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What does but until in a sentence mean? I came across the phrase in a sentence that sounded almost exactly as this:

He was a great person but until he started caring for other people's feelings.

I have found another example of sentence, tweeted by Rupert Murdoch. His tweet was:

Maybe most Muslims are peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.

A compact explanation to this tweet would be real handy.

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    The end of this sentence seems to be missing - can you provide the rest? – Jack Graveney Nov 1 '15 at 17:47
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    "but until" is not an independent unit in the sentence (sorry if the language is imprecise). It is the words "but" and "until" next to each other, and each plays a separate role. – Matt Samuel Nov 2 '15 at 1:34
  • I have added a more understandable example. You guys may read it and help me with it afterwards. Thanks – user145391 Nov 2 '15 at 3:18
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    Both of your examples have problems. The first is missing the rest of the sentence, and the second, at the very least, is missing "are". – Hot Licks Dec 9 '15 at 23:03
  • Perhaps the first sentence has a word missing. It seems like it should be "He was a great person, but not until he started caring for other people's feelings." Otherwise it needs something else, for example: "He was a great person, but until he started caring for other people's feelings, his greatness would be overshadowed by his meanness." – RJH Dec 9 '15 at 23:58
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There is no phrase "but until". There are two words, but and until, which can be looked up in a dictionary.

Your second sentence could be rephrased as "Maybe most Moslems are peaceful. However, until..."; the main verb is must be held.

The first sentence is ungrammatical. If you have remembered it correctly, the writer mistakenly inserted "but" or (more probably) omitted "not"; you should remember that many writers are in a hurry on the Internet, and typos, infelicities and even grammatical errors do occur (even, occasionally, on EL&U).

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The sentence is badly structured.

Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible."

Paraphrase:

  • It is possible that most Moslems are peaceful.
  • Most Moslems [refuse to] recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer.
  • [Therefore] most Moslems must be held responsible [for...something].
  • When most Moslems recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer, then they don't have to be held responsible [for...something]

This doesn't make a lot of sense, obviously.

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    The sentence is entirely grammatical (once are is inserted) and makes perfect sense in lingusitic terms. You may disagree with the sentiment, but this is the wrong place to say so. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Dec 9 '15 at 22:51
  • First, I'm not sure where you mean to insert "are." You should put it in a separate answer. Second, I am not judging the sentiment, only its expression. When I said "this doesn't make a lot of sense," I meant it's literally non-sense, an accumulation of disconnected phrases. – egrunin Dec 11 '15 at 3:07

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