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    • Join Date: May 2009
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    #1

    All but - Anything but

    Hi, I'd like to ask for confirmation about my understanding of these constructs:

    1) "All but" and "Anything but" are equivalent, still the former is more common.

    2) "His car is all but fast" means that the car isn't fast.
    Similarly, "The company is all but certain to file for Chapter 11" means that it isn't certain at all that the company is going to file for Chapter 11.

    I'm asking because I often stumble upon (on the web, so these might very well be non-native writers) these constructs used in a way that, from the context, would make you think that they mean the exact opposite of what you'd think.

    Referring to the first example that would mean that the car surely is fast.

    This should be pretty trivial but since this inconsistency comes up pretty often I thought I'd ask.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    • Join Date: Jun 2008
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    #2

    Re: All but - Anything but

    Quote Originally Posted by suikoden View Post
    hi, i'd like to ask for confirmation about my understanding of these constructs:

    1) "all but" and "anything but" are equivalent, still the former is more common.
    no, they mean different things.
    "all but" = "everything but". "all but x" means everything up to, but not including, x"

    "anything but x" means "definitely not x". It may be y, or z, or a - it might be anything - except x.
    in both cases, x is excluded. That's the only similarity.

    2) "his car is all but fast" means that the car isn't fast.
    no. "his car is anything but fast". It might be stylish, expensive ... In fact anything except fast. This does not mean that the car is stylish and expensive, which "all but / everything but" would imply.

    similarly, "the company is all but certain to file for chapter 11" means that it isn't certain at all that the company is going to file for chapter 11.
    no, "all but certain" means "almost certain", "just short of certain". It is the highest level of probability less than 100%.
    "isn't certain at all" is a much lower level of probability, and expresses doubt that the company will file for chapter 11. That is, the company is anything but certain ..."
    r.

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