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Re: "all but gone"

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 20, 2006

In Reply to: "All but gone" posted by Bonnie on December 20, 2006

: What does the phrase "all but gone" mean?

The key phrase or expression is "all but," which can be used with a very large number of adjectives, participles, nouns, pronouns and verbs. (Have I left anything out?) If you type your phrase into the search box on the top of the previous page, you'll get some useful examples (and one that is questionable).

Perhaps you'd like to augment the discussion there with the one in the Oxford English Dictionary. One definition there is:

Here's a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary.

"c. all but: everything short of. Hence, advb. Almost, very nearly, well nigh: see ALL A. 8b."

s.v. all: " b. all but: Everything short of. Hence (adverbially) Almost, very nearly, well nigh, (also with hyphen) used adj., almost complete or entire; in ellipt. use: almost; also as n.
1598 J. BASTARD in Farr S.P. II. 306 Man..All but resembleth God, all but his glasse, All but the picture of his maiestie. a1678 MARVELL Poems Wks. III. 412 Society is all but rude To this delicious solitude. 1810 M. L. WEEMS Let. in Wks. III. 14 Doctor Fendall..sold 60 doll[ar]s all but. 1816 TUCKEY Narr. Exped. R. Zaire i. 18 Negro washerwomen, whose state of all but nudity. 1831 CARLYLE Sart. Res. II. ii. 111 The all-but omnipotence of early culture. 1862 STANLEY Jew. Ch. I. v. 87 These were all but unknown to Greeks and Romans. 1866 PUSEY Mirac. Prayer 12 An all-but-infinite variety of phænomena. 1878 R. B. SMITH Carthage 203 The best and all-but-sufficing answer. 1881 GILBERT Patience 11 Col. (apologetically). I'm afraid we're not quite right. Ang. Not supremely, perhaps, but, oh, so all-but! Oh, Saphir, are they not quite too all-but? 1914 'I. HAY' Knight on Wheels xix. 192 Most of them are Impossibles, but there are a good many All-Buts. 1920 'W. S. PALMER' Christianity & Christ 43 Until the great all-but-men brought forth true men. 1935 W. EMPSON Poems 3 Our all-but freedom."

The OED is not quite through. "But" in the meaning of "except" or "with the exception of" is treated under "but". Unfortunately, the discussion of "but," like the use of it, can be extremely complex.

s.v. but " I. In a simple sentence; introducing a word or phrase (rarely a clause) which is excepted from the general statement: Without, with the exception of, except, save.

1. After universal statements with all, every, any. a. In OE. construed as a prep. with dative. (See A. 3.)
a1000 Beowulf 705 (Z.) Ealle buton anum. c1000 ÆLFRIC Job (Ettm.) iv. 15 Ealle a ing..buton am"

A. 3. mentioned above is:

"3. Leaving out, barring, with the exception of, except, save. Distinctly a preposition in OE.
979-82 O.E. Chron. (MS. Cott. Tib. AIII) a feng Eadmund to..and heold seofoe healf {asg}ear butan II nihtum. a1000 Menolog. 87 (Gr.) Ymb first wucan butan anre niht.

In later times, the original prepositional and later conjunctional uses are so inseparable that the whole are treated under C."

This is more than you wanted to know, but if you read it carefully you'll find "all but" pretty well covered.