I am curious what the part of speech of "nothing but" is. I have some examples:

  1. We could see nothing but fog.
  2. nothing but the best will do.

In my opinion, there's no difference between "nothing but" and "only". So I think the part of speech of "nothing but" is adv.

3 Answers 3


Nothing but is not a part of speech.

Nothing is a pronoun meaning "no thing". But is a preposition meaning "except", and taking fog as its object; the preposition phrase but fog modifies nothing.

Note that the PP can be separated from its host:

There was nothing we could see but fog.
Nothing will do but the best.


"but" also replaces "except" in grammar. A preposition.


Visibility was down to zero, there was nothing but fog.


In your sentence, NOTHING BUT is an adverbial phrase.

Nothing (pronoun) + but (except, preposition)

= Nothing but ( only) ----->> Adverbial Phrase.

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