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But / However
But is more informal than however. You can use however at the beginning of a sentence, but you can’t use but at the beginning of a sentence (in written English).
- I tried to lift the box, but it was too heavy for me.
- I tried to lift the box. However, it was too heavy for me.
Although / Even though
These linking words are the same, and they are both followed by a subject + verb.
- Although I exercise every day, I can’t seem to lose any weight.
- She still loves him, even though he treated her very badly.
Despite / In spite of
These linking words are the same, and they are followed by a noun or a gerund (-ing form of the verb, which can function as a noun).
- Our plane arrived on time in spite of the delay during takeoff.
- We won the game despite having two fewer players.
Despite the fact that / in spite of the fact that
These phrases are followed by a subject + verb.
- Our plane arrived on time in spite of the fact that it left 30 minutes late.
- We won the game despite the fact that we had two fewer players.
While / Whereas / Unlike
These linking words are used to make contrasts. While and whereas are usually used between two complete phrases. Unlike is typically used with only a subject.
- I like tennis, while my brother prefers bowling.
- This cell phone plan costs $0.05 per minute, whereas that one gives you up to 800 minutes per month for a fixed price.
- His boss allows him to work from home, unlike mine.
- She’s very friendly, unlike her sister.