Aber / Sondern


New Member
What's the difference between "Aber" and "Sondern"? They're both Konjunktionen and their first dictionary meaning is "but"; Is there any situation where you'd use one, rather than the other?

(Please respond in English.)

Thanks in advance!
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    (1a) They are both but, but they are different buts. -- This but corresponds to aber, you cannot use sondern here.
    (1b) Jimmy went on the swings, but Johnny preferred the roundabouts. -- Likewise.
    (2a) Not only were they late for the party, but they didn't bring any beer. -- This but corresponds to sondern, you cannot use aber here.
    (2b) We don't want to eat in the cafe, but in a proper restaurant. -- Likewise.

    The aber-but (type 1) joins two thoughts which it would be inappropriate to join with and, because they mildly contradict each other. Think of it as "but in fact".
    The sondern-but (type 2) introduces a second alternative after a negated first. Think of it as "but instead".
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