Commonly used and closely linked phrases like nothing but, anything but, everything but have very subtle differences. It’s good to learn what those differences are and how they affect the sentence you’re writing.
Is It Nothing But, Anything But, Or Everything But?
Nothing but should be used when you want nothing other than the word that directly follows “but.” Anything but should be used when you want any one thing except for the word that follows “but.” Everything but should be used when you want everything except for the word that directly follows “but.” It doesn’t always have to refer to words you want, but it can also mean things you have or need.
What Is The Meaning Of “Nothing But”?
Let’s start with “nothing but” as a phrase. We use this when we want nothing else except for the one thing that follows the “but” in the clause. This could be any number of things and is sometimes used as its own saying. Something like “nothing but net” is a common soccer saying where the ball hits the back of the net (a goal is scored). The person saying this isn’t saying they “want” a net, but instead, the ball hit nothing except for the net.
Examples Of How To Use “Nothing But”
Now let’s look at examples of how we’d use “nothing but” in a sentence. This is perhaps the most used one of the three phrases, though you’ll definitely hear all of them in your time learning the language. We find that examples are some of the best ways to learn new tricks and rules about the language, so we feel it’s important to include them for you.
- I want nothing but the best for my son.
- She wants nothing but ice cream.
- Nothing but love can save me now.
- He needs nothing but friendship.
- What a goal! Nothing but net!
What Is The Meaning Of “Anything But”?
When using “anything but,” we now use the meaning to say that we want anything other than the thing that comes after “but.” Typically, with “anything but,” we’re only referring to one particular item or thing. It’s used as a negative phrase to say that we really don’t want to see or have the thing that follows “but.”
Examples Of How To Use “Anything But”
As we said above, examples will be your best friend when learning the difference between these phrases. Now that we’ve seen “nothing but” in practice, it’s time to look at “anything but” and see what we can do with it. Pay attention to the subtle differences that come with it.
- Please don’t leave me! Anything but that.
- I want anything but socks for Christmas.
- Give me anything but hatred.
- We ask for anything but questions.
- Anything but snow would be nice for the weather tomorrow!
What Is The Meaning Of “Everything But”?
We’ll finish with the last example of how to use one of these phrases. “Everything but” might seem a little similar to “anything but,” but we use it in a slightly different context. First of all, we typically use it in the same sense but referring to multiple items or objects at once. Rather than just one thing that we’d typically talk about with “anything but.”
Also, with “everything but,” we don’t often talk about things that we want, but rather things that we have or may have forgotten. It’s typically about things in our possession, and we may have misplaced them or forgot to bring them somewhere. You will see it in other contexts, too, and we’ll get to that in the examples section.
You might also like: Everything or Every Thing? Here’s The Difference (+10 Examples)
Examples Of How To Use “Everything But”
Let’s finish up with some examples to help you understand how “everything but” differs from the other two sayings. It’s still a popular saying, though it has its own meaning and is a unique option compared to the other two. Notice how these examples are slightly different in tone and context than the examples for “nothing but” and “anything but.”
- He remembered everything but his towel.
- We packed everything but our toothbrushes.
- I’ll eat everything but the desserts at this buffet.
- You give me everything but the one thing I ask for.
- She forgot everything but the essentials.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.