But for / If not for

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Please let me know the differences, if any, between "but for" and "if not for".  Are there any restrictions of tenses being used with them?  Are these sentences correct?

1.  But for our unity, peace is not possible.

2.  If not for the students, who is going to clean the compound? 

asked Sep 29 '12 at 15:37 Z. A. Jazley Contributor

Grammar aside (and I agree with the "conditional" answer) and considering style, for sentence no. 1 I would suggest "If not for our unity" or "If it were not for our unity." Reason: potential confusion of initially reading "but" as a coordinating conjunction.

d.s.koellingSep 29 '12 at 18:09

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But for our unity, peace would not be possible.

If not for the students, no one would clean the compound.

link answered Sep 29 '12 at 15:48 Peter Guess Expert

Do you think that a simple present tense can't be used with But for / If not for?

Z. A. JazleySep 29 '12 at 15:54

That's correct. You need the conditional.

Peter GuessSep 29 '12 at 16:07

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