Style Counsel

But, however

But is an adversative conjunction/preposition.

However is a connective adverb.

What does that mean? Who cares? But read on for usage differences.

But and however are frequently used interchangeably to mean 'yet' or 'nevertheless'. They aren't the same thing, though:

But can mean except:

“I like everyone but her.”

However can mean by whatever means:

“However you resolve it, you should be ethical about it.”

Adding a comma changes the meaning to nevertheless:

“However, you can resolve it, and be ethical about it!”

However has in recent times been (incorrectly) used as a simple substitute for but, and this is probably one of your pet peeves, isn't it:

“I received the letter on Monday, however I haven't had time to respond.”

This use of however as a conjunction is an increasingly accepted trend among the youngsters, so chances are the guardians of language are about to surrender and allow these people free rein.

See for example Macquarie's definition: “There is evidence to show that there has been a further step in the process which has turned however in the sense of 'but, nevertheless' into a conjunction, as in I thought he was coming, however he failed to arrive. The older generation may find that this use is contrary to what they were taught, but the younger generation is increasingly accepting of it.”

So there you have it. Just when you thought the rules of the English language were set in stone, along come the Gen Yers and ruin it for you. Typical!


p.s. feel free to use But at the start of the sentence whenever possible.