The similarities between 但是 and 可是
“但是” (dànshì) and “可是” (kěshì) are both conjunctions in the Chinese language that are commonly used to introduce contrast or opposition between two ideas or statements. However, there is a subtle difference in their usage and tone:
The use of 但是(dànshì)
但是 is the more common and neutral way of expressing contrast or contradiction.
It’s used when you want to present a contrasting idea or point, but without emphasizing any emotional or subjective aspect of the contrast.
It’s often used in formal or academic contexts.
我很喜欢这部电影，但是我觉得结尾有点突然。(Wǒ hěn xǐhuān zhè bù diànyǐng, dànshì wǒ juédé jiéwěi yǒudiǎn tūrán.)
I really like this movie, but I feel the ending is a bit abrupt.
我很喜欢音乐，但是我不太会演奏乐器。(Wǒ hěn xǐhuān yīnyuè, dànshì wǒ bù tài huì yǎnzòu yuèqì.)
I really like music, but I’m not very good at playing instruments.
这家餐厅的环境很好，但是菜的味道一般。(Zhè jiā cāntīng de huánjìng hěn hǎo, dànshì cài de wèidào yībān.)
The ambiance of this restaurant is great, but the taste of the food is mediocre.
我想参加聚会，但是我那天有其他安排。(Wǒ xiǎng cānjiā jùhuì, dànshì wǒ nèitiān yǒu qítā ānpái.)
I want to attend the gathering, but I have other plans that day.
这个城市交通便利，但是房价很高。 (Zhège chéngshì jiāotōng biànlì, dànshì fángjià hěn gāo.)
The city has convenient transportation, but the housing prices are high.
The use of 可是(kěshì)
可是 is also a conjunction that carries a slightly stronger emotional or subjective tone compared to “但是.”
It’s often used when you want to express a sense of disappointment, surprise, or frustration in addition to presenting a contrast.
It can also carry a connotation of “unfortunately” or “however.”
我努力学了很久，可是考试还是没及格。(Wǒ nǔlì xuéle hěnjiǔ, kěshì kǎoshì háishì méi jígé.)
I studied hard for a long time, but unfortunately, I still didn’t pass the exam.
我们计划去打球，可是突然下起了雨。(Wǒmen jìhuà qù dǎqiú, kěshì tūrán xià qǐle yǔ.)
We planned to go for playing ball, but it suddenly started raining.
她虽然努力学习了一整个暑假，可是考试成绩还是没有提高。(Tā suīrán nǔlì xuéxíle yī zhěnggè shǔjià, kěshì kǎoshì chéngji háishì méiyǒu tígāo.)
She studied hard throughout the summer, but her exam scores didn’t improve.
这件衣服看起来不错，可是尺码不合适。(Zhè jiàn yīfu kàn qǐlái búcuò, kěshì chǐmǎ bù héshì.)
This outfit looks nice, but the size doesn’t fit.
虽然天气很好，可是我今天感觉有点不舒服。(Suīrán tiānqì hěn hǎo, kěshì wǒ jīntiān gǎnjué yǒudiǎn bú shūfu.)
Although the weather is nice, I’m feeling a bit unwell today.
Major Differences Between 但是 and 可是
When connecting two clauses in a sentence, both “但是” and “可是” can be used at the beginning of the second clause to indicate contrast or contradiction. However, “可是” can also be placed after the subject of the sentence, whereas “但是” cannot.
These two houses look exactly the same on the outside, but they are completely different structures inside.
× 这两栋房子外面看起来一模一样，里面但是完全不同的结构。(Zhè liǎng dòng fángzi wàimiàn kàn qǐlái yīmúyīyàng, lǐmiàn dànshì wánquán bùtóng de jiégòu.)
√ 这两栋房子外面看起来一模一样，里面可是完全不同的结构。(Zhè liǎng dòng fángzi wàimiàn kàn qǐlái yīmúyīyàng, lǐmiàn kěshì wánquán bùtóng de jiégòu.)
Although I can speak six languages, Chinese is your strong point, and this meeting with the Chinese will mainly depend on you.
× 尽管我会六种语言，中文但是你的强项，这次和中国人开会就主要靠你了。(Jǐnguǎn wǒ huì liù zhǒng yǔyán, zhōngwén dànshì nǐ de qiángxiàng, zhè cì hé zhōngguó rén kāihuì jiù zhǔyào kào nǐle.)
√ 尽管我会六种语言，中文可是你的强项，这次和中国人开会就主要靠你了。(Jǐnguǎn wǒ huì liù zhǒng yǔyán, zhōngwén kěshì nǐ de qiángxiàng, zhè cì hé zhōngguó rén kāihuì jiù zhǔyào kào nǐle.)
In summary, both “但是” and “可是” serve the purpose of introducing contrast or opposition in a sentence. The choice between them depends on the degree of emotional emphasis you want to convey. If you want to keep the contrast more neutral, “但是” is a good choice. If you want to add a touch of emotion or disappointment, “可是” can be used. In essence, both of these conjunctions serve the same purpose of introducing a contrast or a counterpoint, but “可是” offers a bit more flexibility in terms of its placement within the sentence structure.