An interesting area of the English language is when new learners are presented with the choice of whether to use the term “but” or “and” in a sentence to connect two separate parts of a sentence that need to be linked.
This is one instance where when initially presented with the problem it might appear difficult to distinguish whether to use “but” or “and” but it can be de-constructed in a very simplistic manner so that in the future it is easy to decide.
If you want to learn the rules to using each phrase in a sentence continue reading. You can also test your skills with this quiz on And or But.
To put it simply, the term “but” is used to connect two parts of a sentence if those two parts are in opposition to each other. This is called a conjunction. For example, if you are talking about a friend you could say “Jon is a nice person but he has a temper on him”. The term “but” is used because you have stated that Jon is a nice person but you have also pointed out a bad aspect of his character that contradicts this niceness. Another example would be “we had a lovely day out but I had a headache”. You mention that it was a lovely day but you then talk about the negative of the headache that contradicted the positive of it being a lovely day.
The term “and” is more flexible. This can be used to join two parts of a sentence when there is no real kind of connection between the two parts. It is used to just add an extra part of text to a sentence because “and” is deemed to be a neutral conjunction.
One example would be, using the two previous examples, “Jon is a nice person and he works at a supermarket”. There is no immediate link between Jon's character and where he works so “and” is the appropriate conjunction to use to link those two parts of the sentence. The second example would be “we had a lovely day and I saw a really cute dog”. The fact it was a lovely day and that I saw a cute dog have no relation. It could have been an awful day but I would still have seen that cute dog.
To summarise, “but” should be the chosen conjunction when two parts of the sentence being linked oppose each other whereas the “and” conjunction can be more widely used because it is a more neutral conjunction.