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I saw a sentence on English Language and Usage SE that goes:

This is probably borderline archaic or dialect-dependent, however, but other terms are that as well: maid, maiden, lassie, colleen, etc. (From Robusto's answer)

This sentence sounds somewhat awkward to me. My understanding is that "however" and "but" are almost the same word ("however" being formal and "but" being informal), although I'm not very sure about the above construction. Do "however" and "but" have different meanings in the above sentence? In what situations can I use them like that?

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They don't have different meanings, but they link different parts of the answer. The full answer is:

If you can't use girl, you could try (definition of lass). This is probably borderline archaic or dialect-dependent, however, but other terms are that as well: maid, maiden, lassie, colleen, etc.

The however stands between the first sentence of the answer and the first part of the second sentence, the but stands between two parts of the second sentence. In other words:

  • If you can't use girl, you could try lass
  • but this is probably borderline archaic or dialect-dependent
  • but other terms are that as well.

What can be a bit confusing is that when however is used to link two sentences instead of two clauses of the same sentence, it can be put either at the start or at the end of the second sentence:

This is an archaic word. However, you could still use it.

This is an archaic word. You could still use it, however.

And that's what happened here - the second sentence had its however moved to the end, and then had a but- clause further attached to it, resulting in this awkward combination of words.

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  • Great explanation. Thanks
    – user119042
    Mar 15 at 11:48

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