confusing.






    This is from American Heritage Dictionary:
    Idiom:
    cannot choose but
    Can only do; cannot do otherwise: We cannot choose but to observe the rules.
    As you see, the example use cannot choose but to do.




    This is from cannot choose but - Definitions from Dictionary.com
    cannot choose but, cannot do otherwise than; is or are obliged to: He cannot choose but obey.
    The example use cannot choose but do.

    And you can see here:
    cannot help but, can but, cannot but, cannot help, cannot choose but, can't but, can't help, can't help but. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993

    Hope this help.

    Regards

    Enydia
    Enydia, yes, well, I reluctantly take back what I said even though I personally would say “I have no choice but to…” However (and it’s a big however!):

    for interest’s sake, I spent an hour checking it out on Google, reading scores of pages. It came up quote after quote in poetry, but stopping short of the 20th century. Apart from definitions (such as the ones you mention), I found only two modern ones corresponding to the structure in your message:

    1 A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. (William Burroughs, “Naked Lunch”, 1959)

    2 Take the common house dust-mite, for instance - widely discussed last week - or rather accept it, because you cannot choose but have it, in millions and ...

    There were plenty, though, like the following, with or without a comma after “choose”, which of course don’t correspond to the structure we’re talking about (I present it as is, spelling and punctuation mistakes not edited):

    “We always choose non - smoking tables in resturants but if people smoke in the same room non of the tables are strictly non smoking. Smoke drifts I choose not to smoke my children cannot choose but are still subjected to smoke.”

    Anyway, I reluctantly concede….!
    Last edited by naomimalan; 11-May-2008 at 21:37.

  6. enydia's Avatar

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
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    #8

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee View Post
    That is not the same. Instead, say:
    He wrote nothing, but he drew a picture.
    Thank you, RonBee.

    Can I say he drew nothing but a picture of the little bird?

  7. enydia's Avatar

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    #9

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by naomimalan View Post
    Enydia, yes, well, I reluctantly take back what I said even though I personally would say “I have no choice but to…” However (and it’s a big however!):

    for interest’s sake, I spent an hour checking it out on Google, reading scores of pages. It came up quote after quote in poetry, but stopping short of the 20th century. Apart from definitions (such as the ones you mention), I found only two modern ones corresponding to the structure in your message:

    1 A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. (William Burroughs, “Naked Lunch”, 1959)

    2 Take the common house dust-mite, for instance - widely discussed last week - or rather accept it, because you cannot choose but have it, in millions and ...

    There were plenty, though, like the following, with or without a comma after “choose”, which of course don’t correspond to the structure we’re talking about (I present it as is, spelling and punctuation mistakes not edited):

    “We always choose non - smoking tables in resturants but if people smoke in the same room non of the tables are strictly non smoking. Smoke drifts I choose not to smoke my children cannot choose but are still subjected to smoke.”

    Anyway, I reluctantly concede….!
    Thank you very much, Naomimalan.

  8. RonBee's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: 'but do' or 'but to do'

    Quote Originally Posted by enydia View Post
    Thank you, RonBee.

    Can I say he drew nothing but a picture of the little bird?
    Sure.

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