4. Adjectives with Conjunction
We do not say: ‘someone is tall but fair’, ‘someone is dark but fair’ or ‘someone is depressed but happy’ or ‘someone is poor though happy’. We can however say: ‘tall and fair’, ‘dark in complexion but has sharp features’, ‘of short height but fair’ ‘depressed but determined’, ‘happy though poor’ or ‘poor but happy’. Both ‘tall’ and ‘fair’ have positive connotation and belong to the same adjective ‘category’ of features. ‘dark’ and ‘fair’ also belong to the same adjective category but they are opposites in meaning, and so are ‘depressed’ and ‘happy’. We therefore use ‘and’ when both category and connotations (positive/negative) are same. We use ‘but’ when not only connotations are opposite but categories are also different. E.g.: The room is small (category: size; connotation: negative) but comfortable (category: opinion; connotation: positive). It is worth noting that one word diminishes the ‘positivity or negativity’ of the other word. Positive connotation of the word ‘determined/ sweet looking’ diminishes negative connotation of the word ‘depressed/ dark’. Thus two words are contrastive if connotations are semantically opposite but not opposite in meanings. Connotations are semantically opposite when there is Mismatch in expectation: poor/happy Mismatch in compatibility: lightweight/strong Mismatch in correlation (counterfactual): old/healthy; wealthy /stingy; good quality/affordable; cheap/durable; second hand/good One diminishes the effect/tone of the other: tasty/spicy; expensive/durable, longer/faster; slw/steady Concession granted by one to the other: bad/not so bad Clause with positive connotation is expressed first in a sentence, with conjunction ‘though’. This restriction is not applicable with ‘but’ Poor but happy = Happy but poor = Happy though poor
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