In a sentence like:

He had joined up for no other reason than to escape, [blank] hated army life.

I would use the conjunction and. In the equivalent Thai sentence, though, it seems that native speakers would use but.

For me, the first clause makes clear that he didn't really want to join up in the first place, and there's no opposition between that and hating army life.

At the same time, that clause does state that he joined up, and if you focus on that then there is the same opposition as there would be in he joined up but hated it.

I should mention that the sentence is in a context where it's definitely not news that the guy in question had joined the army, and isn't really news that he joined up because he felt he had to, not because he really wanted to.

How can I express this difference in more linguistic terms? Can I say that EN looks at the pragmatic meaning of the complex clause as a whole, whereas TH looks at the proposition that appears highest in its structure tree?

Are there other examples of this kind of difference, possibly between (other) European languages and other Asian languages?

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    Logical connectives are semes and morphemes can be polysemic. So, a morpheme, as a conjunction, can correspond to several logical connectives. Thus, your morpheme in Thai can mean "but" and "and" depending on the context. Or English "and" can have a versative meaning instead.
    – amegnunsen
    Dec 28, 2018 at 12:00
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    An article in the same vein: Explaining additive, adversative and contrast marking in Russian and English.... researchgate.net/publication/…
    – amegnunsen
    Dec 28, 2018 at 12:27
  • An and wouldn't work well here, because it could seem to add to for no other reason. Then it could mean that, while he hated army life, it was still better than what he had escaped from. Whereas a but would negate that. That obviously depends on context. Although, if it's a new sentence contrasting with he joined, as you say, it's a new sentence and doesn't need a connective, practically leaving the context open for further clarification. I don't know Thai; I'd expect the difference comes down to usage, not syntax. In your first sentences, a comma or fullstop before in matters a lot.
    – vectory
    Dec 28, 2018 at 17:15
  • [continued] The comma or difference would appear in sound only as intonation and rythm (stress). Likewise so for your example.
    – vectory
    Dec 28, 2018 at 17:20
  • "and yet" would be quite good or "yet he".
    – zooby
    Sep 14, 2019 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


and does not work well here, because.

You cannot transpose the sentence without potentially changing the meaning: He had joined and hated army live for no other reason ...; Unless that's exactly what you are trying to say. It doesn't work in principle, if transposed, because the tenses aren't in agreement (he had hated army live?). That's not usually a problem, and not directly the question. One could assume that and binds the whole preceding sentence. Then we might transpose: He hated army live, and he had joined for no other reason than .... That works, but it's still slightly ambiguous whether he joined for no other reason.

Can I say that EN looks at the pragmatic meaning of the complex clause as a whole

You could say that and does not add to the meaning (or gives a sense that is unlikely) and is simply ignored. The sentence thus remains underspecified.

Your reluctance to use but may stem from the assumption that it would be redundant, because the meaning is strongly implicit already from your personal context. You still concede that it's not explicit, but merely not contradicted ("there's no opposition between that and hating army life").

Compare also "Monday is the worst (of all) weekday(s)". Small morphemes are frequently redundant and ignored.

I'd say there is no notable difference at all.


I just ran across I'm no mathematician, but I didn't understand the quantum mechanics talk. Of course there's no contradiction between a mathematical and a quantum mechanical understanding. The author seems to imply that mathematics were not a strict prerequisite for such a talk, contradicting but the lecturer, who seems to think otherwise.

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    Of course and works (in fact I agree with the OP that it's the natural choice). The coordination is between (a) had joined up for no other reason than to escape and (b) hated army life.
    – TKR
    Dec 28, 2018 at 20:21
  • @TKR I took a slightly less strict approach in my other comment to the question, so I tend to agree to the extend that the ambiguity is not irritating. However, as I say, the "and" doesn't do any notable work. Do you disagree?
    – vectory
    Dec 28, 2018 at 20:59
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    Well, it does the syntactic work of coordination... What other work could it be expected to do?
    – TKR
    Dec 28, 2018 at 21:00
  • @TKR if "and" coordinates both clauses what does it coordinate them to? Well, it keeps the context open, but that's not the same as "but", which terminates the context early. If "joined" relates to "army live", then that's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-serial_dependencies and interesting.
    – vectory
    Dec 28, 2018 at 22:06
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    @vectory In I'm no mathematician, but I didn't understand the quantum mechanics talk, the but is signalling that the speaker had hoped or expected to understand the talk despite not being much of a mathematician. IOW it is signalling a contrast between expectation and outcome, as in my original sentence. Your example requires a bit more real world knowledge to relate the expectation to the statement and derive something like I'm no mathematician, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I didn't understand the talk on quantum mechanics, but it's essentially the same.
    – user23078
    Dec 29, 2018 at 5:17

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