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I'm quite confused about how 'save' is used in this phrase. Can someone help me understand this, please? I know that 'save' can be used to show an exception, but still, the phrase seems confusing.

"They spoke most of gold and silver and jewels and the making of things by smith-craft, and Beorn did not appear to care for such things: there were no things of gold or silver in his hall, and few save the knives were made of metal at all."

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"Save" may be used interchangeably with "except" here. In Beorn's hall, he has few things made of metal, except the knives, which are made of metal.

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"Save" can be an uncommon way to say "except", but is generally not used colloquially and unlikely to be used this way in informal conversation. You're more likely to see it in a literary context where it's a stylistic word choice.

It is not incorrect to use it this way. It's just not commonly used in conversational modern American English. Even when used, you'll most often see it used as "save for," which makes the intended meaning of "except [for]" more explicit.

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  • Or modern British English. It's archaic/literary.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 22, 2023 at 15:23

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