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How is this sentence correct:

Running an insurance agency left Charles Ives little time for composition, yet he nevertheless developed a unique musical idiom.

Yet and nevertheless cannot be used together; it's redundant isn't it? The sentence comes out of the SAT book of Barron's. So it should be correct, but I don't know how. Please explain.

Thanks.

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    Running an insurance agency left Charles Ives little time for composition, yet (=but) he nevertheless (despite all that was mentioned) developed a unique musical idiom. I don't think two words are mutually exclusive. – JayHook Jan 2 '14 at 19:10
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    @JayHook: I don't think there's anything wrong with using both words together, but even so I don't think it would make any difference if you transposed your two bracketed "definitions". The repetition is simply an acceptable stylistic device (that may arguably add emphasis). It's spurious to postulate that each element actually means something different (just as I could use either or both of but and even so in my first sentence; they're effectively equivalent). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 2 '14 at 19:54
  • From Google Books: yet nevertheless - 188,000 results. And for the equally "tautological" but nevertheless - 3,250,000 results. Only a misguided pedant could seriously maintain there's anything "wrong" with such common usages. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 2 '14 at 22:36
  • I think JayHook explained this very well, yet nevertheless I think FumbleFingers' comment has merit as well. – J.R. Jan 2 '14 at 23:37
  • thank you everybody. can you please tell me if it is also fine to use "but, however", "yet, however", "but/yet in spite of" in this or a similar sentence instead of "yet" and "nevertheless" respectively? – ladybel Jan 3 '14 at 1:58
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I don't think they are redundant and the (very common) structure does add a bit of meaning in this case. Here's my analysis:

Yet emphasizes surprise or irony in compare/contrast. Nevertheless is an adverb meaning "in spite of that" and applies to the relationship between "little time" and "develop". Here is the original and my "interpreted" sentence to show how I understand the distinctions (roughly):

  • ORIGINAL: Running an insurance agency left Charles Ives little time for composition, yet he nevertheless developed a unique musical idiom.

  • INTERPRETED: Running an insurance agency left Charles Ives little time for composition, but surprisingly he developed (in spite of "little time") a unique musical idiom.

Sorry it's a little awkward to use a parenthetical expression, but its the best way I could explain this concisely. Compare with a sentence in which nevertheless would not work out so well:

  • "The visitors complained loudly about the heat, yet they continued to play golf every day." (From Guide to Grammar and Writing.)

  • "The visitors complained loudly about the heat, yet they nevertheless continued to play golf every day."

In the second sentence, I think nevertheless is too wordy. It's also vague: is nevertheless compared to their complaining, or to the heat, or to both?

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