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They do but flatter themselves.

What is this sentence structure?

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Edwin Ashworth, andy256, Misti, anongoodnurse Feb 2 '15 at 21:01

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  • 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 '14 at 5:59
  • It's the old-fashioned limiting modifier sense of but (= just), and old-fashioned do-support. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 1 '15 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. – chasly from UK Jul 14 '15 at 20:17
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"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 '14 at 6:18
  • Sure but I don;t know how. – Elijah Feb 24 '14 at 6:22
  • go to the chat section and you will see "Text Analysis. – user41481 Feb 24 '14 at 6:26