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Can anyone help explain, in simple terms (ie. ones that foreign students will understand!), when you use 'but' and when it should be 'although'?

I know they are both used to show contrast and that 'but' is a coordinating conjunction and 'although' is a subordinating conjunction, but that's not exactly a "user friendly" explanation!

Take these two example sentences:

It was late, but she couldn't sleep.
She couldn't sleep, although it was late.

Why can't you say:
She couldn't sleep, but it was late. (It can't just because it "sounds wrong"; there must be a proper explanation!??!)

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

Thanks.
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Hi,

OK. Instead of a grammatical discussion, let me try to offer a simpler and more directly comparable pair of examples, together with a few comments.

He accepteded the job offer but the pay was low. 'But' here simply links to a contrast, you might say 'to a surprise'. It is left to the reader to try to figure out what the surprise is, what it means. The two ideas that are linked have equal importance. We don't know if he found out about the low pay before or after he took the job.

He accepted the job offer although the pay was low. The main idea is the most important one (ie he accepted the job.) 'Although' shows that the writer is expressing more of an opinion, he is introducing a fact that he thinks will make you think the first idea might not have 'worked', but he is also telling you that it did 'work'. In this example, he took the job despite the fact that the pay was low. The implication is that he knew about the low pay before he took the job.

Having said all this, there are other subtleties here that are not appropriate for discussion at a simple level. It's not a completely simple question.Emotion: wink

Why can't you say:
She couldn't sleep, but it was late.
You can say this. It's grammatical. You need an appropriate context, of course. eg She couldn't sleep, but it was late. She knew that if she got out of bed, it would wake up her husband.

I'm not sure how helpful this will be to you. Post again if you have further comments or queries.

Best wishes, Clive
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but and although are both involved in what statements imply.

but removes (contradicts) an implication of a previous statement. (It's subtractive in nature.)

It was late. Implication: If it was late, like most people, she would be tired. If she was tired, she would be able to sleep. But: (unexpectedly, given the implications) She was not able to sleep.

So: It was late, but she couldn't sleep
is like: She should have been able to sleep, but she wasn't able to sleep.

although places the implication and the contradiction differently. The although clause gives the statement with the implication, and the main clause has the contradiction.

Hence, Although it was late (which implies -- by the argument already outlined above -- that she should have been able to sleep), she couldn't sleep
is like: Although she should have been able to sleep, she wasn't able to sleep.
_________

Try giving your students two statements and have them connect them in both ways. At the beginning, you may want to discuss what the implications are and how they are being contradicted. (Make sure to select examples that illustrate the point -- no weird alternate uses of but or although!)

Start simple:
Henry was hungry. || He didn't eat.
Henry was hungry, but he didn't eat.
Although Henry was hungry, he didn't eat.

People eat if they are hungry.

And after 10 to 20 exercises of your own invention, get more complex:
The firefighter went in and saved the children. || It was dangerous to enter the burning building.
It was dangerous to enter the burning building, but the firefighter went in and saved the children.
Although it was dangerous to enter the burning building, the firefighter went in and saved the children.

People don't go into dangerous places like burning buildings.

CJ
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Comments  

Hello,

How can I use "while " in the following sentance ,

I fell asleep during the film

Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies

eg I fell asleep while watching he film.