I'm not very sure of how suitably is using that construction in complementing others since its start has a very negative indication and may make the other person feels bad and/or uncomfortable.

I didn't find much about these two in Google search but when I have typed them in the box, the auto-complement suggestions were mostly negative for "You are nothing but..."

First search

And the results for the "You have been nothing but..." were mostly positive.

Second search

...which doesn't make sense as those two constructions are very similar to each other. Thus, if they have been used in complementing, would they make a suitable construction for that particular field and leave a good impression to the other person?

Examples of how I want to use them:

  • You are nothing but gentle and kind.

  • You have been nothing but nice to your fellow members.


Well, to be kind has two different meanings, very very subtly different. One means that kindness is a characteristic of a person, and the other is that a person acts in a kind manner.

When we use to have been kind, it is almost invariably the latter - it is about how someone has acted, not any characteristic of them personally.

The same is true of many adjectives applied to people, or even to other entities. It can apply to cruel, generous, miserly, solicitous, smart - all sorts of things.

However, if we say you are nothing but, that almost invariably means the former meaning, to describe a personal characteristic. It is usually a more forceful way of saying "you are only" or "you are merely". It is not used to be nice.

Conversely, you have been nothing but, describing behaviour, can be nice or it can be nasty. "You have been nothing but cruel to me" is as valid and natural as "you have been nothing but kind to me". It is describing the person's behaviour towards the speaker.

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  • Thank you! So "you are nothing but..." is not a suitable choice to compliment someone, while "you have been nothing but..." can be both positive and negative (depending on what it is followed by), correct? – Tasneem ZH Apr 13 '19 at 22:01
  • 1
    @TasneemZH Correct. – SamBC Apr 13 '19 at 22:31

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