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Explain the structure of the following sentence:

I'll discuss why renting a house allows for more flexibility, but why it can be disadvantageous.

I'm fine with everything expect at 'but'. So please explain the sentence.

It's actually a sentence from an IELTS question. Can you expand the sentence.

2 Answers 2

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The word "but" joins two parts that are grammatically similar, but contrast in meaning.

So here you have:

I'll discuss  --
      why renting a house allows for more flexibility
           but
      why it can be disadvantageous

The two things are grammatically similar (they are both content clauses) But they have contrasting meanings. The first is a positive reason for renting, the second is a negative reason against renting.

If the two things were both positive you would join with "and" instead of but.

There is no obvious ellipsis in this sentence.

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  • Does it need to have 'also' placed after 'but'
    – Bla Bbaa
    May 31 at 15:04
  • It could have the word "also" placed after but. You could also place that adverb later in the phrase (eg after "can")
    – James K
    May 31 at 15:35
  • You can also use "and" instead of "but." May 31 at 21:11
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But means the same thing as and -- it's a conjunction between two constituents, both true or both false. The difference is that the constituent that's introduced by but is surprising to the speaker, in some way. Why it's surprising, and whether the addressee should be surprised, too, is not indicated, and should be determined by context.

There are two object complements in the example sentence, linked by but

  • I'll discuss
    • why renting a house allows for more flexibility,
  • but
    • why it can be disadvantageous
      (parenthetically, I would add also before be to clarify)

The speaker is promising to discuss two things, both represented by embedded why questions, which presuppose propositions, as why questions do:

  1. Renting a house allows for more flexibility.
  2. Renting a house can be disadvantageous.

Given (1), what is surprising about (2)? Well, "flexibility" in financial matters is usually a good thing. "Being disadvantageous" is not a good thing. Since both of these propositions are presupposed to be true, the but must refer to the contrast between "flexibility" and "disadvantageous", as they both are the result of "renting a house".

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