Difference Between So and But (With Table)

So vs But

In grammar, a conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses and are known as conjuncts. Conjunctions are also known as connectors or joining words. There are three types of conjunctions, Coordinating conjunction, Subordinating conjunction, and Correlative conjunction.

A coordinating conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses having a similar grammatical structure; a Subordinating Conjunction connects a subordinating or dependent clause to the main, that is, independent clause. Whereas, on the other hand, correlative conjunctions are words that have been paired, it connects the words, or phrases having reciprocal relationships.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions, for example, so, but, and, or, yet, for, and nor. They connect the followings:

  1. Word + word
  2. Phrase + phrase
  3. Clause + clause

For example, Rita has a pen and a book (pen and book are two words conjoined by the conjunction and). The difference between So and But is that so is used to denote the conclusion or to, whereas, on the other hand, But is used to show contrary or except that/for.


Comparison Table Between So and But (in Tabular Form)

Meaning“So” is used to express the latter in order of the former sentence.“But” is used to express the contradictory sentence.
Usage“So” is used when the speaker needs to conclude the sentence.“But” is used to when the speaker needs to express the difference between the former and the latter sentence.
ExamplesFor example, I don’t know how to act, so I cannot perform in a skit.For example, I can run but I don’t like to.
Part of SpeechIt is a part of coordinating conjunctions.Just like so, but is also a part of coordinating conjunctions.
Alternative words/phrasesAlternative words for “So” are: Therefore, hence, and henceforth.Alternative words and phrases for “But” are: On the other hand, on the contrary, and whereas.


When to Use So?

“So” is one of the seven coordinating conjunctions, that is used to join sentences, phrases, or clauses, whenever these conjunctions are used to join two independent phrases, or clauses, the conjunction is always preceded by a comma. Moreover, it is commonly used to denote the conclusion, for example, “I am not well, so I won’t be able to attend classes today.”

As an adverb which may be followed by an adjective or an adverb, for example, Why are you so angry this morning?, the word so is used in this example and is followed by an adverb.

As a conjunction, it is used to connect two clauses or phrases and is succeeded by a comma, for example, There were not enough beds, so I slept on the floor.

The following are the cases in which so is used:

  1. Used for emphasis:
    1. Emphasizing a quality, amount, or a feeling, for example, I am so hungry, That picture is so good, or This crate is so expensive
    2. Emphasizing a fact, for example, the book is so boring.
  2. Used to delete repetition:
    1. Referring to a possibility, fact, or a situation, for example, Does the president intend to go to Moscow, if so then when?
    2. Pointing out the similarity, for example, Rita is honest and so is Sheela.
  3. Used for something that has occurred or when someone does something because of what you have just mentioned, for example, I covered the window so that it was not possible to see inside.
  4. Used for continuing a conversation, for example, so you have finally decided to come with us?
  5. Used for introducing a fact before the other person comments on it, for example, Okay, so the guy has made many mistakes but that doesn’t make him a bad guy.

When to Use But?

“But” can be used as an adverb, preposition, and last but not the least a conjunction. When used as a conjunction, it connects two phrases, or clauses, for example, She is 76 but still goes for swimming each day.

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As a preposition it is followed by a noun, for example, there has been nothing but trouble since he came.

The word “but” is used in the following cases:

  1. Used for joining two ideas and statements, for example, we are making good progress, but we still have a long way to go.
  2. Used when the speaker knows he or she should not talk more about the subject, such as, it was a complicated operation but I won’t bore you with the details.
  3. Used especially after the words like nothing, everyone, or anything, for example, it was nothing but a mere case of juvenility.

Main Differences Between So and But

  • The word “so” is used to avoid the repetition of words, or phrases. Whereas, the word “but” is used to connect ideas that are in contrast. It is used after words such as all, everything, everyone, and everybody.
  • “So” emphasizes a quality or amount, on the other hand, “but” is only used to reflect contrast.
  • “So” maybe used to continue a conversation, whereas, in the case of “but”, it is used to join two ideas or statements.
  • “So” can be used to introduce a new fact before the listener, on the contrary, the word “but” is used when the speaker knows he or she should not be talking about the topic.
  • “So” can be used to join two phrases or clauses, for example, I am down with fever, so I won’t play today. Whereas, in the case of “but”, it is also used to join two phrases or clauses that consist of two contrary ideas, for example, we are making progress, but we need to work more.



Although “So” and “But” are part of seven coordinating conjunctions, their usages, as well as their meanings, are different. Where, the word “So”, is used to denote the order in respect to the former sentence, for example, There were not enough beds, so I had to sleep on the floor. On the other hand,  the word “But” is used to connect the distinct ideas, for example, I can run but I don’t like it.

“So” and “But” are both used as adverbs, and conjunctions. As an adverb, so is followed by an adjective or adverb, for example, why are you so upset?

Whereas, in the case of “but”, for example, we can hope about nothing but to improve our situation.


Word Cloud for Difference Between So and But

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on So and But. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Difference between So and But

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