Let's consider two versions of a sentence:

  1. You should brush your teeth before going to school but after waking up.
  2. You should brush your teeth before going to school after waking up.

My intuition is that option 1 is the only correct version of this sentence but I can't explain why the "but" is necessary? I suspect that there is some rule for joining multiple dependent clauses with an independent clause but I couldn't find any materials for that.

  • 1
    You can't brush your teeth before waking up so there's no point in saying after waking up. You can certainly brush them before going to school. It would make more sense to say**....after dressing, before going to school**. The but is unnecessary unless you particularly want to emphasise the sequence. Jul 26, 2021 at 11:07

1 Answer 1


A really good question, Kamil - the joys of English!

Version 1 is perhaps more logical because the 'but' serves as a red flag to the reader.

That said, one would really use 'but' if the second clause challenges the first clause. In this case it doesn't.

A mother tongue English speaker is more likely to switch the two qualifying classes around, so that they're in chronological order, as follows:

You should brush your teeth after waking up, before going to school.

Alternatively: You should brush your teeth after waking up and before going to school.

Hope that's helpful!

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    They may also drop the part about waking up entirely, and just say "You should brush your teeth before going to school." People generally need to be awake in order to brush their teeth, so specifying that they have to wake up first is unnecessary. Jul 26, 2021 at 14:08
  • Ah yes, an excellent point, @Anthony!
    – nquirer
    Jul 26, 2021 at 14:37
  • @AnthonyGrist I agree, but as a native UK English speaker, if I had to include all the information then I'd feel more comfortable with your alternative. Jul 26, 2021 at 14:49

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