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    #1

    "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    Dear all,

    The following passage is a part of a report about life in a spaceship, which was written by an astronaut. I'd like to ask about the use of BUT in the last sentence.

    ...Astronauts from different countries ate together every day. The gave me the chance to enjoy a variety of space foods. Each of us slept in a room about the size of a phone booth. But you don't have to worry about hurting your back in weightless conditions...

    There was a difference of opinion between two fluent English speakers over the use of BUT in the last sentence. One says it doesn't make sense because he cannot see any cause and effect relation between sleeping in a small space and back pain. The other says it perfectly makes sense because we can assume that the writer seems to have an idea that when you sleep in a small space, your back may hurt.

    I'd appreciate opinions from native speakers of English. Do you agree with the first person, or second person?

    Thank you!

    OP
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 11-Jul-2014 at 00:33. Reason: correction

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    I agree that we can assume the writer is suggesting that back pain is a likely outcome of sleeping in a very small space.

    I'm not completely averse to beginning that sentence with "But" (some people will say it shouldn't be used this way).

    I would have simply run on the sentence as "... about the size of a phone booth but you don't have to worry ...", or I would have split it into two sentences and started the second with "However" - "... about the size of a phone booth. However, you don't have to worry ...".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    They are arguing about whether 'But' belongs there logically. When the first person says that 'but' doesn't make sense, he is saying that the use of 'but' follows from an incorrect inference about backs and spaces. The second either does not think that is an incorrect inference, or he accepts that, if the writer made that inference, it would be a correct sentence.
    Are you surprised that some people think that sleeping in small spaces causes back pain while others don't?

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    #4

    Re: "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    No. The first person, who said the use of "but" was not acceptable in English, told us that since English speaking countries are "low context cultures", it is necessary to clearly state the logical link by adding some words in between the two sentences, like "...Each of us slept in a room about the size of a phone booth. You may think that it can hurt your back, but you don't have to worry about back pain in weightless conditions...." He also said people in "high context cultures" like Japan tend to rely too much on the reader's inferece and skip necessary explanations in English writing. What surprised me was such cultural differences as "low context" or "high context" may affect our writing. However, judging by the replies I received here, he seems to be wrong in this case.
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 14-Sep-2014 at 15:18.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    I'll concede that we tend to use quite of a lot of "assumption of common sense" in our writing and speaking. We don't spell everything out word for word. We frequently take it for granted that the listener will fill in the blanks.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #6

    Re: "You have to sleep in a small space, but you don't have to worry about back pain"

    I understand there is a cultural difference regarding the extent to which we can rely on "assumption of common sense". The problem is, however, facts are sometimes exaggerated, or even distorted by some people, and it confuses us learners. That's when I turn to this site. I really appreciate all the replies above.

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