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One dictionary I looked at says 'although' is used to introduce a subordinate clause which contains a statement that contrasts with the statement in the main clause. What confuses me is whether there is emphasis 'although' puts on one of the two clauses it connects.

Here is a example sentence in that dictionary:

Although he is known to only a few, his reputation among them is very great.

If I rewrite the sentence into 'He is known to only a few, although his reputation among them is very great.', is there any difference in meaning between these two sentences?

Another dictionary says 'although' means 'but'. I know they are grammatically different conjunctions. If 'although' and 'but' actually have emphasis on some part of the two clauses they connect, I'm curious to know whether they put emphasis on the same part.

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The stronger clause of two clauses conjoined with "although" is the main clause, NOT the subordinate clause with "although". So, while both "although" and "but" are used to show contrast, they have opposite meanings in terms of which is the stronger clause. I'm not surprised to find this poor definition in Wordlink and the American Heritage Dictionary. As usual, Merriam Webster gets it right:

definitions: in spite of the fact that : even though

synonyms: albeit, as, howbeit, much as, notwithstanding, though, when, whereas, while, whilst

So your first example about reputation means, "He has a great reputation. Incidentally, not many people know him." Your second example means, "Not many people know him. Incidentally, he has a good reputation among those who do." These are clearly different to each other in emphasis.

To contrast "although" with "but": "He is known to only a few, but his reputation among them is very great" carries roughly the meaning of your first example, but the conjunctions introduce different clauses.

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  • Thank you, it's really helpful. I suppose I understand the example in the question. But I'm not sure I totally understand what you meant in this answer. I met another confusing sentences today in the Cambridge dictionary, which says that when the although/though clause comes after a main clause, it can also mean ‘but it is also true that …’
    – ing
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 7:41
  • It also gives two examples sentences: (1) Karen is coming to stay next week although I’m not sure what day she is coming. (2) We didn’t make any profit though nobody knows why. If I replace 'although' with 'but it's also true that...' in the first sentence, it is rewritten into 'Karen is coming to stay next week but I’m not sure what day she is coming.' In this case, 'although' and 'but', however, seem to put emphasis on the same clause. Is it a special usage? Or the first sentence should be paraphrased into ' I’m not sure what day she is coming. But Karen is coming to stay next week.' @gotube
    – ing
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 13:05
  • In those examples, the "although" clause is extra information, not the important part. If you replace "although" with "but", the gist of the sentence is, "I've got a problem: I don't know what day my guest is arriving." Can you link to the place where Cambridge says "although" means the same as "but" in those example sentences?
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 17:40
  • here is the link: Although and though meaning ‘but’. The content is under the title "Although and though meaning ‘but’". @gotube
    – ing
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 3:00
  • @ing Thanks. I don't agree that "although" means "but it's also true that...", at least, not precisely. I think a better gloss would be "and it's also true that...".
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 4:36
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Although she is strong, she lost the match

Means that despite the fact that she is strong, she still lost the match

She is strong, but she lost the match

Is essentially the same meaning. I would not use "although" here.

He is known to only a few, although his reputation among them is very great.

This sounds awkward. I'd replace "although" with "though" or "but". I would agree that "although" introduces a clause to contrast with the main clause. Some other constructions:

Despite her strength, she lost the match

Despite the fact that she is strong, she lost the match

Though she is strong, she lost the match

Even though she is strong, she lost the match

In general, the emphasis of these statements is on the result.

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