What is the difference between 可是, 但是, 但, 而, 不过, and 然而?

All of these mean "but" and I can't find any information in my dictionary on what differentiates them.


1 Answer 1


可是, 但是 and 但 (但 is the shortened form of 但是) can all be translated as 'but'

Example: "You can drink, but you can't smoke"

  • "喝酒可以,可是不能抽煙" (可是 is more literary)

  • "喝酒可以,但是不能抽煙" / "喝酒可以,但不能抽煙" (但是 and 但 are more colloquial)

不过, and 然而 can both be translated as 'however' or 'but'

Example: "You can drink, however, you can't smoke"

  • "喝酒可以,不过不能抽煙" (不过 is more colloquial)

  • "喝酒可以,然而不能抽煙" (然而 is more literary)

When '而' is acting as a short form of '而且', it means 'and also'


  • 快而凖 = 快速而且準確 (fast and (also) accurate)

  • 簡而清 = 簡潔而且清楚 (brief and (also) clear)

而 functions as "but" or 'however' when it is in the following structures:

  • [能(A) 而 不能(B)] = [can (A) but can't (B)]

  • [可(A) 而 不可(B)] = [allowed to (A) but not allowed to (B)]


[能喝酒 而 不能抽煙]

[可喝酒 而 不可抽煙]

而 also functions as "but" or 'however' when it is in the following structure [(verb) (A) 而 (不 verb) (B)] = [(verb) (A) but (not verb) (B)]


[擅攻 而 不擅守] (good at attack but not good at defend)

[愛酒 而 不愛煙] (like wine but not like cigarette)

  • 1
    Okay, I understand that 可是 and 然而 are more literal while 但是 and 不过 are more colloquial but I don't exactly understand what the difference between 可是 and 然而 or 但是 and 不过 is ("however" pretty much means the same thing as "but" except it's a little more formal). I'm also wondering, since VA而不VB means "but/however," is it synonymous with 可是, 但是, 不过 or 然而?
    – Nicholas
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 3:18

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