but - exclamation

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Gavril, Dec 25, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In English, the conjunction but is sometimes used to connect a word expressing surprise/amazement (Wow! / Gosh! / etc.) and a sentence explaining why the person is surprised/amazed. For example,

    Wow, but it's hot today!
    Man, but I'm tired!

    The word "but" doesn't really add any information to these sentences: you could say "Wow, it's hot today", "Man, I'm tired", etc., and the meaning would be exactly the same.

    Does your language have a word/phrase that is used like English but in these examples, as "filler" between an interjection and a related sentence?
  2. learnerr Senior Member

    Usually not after interjections, but in Russian the word "да" is used so often in the beginning with such intent that it has become a common-place there.
    - Да не знаю я ничего об этих ключах, отвяжись от меня!
    'But I know nothing about these keys, don't bother me!'
    This word possesses the meaning of 'but', but more often "но" is used to mean 'but'; however, "но" is rarely used in such 'filler' function, I can only think of sentences like «но Гриша хитёр!..» ("yet Grisha is smart!..") in this respect. Placement of conjunctions is very free in Russian, and they often go in the beginning of sentences, sometimes without adding any substantial meaning on the matter.
  3. Perseas Senior Member

    Could those sentences be responses to an hypothetical question, e.g. "How about going out for a coffee?". Do you mean that, Gavril? If yes, Greek have a similar expression: "Ναι, αλλά..." (Yes, but...).
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi Perseas,

    No, as far as I can recall, this usage of but is restricted to sentences expressing surprise or some other kind of strong feeling: "Gosh, but this water is cold!", "Wow, but he's taking a long time!", etc.

    This usage can be confusing to non-English speakers because but doesn't have its normal contrastive function here. I.e., if you say, "Gosh, but the water is cold", you are not contrasting your strong sensation (as expressed by "gosh") with the coldness of the water: rather, you're expressing that your sensation follows from the coldness of the water.

    In this context, would αλλά be followed by some kind of contrastive information (e.g., saying you have to be back home in an hour), or is it just acting as filler between Ναι and the following clause?
  5. learnerr Senior Member

    In Russian, I may feel the contrast between either what is normal or what had to be expected, from one part, and what must be stated, from the other part, the latter being the cause of the feelings. I suspect, in English the contrast is the same.
    Sometimes this contrast may be non-existent, like in:
    - Да не переживай!
    ('Don't worry!' or 'with all, don't worry!')
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013
  6. Perseas Senior Member

    Ok, thank you. I understood it now. I think "μα" has the function you are interested in: when it is in the beginning of the sentence expressing surprise, bewilderment or irony. E.g. Μα πού είναι και αργεί; "Ma" where is s/he and s/he is late? (verbatim translation).

    <<The initial meaning of "μα" is "but" and therefore is conjunction and synonym for "αλλά">>

    The former.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013
  7. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The most common equivalent in Portuguese is "como" (literally "how" or "such"). But in some expressions you also hear (less often) "mas como" (but how) or "mas" (but).
  8. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    One word that Finnish can use in this situation is the relative pronoun kun:

    Voi kun on kylmä! "Gosh, (but) it's cold!"

    The more normal usage of kun is in contexts like,

    Tulen kun minua kutsutaan "I come when I'm called"
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch: Ho, maar het is koud!
  10. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    (Ahem... "kun" is not a relative pronoun but a subordinating conjunction.)

    I think "kun" is in this context an abbreviation of "kuin" (than), and, again, a shorter form for "kuinka" (how), but I may be wrong. "Voi kuinka on kylmä!" (oh, how it's cold!) makes sense as well.

    We can also use the word "että" (lit. 'that'): "Voi että on kylmä!"
  11. lingpil Senior Member

    German & Russian
    How about "нy (...и)"? Like in Gavril's examples: "Hy и жaрa ceгоДня!" "Hy я ycтaл!" I guess "нy" comes close to "but" in most of such cases.
  12. learnerr Senior Member

    "Однако я устал!" - "However, I got tired!" ...
    How "ну" comes close to "but"... I don't know. :)
    Looks like there is something similar in such cases – like "ну, я вам скажу...".
  13. lingpil Senior Member

    German & Russian
    Alright, I agree that my second sentence is maybe a little unusual. :) I agree as well that in some cases other fillers are requested. However, "oднако" is more an explanation announcing an auxiliary piece of information, while "ну" represents an exclamation. "(Bay), ну ты и гeрoй!" "(Wow), you are such a hero!" (Mostly used with an ironical meaning.)
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  14. learnerr Senior Member

    It's absolutely fine to me. :) So better than "однако" or "вау". I brought this "однако" just to have an example with a word that is clearly adversative and is even used as an adversative conjunction ("я пытался спросить у них, однако они не ответили").
  15. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    In Czech you can say: Ale, ale, ale! [but, but, but] and it expresses wondering, disapproval..
  16. lingpil Senior Member

    German & Russian
    That's what I did mean with "auxiliary piece of information." I have serious troubles when it comes to express myself clearly. In all languages I speak.
  17. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    但是 is used in Chinese solely for adding a contradictory sentence, any other usage for this word is foreign.
    That means, it's hard for us to understand the following English usages:
    "Everyone knows but him."
    "Man, but I'm tired!"
    "I'm sorry but I have to go." (Chinese can only understand "I'm sorry BECAUSE I have to go." We think "sorry" and "have to go" are causal-effect events, not contradictory.)
  18. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    How would this sentence (or a similar one) be translated into Chinese?

    Can Chinese use a particular word/phrase to connect an interjection ("Man!", "Gosh", etc.) with a following sentence?

    I think the implied meaning of "Sorry, but I have to go" is "I'm sorry that you are sad about my leaving, but I still have to go".
  19. learnerr Senior Member

    Is not the implied meaning of "Man, but I'm tired" this: "You may think whatever you want of anything, but I'm tired"?
    [For us, unlike the Chinese, it is very easy to understand this usage, because for us it is a common place, we employ it lots more often than the English do, although it is not slangy for us, and we do not insert any interjection]
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  20. 123xyz

    123xyz Senior Member

    Skopje, Macedonia
    In Macedonian, the word "ама", meaning "but", may be used in exclamatory expressions, particularly ones expressing surprise, real or sarcastic, but it doesn't necessarily link any interjection with the rest of the sentence - it may just start the sentence by itself.

    "Man, but it's cold!" > "Ама е ладно!" (literally "but is cold")

    Using an interjection, we can say "Леле, ама е ладно!" (meaning "wow, but is cold") or "Ох, ама е ладно!" (meaning "oh, but is cold). However, I would hardly analyse the role of "ама" in these sentences as a link. I view the interjection as a separate complement, juxtaposed to an independent, self-contained sentence to qualify it emotionally.

    By the way, Gavril, I had never heard the word "but" used in the way you have used it in your example sentences, and it still sounds very peculiar to my ears (I still haven't gotten used to it), so I don't really know know if I'm sure what usage of "but" you are asking about, but based on the explanations and the remainder of the thread, it appears that the relevant "but" is fully equivalent to the Macedonian "ама" in my sentences.

    P.S. We have two main words for "but" in Macedonian, the second being "но", and being the more literary and more accepted (albeit less common, as far as I can see) word. That one can't be used in the way discussed above, only "ама" can (which is by the way a Turkish loanword, with an ultimate Arabic origin).
  21. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    That might be the historical reason for using "but" in this context. However, this isn't how I (as an English speaker) interpret "but" in this sort of context. To me, it's pretty semantically empty (as shown by the fact that it can be omitted with no clear effect on the meaning of the sentence).
  22. learnerr Senior Member

    I see. These Russian "да", too, can be omitted with no clear effect on how the sentence is interpreted factually, however, they mean very much for conversation and for how the sentence is understood, perceived. Which implies they mean something, even if we are not aware on the first glance what exactly (and so are tempted to say they mean nothing at all)…
  23. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I think this usage of "but" in English is becoming less and less common: I and most people I know normally say, "Gosh, it's cold", "Wow, I'm tired" etc., without any conjunction between the interjection and the sentence. I do sometimes say "Wow, but ..." or similar, but I recognize that it sounds more stylized (and perhaps more old-fashioned) than the simpler construction.

    I agree that they seem very similar. However, unlike the Macedonian word you described, but can't be used in this meaning without an interjection preceding it (though perhaps this was possible in older English).
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  24. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    1. For "Man!" "Gosh!" We usually translate them as 天啊! which means "Oh Heaven!"
    2. We can still translate "I'm sorry but I have to go" as something like "对不起,我还是得走。"
    还是 here means "still". Only by adding this word, the contradictory meaning would be clear to us, then we can add "but" as we like.
  25. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    French: (correct me if I'm wrong!)

    'Mais' also expresses surprise, e.g. Mais dites-moi, qu'est-ce qui vous est arrivé ?

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