But, but, but!

There are a plethora of ways to say "but," "however," "although," etc. in Japanese. (These can be referred to as "contrastive conjunctions," by the way; there will be a note about this later in the lesson.)

We're not going to master all of them in this lesson. Instead, we'll just glance at a handful that you're sure to see as you continue interacting with Japanese materials... 

けど/けれど/けれども

The contrastive conjunction I find myself using the most is けど, as in sentences like these:

美味しいけど、辛い。
おいしい けど、 からい。
It's good, but it's spicy.
Literally: "tasty / delicious + but, + spicy."



ドイツ人けど、ビール嫌い。
ドイツじん だ けど、 ビール きらい。
I'm German, but I hate beer.
Literally: "German (person) + だ + but, + beer + disliked."



読んだけど、わからなかった。
よんだ けど、 わからなかった。
I read it, but I didn't understand it.
Literally: "read + but, + didn't understand."



Looking at the sentences above, there are a few things to note:

💀 We are using けど (and not けれど or けれども) because the sentences are informal. I'll talk more about this in a second.

💀 けど can come right after an i-adjective or a VERB, but when it comes after a NOUN or na-adjective, we need to include the copula だ.

💀 I wrote 美味しい (おいしい // tasty; delicious) using kanji, as you'll sometimes see it written that way, but it's also commonly written using only hiragana, おいしい. Also, I translated it as "good" in the sentence, as I thought that was most natural, but technically it means something like "tasty" or "delicious."

💀 わからなかった (didn't understand) is the negative plain past tense of わかる (to understand). We studied this tense in this lesson.

 



Now, I mentioned that we used けど because the sentences above are informal, but we could actually still use けど in more formal versions of these sentences, as well:

美味しいですけど、辛いです。
おいしい です けど、 からい です。
It's good, but it's spicy.
Literally: "tasty / delicious + です + but, + spicy + です."



ドイツ人ですけど、ビールが嫌いです。
ドイツじん です けど、 ビール が きらい です。
I'm German, but I hate beer.
Literally: "German (person) + です + but, + beer + が + disliked + です."



読みましたけど、わかりませんでした。
よみました けど、 わかりませんでした。
I read it, but I didn't understand it.
Literally: "read + but, + didn't understand."



More formal forms of けど are けれど and けれども. However, I don't think you need to be worrying about these just yet, as you'll be fine just using けど for speaking situations. Or as (native speaker) Rei puts it, "I have never used けれど nor けれども in my entire life other than when writing papers."

 



When I was studying Japanese with textbooks, the first contrastive conjunction I actually learned was, not けど.

Although can be used in both formal and informal sentences, there are limited situations in which it sounds natural in casual speech. I would recommend only using in formal sentences:

美味しいです、辛いです。
おいしい です が、 からい です。
It's good, but it's spicy.
Literally: "tasty / delicious + です + but, + spicy + です."



ドイツ人です、ビールが嫌いです。
ドイツじん です が、 ビール が きらい です。
I am German, but I hate beer.
Literally: "German (person) + です + but, + beer + が + disliked + です."



読みました、わかりませんでした。
よみました が、 わかりませんでした。
I read it, but I didn't understand it.
Literally: "read + but, + didn't understand."


 



でも/しかし

It may help to think of the words でも and しかし as meaning "however."

The reason for this is that they only come at the beginning of clauses, unlike けど and , which can come at either the beginning or the end of clauses:

美味しいです。でも、辛いです。
おいしい です。 でも、 からい です。
It's good. However, it's spicy.
Literally: "tasty / delicious + です. + but, + spicy + です."



ドイツ人です。でも、ビールが嫌いです。
ドイツじん です。 でも、 ビール が きらい です。
I am German. However, I hate beer.
Literally: "German (person) + です. + but, + beer + が + disliked + です."



読みました。でも、わかりませんでした。
よみました。 でも、 わかりませんでした。
I read it. However, I didn't understand it.
Literally: "read. + but, + didn't understand."

 

Note: Just a moment ago, I said: "[でも and しかし] only come at the beginning of clauses, unlike けど and , which can come at either the beginning or the end of clauses." And even earlier than that, I said that this lesson is about "contrastive conjunctions."

Before I get hate mail from some grammar geniuses, I should point out that, technically speaking, the phrase "contrastive conjunctions" is not entirely appropriate for this lesson.

Specifically, でも and しかし would be referred to as 接続詞 (せつぞくし // conjunctions) because they come at the beginning of sentences. It is also possible to put particles like けど and at the beginning of sentences, in which case they too would be classified as 接続詞 (せつぞくし // conjunctions).

When particles appear in the middle of sentences, however, like we saw with けど and at the beginning of this lesson, they are referred to as 接続助詞 (せつぞくじょし // conjunctive particles).

Seemed worth mentioning. Anyway...


Note that でも can be used in both formal and informal language. Also, you don't necessarily need to include a comma after it:

読んだ。でもわからなかった。
よんだ。 でも わからなかった。
I read it. But I didn't understand it.
Literally: "read. + but + didn't understand."



Although I often translate でも as "but," I find that I'm almost always translating しかし as "however." You'll rarely find opportunities to use しかし when speaking Japanese, I think. And yet, you're likely to come across it in written materials quite a lot.

走って行った。しかし、間に合わなかった。
はしって いった。 しかし、 まにあわなかった。
I ran. However, I didn't make it in time.
Literally: "ran (and) + went. + however, + didn't make it in time."



↑ See how the verb 行く (いく // to go) is attaching to the て-form of another verb (in this case, 走る [はしる // to run])? That happens quite a lot, and we'll cover it more in future lessons.

Also, hopefully your brain didn't undergo too much trauma from that somewhat idiomatic verb phrase, 間に合う (まにあう // to be in time for [something]). In isolation, one thing that 合う (あう) can mean is "to fit." And as a standalone word, 間 (あいだ) (← note the different reading) can mean things like "space (between things)," "interval," etc. Thus, if you want to "make it in time," you need to "fit" into the "interval between now and some deadline.




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