I was watching this motivational video, with excerpts from a Podcast Joe Rogan Experience, and Kevin Hart is speaking about how bad things happen to you, but they will eventually pass. He used a phrase with the word "but" that I didn't understand. He says:

"There's a payoff for bad eventually" "It can't be bad but for so long

What does the word "but" mean here?

Is it an intensive like in this TFD def? 2. Used as an intensive: Get out of here but fast!

Edit: this is the part when he says it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLDBDpfPWjE&ab_channel=BetterSelf

  • It doesn't make sense to me. Maybe it would with more context.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:23
  • When people talk they say all kinds of odd things in connected speech. Just disregard it. He means: except for so long. i.e. some period of time. The word but can mean except.
    – Lambie
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:26
  • It can be bad but not for so long! Feb 4, 2022 at 0:06
  • 1
    This seems to be the bit. Feb 4, 2022 at 0:08
  • Thanks Andrew, That's very helpful. Feb 4, 2022 at 11:49

1 Answer 1


but, adverb (not comparable)

  1. (chiefly literary or poetic) Merely, only, just, no more than
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:merely
    Christmas comes but once a year.

So "It can't [can not] be bad but for so long" means "It can be bad only for so long." In other words, the length of time for which "it" will be bad is limited; eventually things will be better.

Note that the example sentence is not, strictly speaking, an example of good usage because it contains a double negative. This is common in informal speech.

  • I thought about it like this: It can't be bad but (=except) for so (=this [limited and defined]) long but your answer is better! Feb 4, 2022 at 0:11
  • That's a good interpretation as well!
    – randomhead
    Feb 4, 2022 at 0:14
  • randomhead@ Kevin@ How about the suggestion I provided at the end of the post? Can it be an intensive? Then the sentence would have the meaning of " It can't be bad **but (meaning: for very)**long" Feb 4, 2022 at 11:58

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