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    #1

    however & but - synonyms ?

    Some time ago a student of mine asked me if I was aware of synonyms or substitutes for the word but. She was trying to avoid writing drab texts by trying to diversify the words.
    I answered her there were plenty of such words which could substitute but,
    like however, though, although, nevertheless and so on.

    But I kept thinking on my answer and recently, while studying coordinated clauses I found that in English there are only seven coordinate conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet.
    And however should be considered as an "independent marker word".

    So I think I realize that but and however cannot be synonymous words, since they have different functions.

    But (or however) when I look on the sentences above, I reckon I could have written for example:
    "However I kept thinking on my answer and ... "

    So I am confused. Can the words but and however be considered as interchangeably synonymous words (and also although, though, etc) ?


    The reference for the "seven coordinate conjunctions" and "independent marker word" I used is Independent and Dependent Clauses - The OWL at Purdue

    P.S.: Please feel free to correct any mistakes of mine in this post.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Some time ago a student of mine asked me if I was aware of synonyms or substitutes for the word but. She was trying to avoid writing drab texts by trying to diversify the words.
    I answered her there were plenty of such words which could substitute but,
    like however, though, although, nevertheless and so on.

    But I kept thinking on my answer and recently, while studying coordinated clauses I found that in English there are only seven coordinate conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet.
    And however should be considered as an "independent marker word".
    So I think I realize that but and however cannot be synonymous words, since they have different functions.

    But (or however) when I look on the sentences above, I reckon I could have written for example:
    "However I kept thinking on my answer and ... "

    So I am confused. Can the words but and however be considered as interchangeably synonymous words (and also although, though, etc) ?


    The reference for the "seven coordinate conjunctions" and "independent marker word" I used is Independent and Dependent Clauses - The OWL at Purdue

    P.S.: Please feel free to correct any mistakes of mine in this post.
    No they can't be considered interchangeable. There are very few true synonyms, and they rarely occur among function words.
    Of course there are situations or sentences in which 'but' and 'however' are interchangeable without a significant change of meaning - but that's a different question from whether two words can be called 'interchangeable'.

    In a certain context, "Get that animal outside!" and "Get that dog outside!" have the same meaning. But that doesn't mean that 'animal' and 'dog' can be considered interchangeable.

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    #3

    Talking Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Thanks, thats something new for me.

    Can you please quote an example, a sentence in which however cannot be replaced by but.

    Thank you so very much

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by anupumh View Post
    Thanks, thats something new for me.

    Can you please quote an example, a sentence in which however cannot be replaced by but.

    Thank you so very much
    However much I try, I can't think of one!

    And here are a few where 'but' cannot be replaced by 'however':
    I have but six months to live.
    There are not only chickens, but also rabbits.

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    #5

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    in English there are only seven coordinate conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet.
    And however should be considered as an "independent marker word".
    Actually, only the first five of these (and, but, or, nor, for) are true coordinating conjunctions, and this can be established by a number of simple syntactic tests.

    One is whether the word can be directly (i.e. without a comma or other orthographic divider) preceded by 'and', since no true coordinator can ever directly follow another. 'So' and 'yet' both fail to qualify since we can say e.g.

    It was sunny and so we decided to go for a picnic.
    It was raining, and yet they still went out.

    (cf. *and or..., *and but....).

    Words such as 'so' and 'yet' that serve a connective function but fail to qualify as true coordinators are classified as adverbial conjuncts.

    Another test concerns the ability to occur within (as opposed to between) clauses. 'However' can stand in the middle of a clause, squarely separating verb and predicate, e.g.

    He was, however, a good captain.

    in a way that no true coordinator ever could

    (cf. *He was, but, a good captain.)

    and is therefore also classified as an adverbial conjunct.

    Confusion can arise because, in informal usage (and, to some extent, even in formal), the traditional distinction between coordinators and conjuncts is frequently disregarded, so that people will often write e.g.

    ?It was sunny, so we decided to go for a picnic.

    thus making the conjunct a de facto coordinator. Many careful users, however - at least when they have the time/leisure to edit carefully - still observe the difference, and will either insert 'and' or replace the comma with a semi-colon.

    Conversely, to further add to the confusion, there is a stylistic tradition dating back some centuries of placing even true coordinators at the head of sentences (as opposed to between clauses in the middle of sentences.) Cf. from the 17th-century King James Bible:

    And the earth was without form and void.
     
    (Genesis 1:2)

    , in which coordinator 'and' is treated as if it were a mere adverbial conjunct such as 'moreover' or 'in addition'!

    You might, incidentally, be interested to know that another coordinator exists, 'only' (in the sense of 'but') as in

    I would go up and talk to her, only I'm too shy.

    but it is generally considered rather too informal for inclusion in formal lists of conjunctions.

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    #6

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    Actually, only the first five of these (and, but, or, nor, for) are true coordinating conjunctions, and this can be established by a number of simple syntactic tests.
    I tend to agree.
    And using a less strict definition, there are more than seven.
    In fact the source cited does not state "in English there are only seven coordinate conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet." because it does not use 'only'.
    What it does say is:
    "The seven coordinating conjunctions used as connecting words at the beginning of an independent clause are and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet. "

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    #7

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    Actually, only the first five of these (and, but, or, nor, for) are true coordinating conjunctions, and this can be established by a number of simple syntactic tests.

    One is whether the word can be directly (i.e. without a comma or other orthographic divider) preceded by 'and', since no true coordinator can ever directly follow another. 'So' and 'yet' both fail to qualify since we can say e.g.

    It was sunny and so we decided to go for a picnic.
    It was raining, and yet they still went out.

    (cf. *and or..., *and but....).

    Words such as 'so' and 'yet' that serve a connective function but fail to qualify as true coordinators are classified as adverbial conjuncts.

    Another test concerns the ability to occur within (as opposed to between) clauses. 'However' can stand in the middle of a clause, squarely separating verb and predicate, e.g.

    He was, however, a good captain.

    in a way that no true coordinator ever could

    (cf. *He was, but, a good captain.)

    and is therefore also classified as an adverbial conjunct.

    Confusion can arise because, in informal usage (and, to some extent, even in formal), the traditional distinction between coordinators and conjuncts is frequently disregarded, so that people will often write e.g.

    ?It was sunny, so we decided to go for a picnic.

    thus making the conjunct a de facto coordinator. Many careful users, however - at least when they have the time/leisure to edit carefully - still observe the difference, and will either insert 'and' or replace the comma with a semi-colon.

    Conversely, to further add to the confusion, there is a stylistic tradition dating back some centuries of placing even true coordinators at the head of sentences (as opposed to between clauses in the middle of sentences.) Cf. from the 17th-century King James Bible:

    And the earth was without form and void.
     
    (Genesis 1:2)

    , in which coordinator 'and' is treated as if it were a mere adverbial conjunct such as 'moreover' or 'in addition'!

    You might, incidentally, be interested to know that another coordinator exists, 'only' (in the sense of 'but') as in

    I would go up and talk to her, only I'm too shy.

    but it is generally considered rather too informal for inclusion in formal lists of conjunctions.
    Thank you very much for such wonderful wise explanation!

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    #8

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Thank you very much for such wonderful wise explanation!

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    #9

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Once more thank you both Raymott and philo2009. Naturally there is so much information on your posts that I will have to read and reread them many times, and study this subject more.

    However, changing the subject a little bit, I disagree with Raymott on the following point:

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I tend to agree.
    In fact the source cited does not state "in English there are only seven coordinate conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet." because it does not use 'only'.
    What it does say is:
    "The seven coordinating conjunctions used as connecting words at the beginning of an independent clause are and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet. "
    Ok, indeed the cited source does not use the word 'only', but when it uses 'The seven coordinating conjunctions ... ', it means 'only' - ok maybe the author was not so sure to emphasize it, but that is what he meant. If not, what is the function of the definite article The here?

    I am not saying the source is right or wrong, just trying to interpret what it states.

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    #10

    Re: however & but - synonyms ?

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Once more thank you both Raymott and philo2009. Naturally there is so much information on your posts that I will have to read and reread them many times, and study this subject more.

    However, changing the subject a little bit, I disagree with Raymott on the following point:



    Ok, indeed the cited source does not use the word 'only', but when it uses 'The seven coordinating conjunctions ... ', it means 'only' - ok maybe the author was not so sure to emphasize it, but that is what he meant. If not, what is the function of the definite article The here?

    I am not saying the source is right or wrong, just trying to interpret what it states.
    I suppose I am just being more careful with logic, and with attribution, since I am currently in the position of still having to submit academic assignments.
    You'd also have to assume that "coordinate conjunctions" was a faithful representation of "coordinating conjunctions used as connecting words at the beginning of an independent clause".
    If there are seven of the latter, perhaps there are more when you count those co-ordinating conjunctions which are not "used as connecting words at the beginning of an independent clause".
    Perhaps there are none, but I hope you can see my point. I made it only in passing, even though it took up more words than my primary point.

    Yes, you are right about "the" generally being restrictive.
    But if I said to you "The three TV shows I watch are the News, the Simpsons and CSI", then the claim "Raymott only ever watches three TV shows" is a stronger claim, and perhaps unwarranted.

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