can anyone tell me the meaning of "There was not anyone in the room but liked his singing" Is this sentence correct and if it is, then could anyone explain to me it's meaning.

  • The sentence doesn't sound correct to me. – NibblyPig Jul 25 '16 at 9:57
  • I'd read that as an archaic usage meaning 'there was no-one in the room who didn't like his singing'. You can think of it as 'There was not anyone in the room but (those people who) liked his singing.' – Spagirl Jul 25 '16 at 10:05
  • The answers in this related question may be useful english.stackexchange.com/questions/286732/… – Spagirl Jul 25 '16 at 10:59

This is an obsolescent use of but, which the OED explains as:

14 b. With omission of the pronominal subject or object of the subord. clause, so that but acts as a negative relative: That..not, who..not. (Latin quin.)

So the meaning is "There was not anyone in the room that did not like his singing."

'But' is often used this way in literature up to the 19th century, but it is rare nowadays.

  • There are a few expressions that use this sense: "we can but try", and "I was but a lad" for example. Even these are infrequently seen now. – Hugh Meyers Jul 25 '16 at 12:08
  • I don't think that is the same sense, @HughMeyers: in your examples you can replace but by only or just. What makes the original sentence hard to understand is that you can't replace it by a single word – Colin Fine Jul 25 '16 at 14:06

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