I took the following extract from the link ; http://www.viewzone.com/aging.html

The title was : Can science make us immortal?

“From every tree in the garden did he grant them to eat, save but one. And that tree, in the center of the garden, was called the tree of life. And the Snake said to Eve, "Eat of this fruit and you will become as God and never die.-- Genesis 3:1”

I have a doubt regarding the part labeled above, in bold and Italic. Save one, at here means, eat from all the trees except one tree.

But both of the words save and but means except. So why does except came two times in the above context?

  • save but one means except one. Sometimes but can be used as except, but often not the other way around
    – Nico
    Feb 28, 2014 at 8:03
  • I read this but as just: save just this one, i.e. except only this one. Feb 28, 2014 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


It is – at least to the modern reader – redundant. Actually, these two sentences would mean exactly the same:

You can eat all fruits, except one.
You can eat all fruits save one.
You can eat all fruits but one.

The text you are quoting is from the Bible, and it is not uncommon to find sentences in the translations that may seem a bit overwrought. The first major translation (the King James Version) is often quoted (I don't think this is a KJV quite) and seems archaic to modern readers. Interestingly, it actually introduced a lot of new words and phrases into the English language and was certainly not seen as particularly overwrought at the time it was written.

In general, when people translate or quite texts that are considered sacred, they tend to use quite (or even extremely) formal language. In this case, to emphasize that there was one, and one only, fruit that was forbidden, both save and but are used.

Don't break your head over it too much, just in general, do not adopt biblical style English in your everyday speech :)

  • Thou hast answered well :^) Still, I have one question, and one comment. Comment: I don't think the excerpt here is a quote from a Genesis, but one writer's paraphrase of the account. (Still, I think your answer is accurate, because I believe that author is trying to make it sound like a Scriptural quote.) Question: Is there a reason you put a comma in the first example sentence before except, but omitted the comma before save? (I agree there should be no comma before but.)
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:39
  • Thank you :) I was afraid that question would come. Writing the three sentences, I realised I put a comma before except, and no comma before but. At that moment, somehow, no comma before save looked and sounded better. I can't say I am 100% sure whether there should be one or not.
    – oerkelens
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:14
  • I can accept that it's a grey area; a judgement call. Thanks for answering.
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:46

We can paraphrase save but one as except only one. In either case, the second word is unnecessary, and stylistically some might consider it undesirable. But in either case, we can interpret it as an emphatic form, expressing the same idea but more forcefully.

This phrasing is rare, however. It's more common to write simply save one, as you might expect. I searched the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) for the following strings:

  save one .          24 results - 4 false positives = 20 results
  save but one        0 results

So although we can try to explain the phrase you're asking about, it's a rather unusual way to say it. Of course, in everyday speech except one and but one are even more common:

  but one .           110 results
  except one .        74 results

But these don't have quite the same formal tone that save one or save but one does.

As an aside, many translations of the bible use archaic or poetic sounding language, and the text you quote here is written in the same style. Although you may be interested in understanding these sentences, you may want to avoid imitating them in your own speech!

  • As I mentioned in my other comment, this doesn't appear to be a Biblical excerpt. (I think it's a conglomeration from Genesis meant to look like a Scriptural quote.)
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:44
  • @J.R. Oh, thanks for pointing that out. I saw the "Genesis 3:1" cite and just assumed that it was a translation.
    – user230
    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:48

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