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How to use but as a conjunction

But as a conjunction

But is a coordinating conjunction. You use but to join two ideas or statements. The second idea or statement usually contrasts the first one in some way. 

Main idea +butContrast 

  • I don't know his address, but my wife does. 
  • I invited her to the party, but she politely refused.
  • We tried our best, but we couldn't do it. 
  • My computer is very old, but it works properly.  

Sorry/Excuse me+but 

You can use but after an expression of apology to introduce a statement or question politely.  
  • I'm sorry, but I can't promise anything.  
  • Excuse me, but may I say something? 
  • Excuse me, but I don't think so.  
  • Forgive me for asking, but why did you divorced your husband? 

For Emphasis 

But can be used between repeated words to give more importance to a word or statement.
  • Everyone, but everyone knows the truth. 
  • Nobody, but nobody couldn't stop him.  


But is used after words such as 'nobody', 'everything' or 'anything' to mean except. 
  • Everyone but Bob has finished eating. 
  • No one but me knows what it means. 
  • She's done nothing but sit around and watch television. 

At the beginning of a sentence 

In spoken English you can start a  sentence with but to express surprise, shock, annoyance, etc.  
  • 'I've decided to look for a new job. 'But why?' 
  • But you promised not to tell anyone. 

But for 

You use but for to say what prevented something from happening.  
  • But for heavy snow, I would have arrived earlier for the meeting. (If it weren't for the heavy snow, I'd have arrived earlier...) 


Only can be used as an adverb to mean only. 
  • He's but [=only] a little boy! 
  • You can see a lot of birds in our garden:  sparrows, robins and blackbirds, to name but a few.

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