"...who had never had but the one..." - why here stands "never"? In the story of the Treasure Island Jim during his sleep sometimes imagined 'a dreadful seafaring man' like "...now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body". The meaning of that is "...who had had but the one leg", I suppose. But what nuances gives here the word "never"? I have found the same looking structure in the statement of Voltaire: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." So, he had made only one prayer, hadn't he? But why here also "never" is used?
Aug 8, 2018 4:40 PM
Answers · 10
'But' in this context means 'only' and is used for emphasis. http://learnersdictionary.com/definition/but 1 : 2only They have but two weeks to get ready. — sometimes used for emphasis If they had but given me a chance, I know I could have done it. He was here but five minutes ago. She is still but a child. This new product offers many advantages: speed, convenience, and durability, to name but a few.
August 8, 2018
"Never" is used to emphasise the uniqueness of the item/action described (the fact that he only had one leg and the fact that he had prayed just once). It could be expressed with a different structure, removing "never" and "but": "He only had one leg...", "I have only made one prayer to God...". It's a matter of style. Hope it helps a bit!
August 8, 2018
Still haven’t found your answers?
Write down your questions and let the native speakers help you!