Which of these two sentence form is more accurate and why:

  1. Ramiro is anything but professional.
  2. Ramiro is anything but not professional.

These both sentences conveys the same message about Ramiro being anything except professional. But which sentence should be used. I would really feel grateful if one explains the answer.

Ps. Hi, English is not my native language and this is my first question here so please be kind. Thanks. ✌

  • 1
    They don't convey the same message, they convey opposite meanings. But if you threw a comma into the second sentence after anything it would mean about the same as the first one. May 22, 2016 at 14:18
  • Can you please explain. I'd be very grateful. 😊 May 22, 2016 at 14:51
  • If you rewrite 2 as "Ramiro is anything but unprofessional" it is clear that 1 and 2 have opposite meanings. As for the comma, it is very unclear what the clause "Ramiro is anything" would mean in BrEng, unless there was more context to explain the meaning.
    – alephzero
    May 22, 2016 at 17:36
  • If I input a coma after 'anything', then are these statements equivalent? May 22, 2016 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


Ramiro is anything but professional. Ramiro is anything but not professional.

But, here, means except. In the first sentence, you are saying that Ramiro is not professional. (He is anything except professional). By using not in the second sentence you are reversing the meaning; so now you are saying that Ramiro is professional. (He is anything except not professional.)

Now consider

Ramiro is anything, but he's not professional.

This is equivalent in meaning to your first sentence.

  • 3
    +1, though it should be pointed out that "anything but X" is an idiom, and doesn't actually mean "anything except X". For example, if I say "he's anything but a carpenter", I'm not saying that he's an electrician, a plumber, the President of the United States, a chimpanzee, a bumblebee, a desk drawer, a refrigerator, a spiral galaxy . . . I'm just saying that he's really, really not a carpenter.
    – ruakh
    May 22, 2016 at 17:19

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