I'm a bit confused with the usage of all but and none but:

  1. "We are all but defenseless" – should mean we are definitely defenseless?
  2. "None but misfortunes follow" – only misfortunes follow?

Were all but and none but used correctly here?

How do you use them correctly? There seems to be a contradiction.

  • For all but, I would word the direct version as we have only our [weak] defenses left
    – virmaior
    Feb 12, 2014 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


The meaning of "all but" is "everything, except", or "almost". Therefore, "all but defenseless" means "everything except defenseless" or "almost defenseless".

Similarly, the meaning of "none but" is "nothing, except", or "only". Therefore, "none but misfortunes" means "nothing except misfortunes" or "only misfortunes".

They're used correctly in those sentences, and there's supposed to be a contrast between "all but" and "none but".

  • Thanks for the answer, that definitely clears it up. :) Thanks! Feb 12, 2014 at 17:33
  • 2
    Wait what? "everything except defenseless" means that you are not defenseless at all, right? I mean, here's a list of "all" (not really, but for the sake of argument) things related to defense: (defenseless, moderately armoured, tough, impenetrable, invincible). Let's see, you're all but defenseless, so that means you are not defenseless, but you are moderately armoured, tough, impenetrable and/or invincible. So, all but defenseless logically implies you are actually not at all defenseless, following this explanation, right? What am I misunderstanding here?
    – Joeytje50
    Jul 15, 2020 at 15:33

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