Can someone tell me how to make a sentence with "none but"?

None but they/them is/are responsible for it.


The difference between "they" and "them" is that "they" is referring to the subject, while "them" is referring to the object. An example taken from here:

They is used to refer to the subject of a clause. In other words, it usually represents the ‘doers’ of the action described by the verb, and usually refers back to two or more people or things that were mentioned earlier:

The children were kind. They gave me a present.


Them is used to refer to the object of a clause. In other words, it usually represents the group of people or things that have ‘experienced’ the action described by the verb, and refers back to two or more people or things that were mentioned earlier:

I’ve bought some apples. I’ll put them on the table.

The people who are responsible in your sentence is the subject.

They (subject) are responsible for it (object).

It should be "are" instead of "is" because "they" is a plural.

  • Why isn't the accusative case forced by the (classically labelled) preposition but here? You'd certainly select 'None besides them have ever been found.' – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 14:46
  • @EdwinAshworth You could be right, but I think "None but" is different from "None like" in that "None but" mean "only" and "None like" means "No [people] like". I am probably not sufficiently knowledgeable about English grammar to be really sure. If you can find a source I can add it to my answer. – loading... Jul 13 '17 at 14:48
  • I've altered the comparison sentence. It's now a paraphrase. // I wouldn't feel able to write a decent answer at this stage, and I consider myself quite reasonable at this sort of stuff. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 14:51
  • Yes, I am still new to this (and not a native speaker), so it is difficult for me to be certain about some of the English grammar. Also, I have a tendency to prematurely write things online that I really ought to let someone that actually knows what they are talking about write. Thanks for your comments. Do you want me to delete/change anything about my answer? – loading... Jul 13 '17 at 14:55

None but means only. [formal] (Collins Dictionary)

None but God will ever know what I suffered.
He whispered so softly that none but Julie heard him.

"They" is subject pronoun and "them" is object pronoun.
You should use "they" in the sentence as the subject.

Verb should agree with subject so "are" is used here.

None but they are responsible for it.


they or them??
"But" (after a negative, see below) is not a preposition, it is a conjunction. So: in the subject of a sentence you use "but they" for the same reason as you use "they".

is or are??
We say "they are" (plural) so probably you also want "None but they are". (Even if you normally say "None is".)

Oxford English Dictionary has all of their "none but" examples in the "conjunction" part of the page. ... with explanation:

C. 4. So after a negative, expressed or implied. (Here but regularly translates Latin nisi, and may be explained as ‘unless, if not’. It has been treated as a conjunction from the earliest times.)"

  • I found this in OALD. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 14:01
  • @EdwinAshworth ... interesting. "But" can be a preposition. Should we think it is used that way here? I think not, but others may disagree... – GEdgar Jul 13 '17 at 14:06
  • It's certainly a preposition rather than a conjunction here. CED << but preposition: except: Everyone but Andrew knows. >> // This Learn American English Online article may help (British English is identical here). As may this answer by Araucaria. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 14:12
  • So you're saying that 'none but' should be treated differently from 'but'. This I can perhaps go with, but ' "But" is not a preposition, it is a conjunction (you can find that in a dictionary).' is not acceptable. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 14:30
  • You are right, I guess I should have said "But after a negative is not a preposition but a conjunction." – GEdgar Jul 13 '17 at 14:33

Quirk et al in ACGEL[1985] (6.5) actually address this problem in depth.

After indefinite pronouns (nobody, everyone, all etc) + but or except, usage is ... divided between subjective and objective case forms (depending [it would possibly seem] on whether but and except are considered conjunctions or prepositions [in this usage]):



There seems to be a tendency (at least among prescriptivists) to favour the subjective case after but used in 'subject territory' (example (a)), and the objective case after but used in 'object territory' (example (b)). In example (c), using 'I' would be considered a hypercorrect form:

(a).......[None]/Nobody but she can solve our problems.

(b).......[None]/Nobody can solve our problems but her.

(c).......Nobody said anything but/except me.


The objective form is the generally accepted form when the pronoun is in an object relation to the verb:

(d).......I want nobody but him [to come with us].

(slightly reformatted)

This is now over thirty years old, and the section starting 'There seems to be ...' was stating only 'a [seeming] tendency [at least among prescriptivists]'. I'd say that, with perhaps the rare exception, only (a') 'Nobody but her can solve our problems' would be used nowadays; some might consider this too informal for some purposes. I'd advise them to rewrite rather than choose (a), which sounds rarefied.

I'd also suggest that there is a strong case for considering 'nobody but' as unitary (compare 'just'), avoiding the perceived need to classify 'but' here.

  • I would disagree. There is still a very strong tendency to use None but he when it is the subject. See Ngram. When it's the object we use nobody but him. See Ngram. – Peter Shor Jul 13 '17 at 15:45
  • Addendum to previous comment: there's actually a difference in usage between none but ... and *nobody but... *. As far as I can tell, there's no grammatical justification for this. See Ngram. – Peter Shor Jul 13 '17 at 15:50
  • Have you somehow managed to ensure subject-status for 'none but he' etc? I get different results using she/her. And note that the results are low all round. Cf these Ngrams (though 'If only you would' makes up about 50% of these). // 'None but he' sounds very highfalutin' to my ears. Perhaps not as bad as 'It is we' but close to 'It is I'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '17 at 16:16
  • Subject status is ensure by using a capital 'N' in None but he. And it seems to be 50/50 for None but she/her, as well as Nobody but he/him, so people are probably using "None but he" because they've heard it from older documents. (And you're also right ... today people would use "Only he".) – Peter Shor Jul 13 '17 at 17:40

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