Chinese Word for But

但是(dànshì=but), 可是(kěshì=but) and不过(bùguò= but) – By Sujanti Djuanda

Ia. The conjunction 但是(dànshì=but) is more often used in formal, such as news or written language, than daily conversation.

但是(dànshì=but) has a strongest intensity of tone (tends to give more emphasis to the second clause).


I’m not thirsty, but I’m hungry.

S1 + Adj1 + 但是(dànshì=but) +(S2) + Adj2

我(wǒ=I)不(bù=not)渴(kě=thirsty)但是(dànshì=but) (我(wǒ=I))很(hěn=very)饿(è=hungry)。

b. The conjunction 虽然(suīrán=although) is usually used correlatively with 但是(dànshì=but).


Although taking a subway is convenient, but it’s very expensive.

虽然(suīrán=although) + V1 + O + Adj1 + 但是(dànshì=but) +S + V2+ Adj2

虽然(suīrán=although)坐(zuò=to ride)地铁(dìtiě=subway)很(hěn=very)方便(fāngbiàn=convenient),但是(dànshì=but)很(hěn=very)贵(guì=expensive)。

IIa. 可是(kěshì=but) and 但是(dànshì=but) are almost the same and often interchangeable. But 可是(kěshì=but) is usually used in spoken Chinese and has a less strong intensity of tone than 但是(dànshì=but).

Example 1:

I‘m not tired, but I’m very sleepy.

S1 + Adj1 +可是(kěshì=not) +(S2) + Adj2

我(wǒ=I)不(bù=not)累(lèi=tired)可是(kěshì=but)(我(wǒ=I))很(hěn=very)困(kùn=sleepy)。(less strong intensity of tone)

Compared with Example 1b:

我(wǒ=I)不(bù=not)累(lèi=tired) 但是(dànshì=but)(我(wǒ=I))很(hěn=very)困(kùn=sleepy)。(strongest intensity of tone)

IIb. 可是(kěshì=but) is often associated with the negative result (also depend on personal preference).

Example 1:

The house is new, but it’s very dirty.

S1 + (V1) + Adj1 +可是(kěshì=but) +(S2) + Adj2

房子(fángzi=house)很(hěn=very)新(xīn=clean),可是(kěshì=but)很(hěn=very)脏(zāng=dirty) 。(negative result)

Compared with Example 1b:

房子(fángzi=house)很(hěn=very)新(xīn=clean), 但是(dànshì=but)很(hěn=very)脏(zāng=dirty) 。(strongest intensity of tone)

III. The conjunction 不过(bùguò= but) has a softest intensity of tone (compared with 但是(dànshì=but) and 可是(kěshì=but)).

  1. 不过(bùguò= but) is often associated with the positive result. It includes, is used to say ‘no’ or ‘negative thing’ in a softer way (to avoid hurt someone’s feelings) so it sounds ‘positive.’ (also depend on personal preference).
  2. 不过(bùguò= but) is not commonly used with other conjunction.
  3. 不过(bùguò= but) is more informal and mostly used in spoken Chinese.


The meat ball is very delicious, but the soup is slightly salted.

S1 + Adj1 + 不过 + S2 + Adj2

肉丸(ròuwán=meat ball)很(hěn=very)好吃(hǎo​chī=delicious),不过(bù​guò=but)汤(tāng=soup)有点(yǒudiǎn=slightly)咸(xián=salt)。(softest intensity of tone – it’s used to avoid hurt someone’s feelings)

Compared with Example 1b:

肉丸(ròuwán=meat ball)很(hěn=very)好吃(hǎo​chī=delicious),可是(kěshì=but)汤(tāng=soup)有点(yǒudiǎn=slightly)咸(xián=salt)。(negative result)

Compared with Example 1c:

肉丸(ròuwán=meat ball)很(hěn=very)好吃(hǎo​chī=delicious),但是(dànshì=but)汤(tāng=soup)有点(yǒudiǎn=slightly)咸(xián=salt)。(strongest intensity of tone)

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