"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day."

--Excerpt from Great Expectation

How to understand the bold "but"? As I can't see transition between "the formation" and "the long chain".

  • See Rathony's answer. – Marv Mills Dec 10 '15 at 16:49

You have to look up but for to understand the meaning:

Except, except for, not counting; were it not for


In the sentence, if it had not been for or had it not been for could be substituted for but for.


But for your help, I would not have succeeded.

If it had not been for your help, I would not have succeeded.

Without your help, I would not have succeeded.

  • It explains the matter exactly. I didn't know the combinition of 'but' and 'for'. Thanks. – HUANG Taizi Dec 10 '15 at 16:49
  • @HUANGTaizi Glad that I could help. There is a related question. :) – user140086 Dec 10 '15 at 16:52

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