From the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Adverbs are words that modify everything but nouns and pronouns.

I'm okay with this structure because I use but quite often in this way...

I can bear anything but hunger (The hunger is the only thing I cannot bear, rest all is okay with me!).

But I remember that a native speaker did not understand this at first and when I explained, she asked me to put a comma before but. Having this said,

I can bear anything, but hunger - makes sense and is understandable.

If that's the case, the first example from the book is my way and not the way she advised.

Your input please.

  • Hey @maulik-v, my question ll be out of this context whereas, can you explain the meaning of 'but' in this sentence? Is this 'but' similar to 'except'? – Hakan Mar 19 '14 at 14:31
  • 1
    @Hakan yes, but refers to 'except' here! I want anything but Coke means I can have anything but NOT coke! – Maulik V Mar 19 '14 at 15:58
  • That's what the question was. And the answer is -NO. It does not require it. – Maulik V Mar 19 '14 at 16:07

Your native speaker is, sadly, quite wrong.

The sentence I can bear anything, but hunger. leaves me hanging because the use of the comma before "but" signals that it is introducing an independent clause. In other words, I expect it to continue something like but hunger is the most burdensome; the sudden appearance of the period is quite jarring and unexpected.

When a coordinating conjunction such as but is used to link a pair of words (in this case, anything and hunger) no comma should be used.

http://www.towson.edu/ows/conjunctions.htm has some further information about coordinating conjunctions.


This looks good to me:

I can bear anything but hunger.


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