But is more informal than however. You can use however at the beginning of a sentence. You can't use but at the beginning of a sentence in written English.
- I can understand Italian but I can't speak it very well.
- I can understand Italian. However, I can't speak it very well.
Despite versus In spite of
These linking words are the same. They are followed by a noun or a gerund.
- We had a great time despite the rain.
- We lost the game, despite the fact that we practised all week.
- Despite not having an umbrella, I walked home in the rain.
- I understood everything in spite of the loud noise.
- I didn't find it, in spite of the fact that I had looked for it all night.
- In spite of leaving school at 16 without any qualifications, he went on to have a successful career.
Despite the fact that and In spite of the fact that
These phrases are followed by a subject + verb.
- We had a great time despite the fact that it rained all weekend.
- He has a successful career, in spite of the fact that he has no qualifications.
Although versus Even though
These linking words are the same. They are both followed by a subject + verb.
- She's rather shy, although she's not as bad as she used to be.
- Even though I was invited to the party, I didn't go.
This linking word, when found in the middle of two phrases, has a meaning similar to but. It has a meaning similar to despite this when placed at the end (in spoken English).
- They are coming next week, though I don't know which day.
- I felt sick. I went to work though.
While versus Whereas v Unlike
These linking words are used to show how two things are different from each other.While and whereas are used between two complete phrases. Unlike is used with only a subject.
- Dave is talkative while his girlfriend is very quiet.
- In that picture he is smiling whereas in this one he look quite serious.
- Unlike me, my brother excels in sport.
On the other hand
This linker is used to compare two different facts or two opposite ways of thinking about the same situation.
- On (the) one hand I'd like a job that pays more, but on the other hand I am quite happy with the job I have now.
- I like classical music, but on the other hand, my boyfriend loves jazz.
This linker is used to say something surprising that contradics what has just been said.
- He's overweight and bald, yet somehow, he is attractive.
- He studied a lot, yet he didn't pass the exam.
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