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Which one is grammatically correct: "Nobody but them was present there." or "Nobody but they were present there."?

marked as duplicate by tchrist Aug 13 '17 at 22:37

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  • 1
    I'm sure there is a grammatically correct sentence that can be structured like this, but it might be easier to rewrite it to "Only they were present," – Klyzx Jul 14 '17 at 5:09
  • This is quite similar to your previous question, isn't it? Maybe you could explain what you think the difference is: None but (they/them) is/are – herisson Jul 14 '17 at 21:43

This usage of but is as a preposition. Therefore, it takes an object (they/them) in the objective case. The correct word to use here is them: "Nobody but them was present there."

Note that the subject of the sentence is nobody, not the personal pronoun; therefore, the correct form of the verb is the third-person singular, was, instead of were.

  • 1
    I think it's more complicated than that. You can't say nobody were ..., so nobody but they were ... is ungrammatical. On the other hand, you can say none were, and none but they were seems to be used. I can find none but they were and nobody but them was in Google books, with none and nobody subjects; but not the other way around. – Peter Shor Jul 14 '17 at 18:58

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