7

Which pronoun is correct in the following sentence?

No one but her/she ever made a perfect score on the test

The answer according to the book is "her", but it is getting on my nerves. I tried solving it by making a different statement as follows:

She made a perfect score on the test

Why does using "No one but" change it to accusative case?

  • 1
    I'd say either "her" or "she" is acceptable here. To me, "her" in this context sounds more modern, and more colloquial. "She" sounds like something my grandfather would have said - it is nominative after all. I would probably use either one of them, depending on how the mood grabbed me. – user16269 Jun 21 '12 at 12:08
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But is here a preposition and when a pronoun follows a preposition it is in the accusative case. If you substitute except for but, which more or less has the same meaning, you will see that it has to be her.

  • wow using "except" for "but" really clears it.Thank You – Kartik Anand Jun 21 '12 at 12:11
  • I'm glad it helps. – Barrie England Jun 21 '12 at 12:14
  • @BarrieEngland Congrats on 40K! – Daniel Jun 22 '12 at 14:56
6

Traditionally, it should be "no one but him" if the phrase is an object phrase, and "no one but he" if it is a subject phrase. Consider the following passages from Shakespeare:

It is, because no one should sway but he;
No one but he should be about the king;

I'll fight with none but thee; for I do hate thee

The quarrel toucheth none but us alone;

Then yield, my lords; and here conclude with me
That Margaret shall be queen, and none but she.

You use the same preposition you would use if you removed "none but"he should sway; he should be about the king; I'll fight with thee; The quarrel toucheth us; she [Margaret] shall be queen. This is explained quite cogently in Lindley Murray's English Grammar from 1808.

Today, some people still use this system, although it appears that the majority of people always use the accusative case, as explained in Barrie's answer.

Garner's Modern American Usage recommends the nominative case when the but phrase precedes the verb, and the accusative when it follows. They give an example:

None of the defendants but he were convicted.
None of the defendants were convicted but him.

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

Should you say No one but I read the book or No one but me read the book? If but is a conjunction in these sentences, you should use the nominative form I. If but is a preposition, you should use me. ...
These recommendations [the accusative case] are supported by 73% of the Usage Panel when the but phrase precedes the verb and by 93% of the Usage Panel when the but phrase follows the verb.

So when but comes before the verb, it appears that around a quarter of the Usage Panel is still following the traditional system, which has been used since the time of Shakespeare.

Which one should you use on a standardized English test? They shouldn't put this kind of question on a standardized test, since it appears that grammar books differ in their recommendations. But it appears that they do. I don't know which grammar the testing agencies like.

  • I think the question is more related with how you define the word but. If you replace but with excluding, what case would you use? "No one excluding she ever made a perfect score" is not grammatical. Some dictionaries like Oxford Online Dictionary classifies excluding as a preposition. – user140086 Feb 19 '16 at 6:37
0

Both of them are correct. It largely depends on how you define the word but. If you define it as a preposition, you have to use the objective (accusative) case her as Barrie England mentioned in the answer.

No one but her ever made a perfect score on the test.

In the above sentence, but could be replaced with except (for) or excluding.

However, if you define it as a conjunction, the subjective (nominative) case could also be used.

No one but she ever made a perfect score on the test.

The above sentence is coordinated from the below sentence:

No one has ever made a perfect score on the test, but she has made a perfect score on the test.

in the same way as "He and she went to the same school" is coordinated from:

He went to the same school and she went to the same school.

It is not disputable you have to use the she in the above sentence, however, the word but could be used both as a conjunction and preposition making its usage more complicated than and. One thing for sure is you can't use the subjective (nominative) case she after except (for) and excluding.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

  • Sometimes you have to use she after except; when it's a conjunction. Consider: "All of my friends went to the same school, except she didn't." – Peter Shor Feb 25 '16 at 15:12
  • @PeterShor Except can be used both as a preposition and a conjunction. Of course she would be used if except is used as a conjunction. – user140086 Feb 25 '16 at 15:15

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