Talk:cannot but

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RFD discussion[edit]

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I don't really see how this is different from "can but", "will but", "does but" and every other possible use of but in this sense. We possibly need to improve but, but I don't think we need this. Ƿidsiþ 15:02, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

Strong delete. No more entry-worthy than can only ("I can only hope"). Lots of constructs use but in this way, e.g. "I wish but to tell you...", "we can but try". Equinox 11:00, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
I couldn't help but wonder whether we have any usage examples or citations that contain the collocation. A quick use of the search button shows none. I would favor keeping this until we had at least one, presumably at [[but]]. DCDuring TALK 15:25, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
Webster 1913 had: "Not . . . but, or Not but, only. [Obs. or Colloq.] --Chaucer." DCDuring TALK 15:28, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
Definition doesn't help as it just lists synonyms which aren't any easier to understand than cannot but. Delete, property of but, not 'cannot but'. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:21, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Keep. I'm not convinced this is unidiomatic. The uses with positive verbs, "can but", "will but", etc., are using but in the sense of "merely, only" (Adverb sense 1). But "I cannot but applaud your zeal" doesn't mean "I cannot only applaud your zeal"; it means "I cannot do otherwise than applaud your zeal" or simply "I must applaud your zeal". I don't know how we would write a definition of but that can change "unable" into "obliged", nor do I think that such a meaning of but is ever used except after cannot (or can't). I'm unaware of any expression like "I will not but X" or "I do not but X". Also, the fact that "I can but applaud your zeal" is nearly synonymous with "I cannot but applaud your zeal" strongly suggests that at least one of the two means more than it what it appears to mean on the surface, and I'm pretty sure it's cannot but that means more than it appears to. —Angr 15:17, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
    What's happening is that there is an ellipsis of the verb in question (do, in your example, also often be), but this is a function of but (otherwise than) which happens in several different collocations, including with "dare not but" and also in interrogative forms like "who could but…?", and it is best dealt with at but. Ƿidsiþ 05:59, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Keep. Agree with User:Angr. Common usage indicates a strong positive. --Jacecar (talk) 09:55, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Keep. It is a calque of the Latin non possum non. We also need cannot help but, which is a confusion between cannot but and cannot help -ing. You cannot explain it logically. — TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 02:38, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

Kept. bd2412 T 03:03, 2 January 2013 (UTC)