but for somebody/something
but for (something)
Except for something; if not for something. That major home repair would have sent me into debt but for my emergency fund.
but for someone or something
if it were not for someone or something. But for the railing, I'd have fallen down the stairs. But for the children, Mrs. Smith would have left her husband years ago.
Except for, were it not for. For example, But for the afternoon shower, it was a perfect day, or But for the children, they would have gotten a divorce long ago. [c. 1200]
but for somebody/somethingexcept for somebody/something; without somebody/something: But for a brief period after leaving college, he had never been unemployed. ♢ But for you, we would not have been able to start up the business.
Were it not for: except for: We would have reached the summit but for the weather.