I am confused about where to use but, however, nevertheless and nonetheless. The meaning of all words are the same;

He works hard. But, he doesn't earn much.

He works hard. However, he doesn't earn much.

He works hard. Nevertheless, he doesn't earn much.

He works hard. Nonetheless, he doesn't earn much.

Could anyone clear my doubts, please?


2 Answers 2


The big difference is not in the meaning, which are indeed synonymous, but that "but" is a conjunction, where the others are adverbs. Hence, in formal writing, your first sentence is wrong, and

He works hard, but he doesn't earn much.

is the grammatical construction. You can't grammatically join the other sentences that way.

Also, you can move the adverbs around as you can't move the conjunction:

He works hard. He doesn't earn much, however.


You are correct, they are synonyms and can be used interchangeably in your example sentences. However this doesn't mean you can always exchange the word "but" with one of these words or vice versa.

Synonyms of "but"

A thesaurus is a great resource for finding and verifying the synonyms of a word. Looking up the word "but" on Thesaurus.com you'll find the following:

although, however, nevertheless, on the other hand, still, though, yet

Going one step deeper by looking at the synonyms of "nevertheless":

still, though, yet, nonetheless, notwithstanding, withal ....

When not to use a synonym

In the example sentences you have provided, the words are being used as conjunctions, joining the two sentences. However, some of these words can be used for other purposes. Also, depending on how grammatically correct or formal you want your writing to be, one word may be more appropriate than another.

I'd like to get to Boston however I am able.

This usage of "however" is not a conjunction and using "but", "nevertheless", or "nonetheless" instead would change the meaning of the sentence.

There are many other people more suited to the task. Nevertheless, I will do this for you.

This usage of "nevertheless" is not a conjunction. Instead it is being used as an adverb and cannot be replaced with "but". It can be replaced with "nonetheless" or "however" though, which can also be used as adverbs.

  • Most synonyms are not exact synonyms. "Nevertheless" and "nonetheless" are perhaps completely interchangeable. The same isn't true of "but", "however", "nevertheless". In fact, they differ grammatically, stylistically, and also in nuance or emphasis.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 23:05
  • @rjpond I have updated to include more information about when a synonym is appropriate.
    – mjjf
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 23:42
  • I don't understand the meaning of: "I'd like to get to Boston however I am able." Did you mean "by whichever means" or "in whatever way possible"? If the speaker is able to get to Boston, where's the problem? The adverb however is used to contrast a previous statement or clause, and it's separated by a semi-colon and a comma such as "He is famous and powerful; however, he is a liar and a cheat."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 13:11
  • @Mari-Lou This is a valid use for "however" as well. Your analysis of the speaker being able to get to Boston or not is looking too deep into an example sentence. However, here is some example context: the speaker is at a ticket counter. "I'd like a ticket to Boston." "We don't have any direct routes to Boston I'm afraid." "It doesn't need to be direct. I'd like to get to Boston however I am able." In this sentence "however" means "in whatever way".
    – mjjf
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 14:08
  • Then I was right, the meaning intended is "by whichever means" which is completely different from "but", "nevertheless", "although" (not mentioned by the OP) etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 15:58

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