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difference between sondern and aber

i have just learned conjunctions and i had a problem there and that was the difference between aber and sondern, and if you solve my problem this would be a great help for me

August 14, 2017



aber: The default "but", a bit like "however" Example: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." "Alles hat Schönheit, aber nicht jeder sieht sie."

sondern: like "but instead" or "but rather". It is used when the concepts of both subclauses exclude or contradict one another. Example: "It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men." "Es bedarf keiner Mehrheit, um zu obsiegen, sondern eine wütende, unermüdliche Minderheit, eifrig bedacht, Buschfeuer der Freiheit im Geist der Menschen zu entfachen."

"Sondern" is also used like "but also". Example: "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." "Um große Dinge zu erreichen, müssen wir nicht bloß handeln, sondern auch träumen; nicht bloß planen, sondern auch glauben."


thanks a lot for your explanation


'aber' just means 'but'. Think of 'sondern' as meaning 'but rather' or 'on the other hand'. It's used following negative statements, so the sentence structure is typically like this: (what isn't), sondern (what is).

Ich nicht, sondern sie = Not me, but (rather) her

Sie war nicht bei der Arbeit, sondern zu Hause = She wasn't at work, but (rather) at home


aber- but (opposing) sondern- because (explanation)


Think of 'sondern' as a weak but and see other comments.

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