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According to my dictionary, 但是, 可是 and 不过 all mean "but/however"? However are there any differences between them? Are there some cases, where one can be used but not another?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Check out this page: 3 ways to say 'but' in Chinese - difference between 不过 bù guò - 可是 kě shì - 但是 dàn shì.

That page says that:

  • 不过 is softer.
  • 可是 is usually associated with something unfortunate.
  • 但是 is more formal and stronger.
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却 is also a form of but, right? When should I use that? –  Friso1990 yesterday

但是 is a more definite "but." 可是 is a bit more tentative, with a connotation of "but, perhaps."

不过 means "but," in the sense of "notwithstanding."

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Normally you can just use 但是. When you use them as "but/however", they are essentially the same. The only difference is the intensity of tone: 但是 is the strongest like "but", the other two are less strong, but still close to "but". There is 然而 which is usually translated as "however".

但是 is only used as "but", while 可是 and 不过 have various other usages.

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What other usages are there for 可是 and 不过? –  Cocowalla Dec 16 '11 at 7:52
1  
@Cocowalla 可是 can mean "really"(to emphasize something). You can say “你可是犯了大错了!"(you really made a big mistake!). "不过” can mean "just,only", you can say ”他不过一岁,怎么可能认识这个字?"(he is just one year old, how can they read this character?) –  Huang Dec 16 '11 at 8:53
    
I had so many typos... "they"should be "he" –  Huang Dec 16 '11 at 9:04

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