but, although, however

March 25, 2010, 08:22 AM posted in General Discussion

I'm under the impression that 可是 and 但是 are pretty much interchangeable ways of saying "but" (although 可是 is a bit more emphatic, like "however") - is this correct?

I've also seen both used without the 是 to mean "but," so when do/can I drop the shi?

Recently I've come across 却 "yet" (?) in my studies, which is sometimes partnered with 但是 and sometimes not.

Is there any chance of some example sentences to explain when and how to use 却 and if/what the difference is when used with 但是?

Also are there any other useful words for giving contrasting ideas?

Many thanks for any help.

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March 25, 2010, 09:08 AM

I have been told that 可是 is softer than 但是, and it seems to me that way when I see them used.  You can drop the 是, but for some reason I don't feel comfortable doing so as I don't know if there are any limitations.  I think of 却 as 'however'.  Maybe this can illustrate it:

  • But I however, thought it was wrong.
  • 但是 I 却 thought it was wrong.

I hope that helps at least a little bit.

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March 25, 2010, 01:11 PM

The three main expressions for but/ nevertheless/ however that I use are: 

可是 ..

不过 ..

但是 ..

I was taught that these are in order of strength, so 但是 is the most emphatic.  You can say 但是 with two strong fourth tones!  可是 is the 'weakest'.

You can think of the structure: 

A 可是/ 不过/ 但是 B

In the case of A 但是 B, B draws a sharp contrast with A. In the case of A 可是 B, B does not necessarily contradict the truth of A; it presents it in a different light.     

(There are other expressions for but.)

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March 25, 2010, 02:34 PM

1.No.not exactly,可是 is most often used just like'but';可是,但是this expression is not often quiet common in spoken english,it means that is emphatic.


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March 25, 2010, 02:38 PM

still ,there are some more words with the same meaning ,such as 尽管,然而,

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March 25, 2010, 04:57 PM

the 尽管 is more than 然而 in mood.  可是=但是 

可是:using in writing  

但是:using in spoken language

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March 26, 2010, 02:18 AM

可是 and 但是 are pretty much interchangeable ways of saying "but" (although).

但是 is a bit more emphatic.

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March 26, 2010, 02:24 AM


1) both of them can mean "but" and they are interchangable.

e.g. 已经这么晚了,可是/可他还没有回来。(Yi3jing1 zhe4me wan3 le , ke3shi4 ta1 hai2 mei2you3 hui2lai2. ) It's already been so late, but he's still not back.

2) 可/可是 can also be used to emphasize, which can mean "really/ be indeed"

e.g. 我可什么都不知道。(wo3 ke3 shen2me dou1 bu4 zhi1dao4) I know nothing indeed.

       她可是我们这里最漂亮的。(ta1 ke3shi4 wo3men zhe4li3 zui4 piao4liang de.) She is indeed the most beautiful girl among us.


e.g. 我以为他知道,(但是)他却告诉我他什么都不知道。<wo3 yi3wei2 ta1 zhi1dao4, (dan4shi4) ta1 que4 gao4su4 wo3 ta1 shen2me dou1 bu4 zhi1dao4. >

I thought he knew, but he told me he knew nothing.

Here, 却 should be placed before the subject(他),it cannot be put before 他. And 但是 can be omitted. But if you add 但是, it's more emphasis.

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March 26, 2010, 04:40 AM

Thanks Ellen and Lujiaojie, hope I didn't lead anyone too far astray.  可是,'不过'怎么用? 

而且关于'我以为他知道'的'以为',可以说认为?. 以为和认为意思一样差不多? 

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March 28, 2010, 04:30 PM

Thanks for the clarification, guys.