It is essential for anyone learning English to know how to express contrast in a sentence, like in this example: He wants to buy a new car, but he doesn’t have enough money. The most common way to do this in English is with the use of but in English. This very popular word is also used to change the subject, to explain something after you made an excuse or apologized for something, or to reply to someone when you want to indicate surprise or protest. Today we will go over five other ways to say but in English. Also, you will learn more about how to use but in English grammar.
How to use but in English
But is a conjunction, which means it connects words, phrases or clauses in a sentence. As mentioned above, this conjunction can be used in four different situations. Let’s take a look at each one of them.
1. Express contrast
This is probably the most common use of the word but. We use it to express contrast, to introduce something that is completely opposite to the idea we expressed before.
Here are a few examples:
- I’m hungry, but there’s nothing to eat in my house.
- I need to go home, but all flights to Chicago were canceled due to the storm.
- I want to call Lucy, but I don’t remember her phone number.
- She needs to finish the project, but she is not feeling well today.
2. Add ideas to a discussion
Sometimes you need to say more on a topic. You can play devil’s advocate by arguing the other side of an opinion or believe using but. Here are a few examples:
- I think your mom is right. But there is something else I think you should take into consideration.
- I agree with you on that. But another point I would like to make is that most students don’t really study grammar.
3. Explain something after you have apologized for something
With most apologies in English, we use but to introduce the reason for the apology. Let’s take a look at some sentences:
- Sorry, but I can’t attend the meeting tomorrow.
- Forgive my asking, but you are not feeling very well, are you?
- I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that was a secret.
4. Reply to someone when you want to indicate surprise, disbelief, or protest
Sometimes people surprise you, for better or for worse. It’s common to use but to express that surprise and the reason. Let’s take a look at some short dialogues that show how to use but this way in English.
– Julia, I don’t want to go out tonight.
– But why, honey? It’s going to be super fun!
– Mom, I need some extra cash.
– But I gave you $100 yesterday!
– I should quit my job
– But you are so good at what you do!
Better ways to say but: however, on the other hand, though and more
There are some other, better, ways to say but in English. You may be wondering why you would want to do that, so let’s answer this question. There is nothing wrong with using the same word over and over again, but most English learners do that not as a conscious choice but because they don’t know any other way. This section gives you five synonyms of but. If you learn how to use these, your English will be more sophisticated.
Another word we can use to express contrast is however. Think of this as a formal way to say but. We can use this adverb in the middle of the sentence, in the beginning, and also at the end of a phrase. Here are a few examples from the Collins dictionary:
- This was not an easy decision. It is, however, a decision that we feel is dictated by our duty.
- Some of the food crops failed. However, the cotton did quite well.
- Higher sales have not helped profits, however.
2. On the other hand
The second option to express contrast is the phrase on the other hand. It means your idea is from a different point of view. It is often preceded by the phrase on the one hand. Here are a few examples:
- On the one hand, you have a big apartment. On the other hand, a small apartment would be easier to clean.
- I am glad that we decided to go to Florida again. On the other hand, it would have been nice to visit New York City for the first time.
3. Although and though
Another common option is the conjunction although. Here is a sentence for you to understand how to use although with a similar meaning to but:
- Karen is coming to stay next week although I’m not sure what day she is coming.
You have probably heard of the word though, right? If so, you may be asking yourself what the difference is between though and although. The fact is that they mean the same thing: the result of a situation is unexpected. However, though is more common than although and much more common than although in speaking English. When texting or writing something on social media, people often spell though in a different way: tho. You should never use the spelling tho in emails or in academic writing. It is not correct. Let’s have a look at some sentences in which we can use though in a similar way to but:
- We didn’t make any profit though nobody knows why.
- I do not usually drink tea, though I’ve had 2 cups today.
- I don’t usually drink tea. I’ve had 2 cups today though. (Informal, in written English: I don’t usually drink tea. I’ve had 2 cups today tho.)
Ready to really level up your English? Try using nevertheless (pronounced like three individual words: never-the-less). You can use nevertheless to express contrast. It is often used in formal English. “Nevertheless, she persisted” is a popular phrase associated with the feminist movement in the United States. It means that a woman continued to work in the face of obstacles. Here are some more examples of how to use nevertheless in a sentence.
- He was very tired; nevertheless, he went on walking
- There was little chance of success; nevertheless, they decided to perform the surgery.
- Though very intelligent, she is nevertheless modest.
What other common words in English would you like to learn synonyms for? We hope this information about other ways to say but in English helps you improve your vocabulary!