"He forgot his enmity to Manfred, whom he saw but little hope of dispossessing by force; "

I'm reading a novel called The castle of Otranto. And I'm confused the usage of 'but' in the sentence above.

Does it have the same meaning without 'but' ,and 'but' can be removed?

Thank you for reading!

  • Yes, it would have the same meaning if you removed the but, though it would change the flavor, or style, of the piece. The but here is an example (I believe) of elision "he saw nought but a little..." or "he saw nothing but a little".
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 9, 2015 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


Yes, it means the same thing with or without 'but.'

Here, 'but' approximately means 'only.'

  • It means 'only'. "We go but rarely, sir." says Caroline Bingley in the script for the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series. Meaning, they only rarely attend court assemblies.
    – anemone
    Feb 9, 2015 at 17:18
  • @anamone It has a different distribution, which I think CactusHouse is implying. Feb 9, 2015 at 17:21
  • @EdwinAshworth - How does a different distribution apply to this single case?
    – anemone
    Feb 9, 2015 at 17:24
  • @anemone Which single case? A word's 'distribution' refers to all possible positions it might take in an acceptable sentence. 'He saw but little hope of dispossessing ...' works as a dated expression; 'He saw only little hope of dispossessing ...' doesn't. // Sorry about the typo. Feb 9, 2015 at 17:29
  • @EdwinAshworth - I'm aware that it is dated. That's why I'm quoting the script, which (I suppose) is intended to feel dated as well (I wasn't able to find it in the book though). I'm disputing 'approximately', because I think in this particular sentence it exactly means 'only'.
    – anemone
    Feb 9, 2015 at 17:41

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