They do but flatter themselves.

What is this sentence structure?

  • Nothing strange about the sentence or its structure. It's just a difference sense of the word but. See the definitions in a good dictionary.
    – Kris
    Feb 24, 2014 at 5:59
  • It's the old-fashioned limiting modifier sense of but (= just), and old-fashioned do-support. Feb 1, 2015 at 23:38
  • To see the role of "but", consider these two similar examples: (1) They do nothing but flatter themselves (2) They do little but flatter themselves. Jul 14, 2015 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


"They do but X" is an old-timey way of saying "they are really only X." In your example, it means they are only saying/doing something to make themselves look good. The 'but' in this case is used as a diminutive like 'just,' 'simply,' 'only,' or 'merely.'

  • Thank you. Could you help me read this old style sermon? In the chatroom?
    – user41481
    Feb 24, 2014 at 6:18
  • Sure but I don;t know how.
    – Elijah
    Feb 24, 2014 at 6:22
  • go to the chat section and you will see "Text Analysis.
    – user41481
    Feb 24, 2014 at 6:26