[Vocabulary] the "but for" phrase

nyggus

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Hi,

I know that "but for" means something like "except for". "A Practical English Usage" by Thomson and Martinet gives a longer explanation: "if it were not for/if it hadn't been for"; they offer two examples, one being as follows: "My father pays my fees. But for that I wouldn't be here". I see the phrase is sometimes used in written English, but:

  • Is it a formal phrase?
  • Is it used in spoken or rather written language?
  • Is it used in particular situations? If yes, what kind of situations?
  • Is there anything else I should ask/know about this phrase?

Thanks,
nyggus
 

jutfrank

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The example you give shows the use nice and clearly. The person is speaking quite casually, in informal English.
 

Lynxear

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At least in Canadian English, this is not a common phrase.

In common speech it sounds a bit high brow. A more common way of saying that sentence would be:

If my father wasn't paying my fees, I wouldn't be here.
 
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