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The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum says (Pages 641-642):

Some prepositions appear with a wide range of complements that are licensed not by the preposition itself but by an element in the matrix clause to which the PP in question bears a modifier relation. One clear case of a preposition of this kind is except, as illustrated in the following examples:

Among the examples are these two that I'd like to focus on in this question:

[21vi] There is nothing any of us can do except be cautious.

[21vii] I don't intend to do anything except to wait for news.

My question is whether you can use except for instead of except in these two examples as follows:

(1) There is nothing any of us can do except for be cautious.

(2) I don't intend to do anything except for to wait for news.

(1') There is nothing any of us can do except for being cautious.

(2') I don't intend to do anything except for waiting for news.

In (1) and (2), only except has been changed to except for.

In (1') and (2'), the verb forms are also changed from be and to wait to being and waiting, respectively.

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  • Use a gerund with the preposition for: "There is nothing any of us can do except for being cautious.
    – Kris
    May 30, 2018 at 5:34

1 Answer 1

-1

All four sound bad. I wouldn't say any of them naturally; and I wouldn't choose to say any of them over the originals. 1 sounds especially terrible & jarring; both it and 2 sounds like something a leaner might say. 1' and 2' sound better than 1 and 2; but they are still not something that I would say as an alternative to the originals. Now, I might stay within the given paradigm and say

3 There is nothing any of us can do except to be cautious.

The only grammatical explanation I give is to describe my own usage. Others can concur or the opposite, if they like. I thought I would comment, then my comment got too long; and so an answer, if only a partial one, seemed to be the way to go here.

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  • But you could find some examples like these: "The new Electric Drive variant does everything the gas-powered coupe can do, except for restoring its driving range in a couple of minutes at a gas station." (CAR and DRIVE: goo.gl/KDA4qB) “There’s nothing you can do except for try and be your healthiest and best self,” said Misty Copeland, an American ballet dancer. (quoted in BET: goo.gl/r7nzc5)
    – JK2
    May 30, 2018 at 5:01
  • Cool. I already said the version with the -ing form is not as bad, or even "better" than the bare infinitive after 'except for'. I still do not like the second construction. People talk and write all kind(s) of ways. As I said, I can't give a grammatical explanation, which is what I assume you want. Sorry. May 30, 2018 at 5:10

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