I would like to know what the following sentence means.

Positive change is but a thought away.

I know that the sentence is the same as "Positive change is only a thought away." However, I fail to understand "is only a thought away."

I expect that this sentence could mean one of the following two sentences.

Positive change is a matter of how you think.

Just a little more thought, and you can make positive change.

If you were to replace the first sentence with a plain English sentence, what would it be?

  • Thinking about how you will make a positive change is the first step to actions that bring that change. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


It only takes a thought to achieve a positive change.

One of the meanings of but (as an adverb) is:

no more than; only. (OxfordL)

Only a + noun + away is a common expression that means that it only takes that little to obtain something or get somewhere. Think of just a click away. Here are some ore collocations of this kind:

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In your example away is used (metaphorically though) as an adjective with the meaning:

distant in space or time (M-W)

  • a lake 10 miles away
  • the season is two months away

Note that but a is more formal than only a and even more formal than just a.

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