There is a rule stated on englishgrammar.org saying that we use bare infintives

After some prepositions like except, but, save and than

She can do everything but cook.

She did nothing except cry.

However, we can see usage of both Gerund and to + verb 1 after them.

“She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” ― J.D. Salinger (goodreads)


"But Maclean had taken his share of the punch, and vowed that no gentleman should leave his table after the bowl was brewed; so there was nothing for it but to sit and hear Jacobite toasts and Gaelic songs, till all were tipsy and staggered off to the bed or the barn for their night's rest."

So, what's the rule for non-finite verbs' usage after these words?


If you look at the first two examples, and read it without the but/except

She can [do everything but] cook.

She did [nothing except] cry

We have normal sentences- subject, modal and verb- with a but in the middle.

In the third sentence, you have to take out a bit more:

She was[n't doing a thing that I could see, except] standing

You can now see that it's a past continuous sentence, with standing as an active participle.

In the third example, there is no subject, no modal. You can't take anything out to make a complete sentence.

there was nothing for it but to sit

Here, the writer doesn't say explicitly who is sitting: he is talking about the activity of sitting, so you have to use an infinitive (to sit) or gerund (sitting).

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