Difference Between So and 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.

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.

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

So vs But

The main 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.

So vs But 1

 

Comparison Table Between So and But (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of ComparisonSoBut
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.

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?
so 1
 

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.

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.
but

Main Differences Between So and But

  1. “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.
  2. “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.

 

Conclusion

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.

“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?


References

  1. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/so
  2. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/but_1
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