Who should I meet there but Nancy?

Is that but the same as "Excuse me, but could you tell me the way to the station?" or "I have nothing but this one"?

  • It's the Negative Polarity but that means except; in this sentence it's triggered by the Wh-question.
    – John Lawler
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 17:46
  • 1
    ...(OP's examples 1 & 3): whereas that in sentence 2 is a sentence connector - sub-category redirection from pragmatic marker (conversation opener/politeness) to matrix sentence. It isn't really the usual coordinator incarnation of 'but' (men are from Mars but women are from Venus) as it doesn't connect 'balanced' components - try sticking 'and' between "Excuse me" and "could you tell me the way to the station?". Its usage here is old-fashioned.
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


In this context, it means other than.


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