12

*I can't well do English, so please use easy words when you will explain to me.

My question:

But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly.

In this sentence, 'But' and 'since' are both conjunctions. Why are they used together? Why is 'But' beside 'since'? Nevertheless this sentence has only 'one verb'.

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  • 1
    You can find in this web page, the original French text along with it's truthful translation in English. – Graffito Nov 11 '16 at 17:47
  • @Graffito That page is good, but it's a bit more of a gloss than a full translation. "big people" is "grown-ups", "boa snake" is "boa constrictor", "They have always need of explanations" is much better as "They always need explanations", etc. I wouldn't recommend it to an English language learner, but instead to a French language learner. – CJ Dennis Nov 12 '16 at 8:15
16

The two words but and since are only accidentally together; they actually introduce different parts of the sentence.

  • But indicates the relationship of the main clause (I made another drawing) to what has gone before (It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant). It marks a change of direction in the narrator's action, so it has to go at the front of the entire sentence as a sort of "hinge" in the story.

  • Since indicates the relationship of the subordinate clause (the grown-ups were not able to understand it) to the main clause: the subordinate clause explains why the narrator made another drawing.

The syntax would be clearer if you put the since clause in parentheses, like this:

But (since the grown-ups were not able to understand it) I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly.

But the author (or at least the translator) uses punctuation mainly to show the the narrator's speech rhythms, and this character doesn't speak like an academic delivering a complicated exposition with elaborate bracketings.

  • 2
    +1 and I would say either parentheses or commas to set off a clause that is not essential. – Lucian Sava Nov 11 '16 at 15:59
  • 1
    I've never heard of but described as a "hinge", but I like it. – user42899 Nov 11 '16 at 23:17
9

How to understand but and since.

I wanted to buy lunch but I forgot my wallet.

Since I forgot my wallet, I had no money to buy lunch.

I wanted to buy lunch, but since I forgot my wallet, I could not.

3

@StoneyB's answer is completely correct, but I wanted to (literally) add more context. Here is more of the text:

My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing

The "but" conjoins the clauses starting "it was" and "I made". Let me re-write it, re-ordering the words and substituting "because" for the ambiguous "since":

It was a picture of a boa constrictor but I made another drawing, because [since] the grown-ups were not able to understand the first one.

That is, I think, clearer than the original, but not as good. Katherine Woods, the translator of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's novel, chose the but-since construction as more idiomatic to the ostensible target audience, English-speaking children the age of the Prince.

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