No ifs, ands, or buts

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The expression no ifs, ands or buts is one that is older than you may think. The roots of this phrase go back to the 1500s. We will examine the meaning of the term no ifs, ands or buts, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

No ifs, ands, or buts is a phrase that is often used when expressing that one is certain of something. For instance, if one is confident that he will accomplish a task, he may end that reassurance with the phrase no ifs, ands or buts. The expression no ifs, ands or buts is often used as a warning that the speaker will not accept any excuses from the listener for not accomplishing a task. To make an illustration, a father may insist to his son that he must clean up his room, no ifs ands or buts. No ifs ands or buts is an expression sometimes used when the speaker will not entertain any arguments to the contrary. The phrase no ifs, ands, or buts is a list of words that are often used to begin a sentence that is an explanation or excuse for bad behavior or for not fulfilling an obligation. Most often, no ifs, ands or buts is one of those phrases that is expressed in informal, spoken English. However, it is sometimes seen in written English. The correct spelling of ifs, ands, buts does not involve apostrophes, as these words are plural forms and not possessives or contractions. Punctuation may vary when rendering the term no ifs, ands, or buts in written form. Usage of the Oxford comma is optional, depending on the style guide one is following. Words that may be considered synonyms are no excuses, no doubt, with certainty.

The phrase no ifs, ands, or buts has an interesting etymology. The first known written use of the expression comes from the early 1500s in a work by Thomas Moore. At that time, the phrase was simply ifs and ands. The passage is found in The History of Kyng Richard the Third: “Thou servest me, I wene, with iffes and with andes.” At this time, the word and was not used simply as a conjunction, it was a synonym of the word if. Thomas Goodwin is credited with adding the word but to the phrase in a sermon in 1680: “The Grants of Grace run without Ifs, and Ands, and Buts.” Goodwin was a Puritan theologian, often called upon to preach before the British Commons. His sermons,  The Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth, The Vanity of Thoughts and several volumes on the Exposition of Ephesians are still available today. At one point, Goodwin escaped to live among the Dutch. He often preached to his congregation on spiritual topics such as prayer, salvation, discipleship, the covenant, forgiveness and resurrection.


Before this Fall semester, students had readily available access to withdrawing themselves from the university completely with no ifs, ands or buts. (The Washburn Review)

If the apartment is in a building with four or more units, the landlord has to give his or her consent for it be legal—no ifs, ands, or buts. (Architectural Digest)

If his professors at Wharton did inculcate in the young Mr. Trump the idea that free trade is good, we should take him at his word and challenge now-President Trump to make NAFTA and the WTO true free trade deals, with no ifs ands or buts. (The Financial Post)

“It’s a softer play on the idea than the original ‘sky was falling’ reaction last week when it sounded like it was going to be across the board, no ifs, ands or buts, and everybody was just going to get hammered,” he said. (Reuters)