I've made the sentence:

The airport was built all but with the techonology I mentioned earlier.

I'm trying to learn how to use the all but idiom in the sentences. I'm nt sure about the sentence, it seems a little wierd to me.

3 Answers 3


I think why your construction sounds weird is the placement of the word "with".

It seems like it should be:

The airport was built with all but the technology I mentioned earlier.

"All but" is modifying "the technology I mentioned earlier". Here, it's short for "all (technology) but the technology I mentioned earlier", where the "but" is to mean "except". It's strange to move the "with" in between them for the same reason it would be strange to see:

The airport was built all technology but with the technology I mentioned earlier.

And this clearly doesn't make sense since with our conjunction "but", we should be able to look at the first phrase and have them make sense:

The airport was built all technology

Clearly, this is begging for a "with" between "built" and "all technology".


All but X is often used in colorful language to express that something has done everything possible to almost, but not quite, cross a limit or threshold that should not be crossed. Most the examples that I can think of mean this figuratively.

I don't let her cook anymore; she all but burnt the house down the last time she tried.

She probably didn't literally almost burn the house down, but the speaker/writer is trying to say that's how bad her cooking was.

My dog all but bit the face off the last salesman the last time he was around, So they don't come around my house anymore.

Again, the dog has likely not literally bitten anything, but the speaker/writer is trying to say that's how scary the dog was.

So, given this:

The airport was built all but with the technology I mentioned earlier.

This implies that "with the technology I mentioned earlier" is something that would push "airport" over some type of limit/threshold.

It is difficult to know for sure what that is without more surrounding context, but I would guess it has something to do with intrusive surveillance or security technology.

It is odd to use all but like this.

  • 1
    Yeah agreed. "All but" is equivalent to certain meanings of "practically" or "almost", neither of which fit in the OP's post.
    – Rob Grant
    Jul 17, 2015 at 13:21

The "all but" idiom describes something that is as close as possible to being [adjective] as it possibly can without actually being [adjective].

For example: "I was all but unconscious after that boxing match." A boxer might say this after he had a very close match where he was probably delirious or coming very close to being knocked out, but managed to win in the end.

This post might help: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/9967/all-but-idiom-has-two-meanings

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