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I quite often use 'but' at the end of sentence, and I've seen it elsewhere.

for example:

Yeah, it sounds like you guys had an awesome last night! I did get a lot of work done but.

Is this common? Is it formal English? Where else is it used?

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  • 1
    It's ungrammatical.
    – Kris
    Oct 4, 2014 at 5:42
  • 1
    It's grammatical, common, not very formal. I think but in such a sentence is more of an adverb or interjection than a conjunction. But other people might argue that it's a conjunction that's been moved. Oct 4, 2014 at 6:20
  • 1
    It's not English, to my ear at least. FWIW: The only times I have seen it used, it was written by Swedish people in English emails. Dunno whether that anecdotal info is significant or helpful. Perhaps there is a similar construction in Swedish? Just a guess.
    – Drew
    Oct 4, 2014 at 6:41
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    Definitely not formal. It's a very unusual construction or expression, one I'm unfamiliar with and. :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 4, 2014 at 6:53
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    @Kris, Drew, It's not standard Gen Am or RP, but it's completely grammatical in many varieties of English, notably several of those in Ireland, Scotland, Australia and NewZealand. dwjohnston, are you from any of these places by any chance? Oct 4, 2014 at 11:38

3 Answers 3

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Sentence-final but as it is known is a well documented feature of English as spoken in Ireland, much of Scotland and also in Australia and New Zealand. Although it is perfectly grammatical, it is not considered formal and won't be seen in formal writing or documents. It has been the subject of many academic papers in linguistics and a few books. If you'd like to read up on it, here's a source to get you going:

  • Mulder & Thompson, 2008, 'The grammaticization of but as a final particle in English conversation' in Ritva Laury Studies in clause combining. John Benjamins. pp. 179-204.
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  • Please pay particular attention to the use of "grammaticization," (rather than 'grammaticality') in the title. See also: benjamins.com/#catalog/books/slcs.162.12han/details "The examination of the various semantic-pragmatic meanings shows that they can directly be put along a specific grammaticalization chain and that instead of being explainable in terms of pragmaticalization, they can be better explained in terms of cooptation and grammaticalization. "
    – Kris
    Oct 4, 2014 at 15:14
  • Final but in Australian English conversation books.google.co.in/books?id=leE5AAAAQBAJ&pg=PA339
    – Kris
    Oct 4, 2014 at 15:23
  • @Kris They have to be grammatical before they can become grammaticalized!!!! Oct 4, 2014 at 15:29
  • Think again, esp., the (lack of) logic of your last statement.
    – Kris
    Oct 6, 2014 at 5:41
  • @Kris I don't see why you reckon there's a lack of logic there. You do get what grammaticalised means, right? It doesn't mean 'made grammatical', if that's what you were getting at? Oct 7, 2014 at 23:22
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You will hear this in the parts of the Midlands and north of England, possibly Wales, but you will not hear it in the South. There, you're more likely to hear 'innit' or 'bruv' than 'but', 'innit' in particular being an even more pointless addition to a sentence - generally, in parts of the country where the use of 'but' at the end of a sentence does not occur, it can cause confusion or be thought of as quaint but peculiar. Geordies in particular often use but in this way, as in "she's a canny lass, but", where it doesn't mean anything other than a full stop. Certainly, neither would appear in formal print.

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I would like to add that in my experience as a 19-year-old American girl in the Northeast (MD and DC mostly), I use and hear this a lot. Maybe it's spreading!

It's definitely informal/casual usage, though, and mostly meant to imply something depending on context, letting the reader/listener fill in the blanks for themselves.

Here, you might often hear "...but yeah" or "...but whatever" as a finish to the sentence, so sometimes the "yeah/whatever" gets dropped off, leaving "but" to end the sentence. This may or may not be what's happening.

But I'll give some examples to show what I mean:

Example one, unvoiced "yeah" and continuation of thought:

-Did you do your homework?
-I had a lot of trouble with solving the formulas, but... yeah, I did the homework, although it might not be 100% correct.

Example two, unvoiced "whatever", dismissal of topic:

-My cat is officially a jerk, she keeps knocking over my stuff for cat reasons. And here I thought I was going to finally clean my room, but. whatever, let's talk about something else. OR whatever, we know that's not going to happen.

Example three, implication that the opposite will occur and/or a dismissal of topic:

-What did that guy want?
-He's my brother; wanted me to give him a ride home, but. that's not happening.

I'd like to note that the final "but" may rise or fall in pitch so that it sounds like it ends in a question (as it might with example one) or sounds final (as with examples two and three).

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