Conjunctive Particles が・けど

    • Particle
    Conjunctive particles が and けど are often used in a similar way to the English word "but." Additionally, they can be used to link context to whatever comes next.

    Table of Contents

    The Basics

    Conjunctive particles が and けど are similar to "but" in English — they connect two contrasting sentences.

    • 白ワインは好きです、赤ワインはあまり好きではないです。
    • I like white wine but I am not a big fan of red wine.

    Easy so far? Here's the catch. Unlike "but" in English, が and けど can also be used simply to provide context to what you're about to say. For example, when you're asking someone a favor, you can use が to provide the context behind your request when it might come off as out of the blue otherwise.

    • ペン持ってないんだけど、貸してくれない?
    • I don't have a pen with me. Can you lend me one?

    が and けど work in pretty much the same way, but the difference is that が carries a more formal nuance, while けど feels more colloquial. が is overall more suitable for writing, but is still used in conversation, combined with the polite form (です/ます style).

    Patterns of Use

    Connecting Sentences

    The most typical use of が and けど as conjunctive particles is to connect sentences. Let's take a look at the previous example, but this time, with brackets that mark the clauses (sentences inside a sentence) so it's extra clear.

    • [ロウソクを付けた] [キッチンはまだ暗い]。
      [ロウソクを付けた] けど [キッチンはまだ暗い]。
    • [I lit candles] but [the kitchen is still dark].

    See how が and けど are connecting two sentences? This is how a conjunctive particle works.

    The only thing to watch out for is that な-adjectives and nouns can't be attached to が or けど on their own, and always need だ or です, as in だが, ですが, だけど, and ですけど. For example, using the noun 夏 (summer), you can say something like:

    • [夏です] [今日は涼しいです]。
      [夏だ] けど [今日は涼しい]。
    • [It's summer] but [it's cool today].

    The same goes for な-adjectives. For example, using the な-adjective しずか (quiet), you can say:

    • [夜は静かです] [昼はうるさいです]。
      [夜は静かだ] けど [昼はうるさい]。
    • [It's quiet at night] but [it's loud during the day].

    が and けど for Contrast

    Like we covered earlier, the most typical use of が and けど is to illustrate ideas that contrast, like "but" does in English.

    • 母さんはコンサートに来た、姉は来なかった。
    • My mother came to the concert, but my older sister didn't.

    Here's another example. When it's raining, you might not normally expect to see children playing outside, but most kids can't resist a good puddle! So what if your kids love to get muddy and wet? が and けど can be used to illustrate such situations — where you want to highlight that what follows is contradictory to what comes before.

    • 雨が降っているけど、子供たちは外で遊んでいる。
    • It's raining, but the children are playing outside.

    が and けど for Providing Context

    In addition to connecting contrasting ideas, が and けど are often used to add context to what you're about to say.

    For example, you're at a convenience store with your boss during a break. You realize that you left your wallet at the office and want to borrow some money from him. In this case, you might say something like:

    • 財布を忘れてしまったんです、500円貸してもらえませんか?
    • I forgot to bring my wallet. Would you lend me 500 yen?

    If you cut straight to the point and say "Would you lend me 500 yen?" your boss would probably feel the need to ask why you need it. This can be avoided by providing context before making your request. In other words, it's a thoughtful gesture to use が and explain why you're asking them a favor instead of just asking outright.

    You may also have noticed that が and けど follow んです or んだ. Since んです and んだ are used for providing explanations, they are a good match — you'll often see them paired up with が and けど.

    Beyond The Basics

    Variations of けど

    Although they're less common than けど, you may sometimes run into these variants of けど: けれども, けども, and けれど.

    In fact, けれども is the original form, and the others are its short forms. They're all still colloquial, especially compared to が, but they contain different levels of formality — けれども has the highest level of formality, followed in order by けども, けれど, and けど.

    が and けど at The End of Sentences

    Even though I explained earlier that conjunctive particles are used to connect two sentences, you might sometimes see が and けど at the end of a sentence, not followed by anything. This actually happens with all conjunctive particles in Japanese.

    Using が or けど at the end of a sentence can create different effects like giving the listener flexibility in how to respond, or making what you've said sound like an afterthought, sounding less confrontational, expressing uncertainty, etc.

    A typical example of this is when you're making a reservation.

    • もしもし。予約したいんですけど…。
    • Hello. I'd like to make a reservation…

    When you use けど to add context and end a sentence, you can open up the possibility of how the listener can respond. This is commonly used for making requests, asking for permission, extending an invitation, asking someone for a favor, and more.

    What けど is doing here is providing the context, which is that you want to make a reservation. However, since けど ends the sentence, what it's missing is what the context is leading to, which could be a request like "Can I book a table for two tonight?" or a question like "Is there any availability?"

    By pausing at けど and not saying anything after that, you're not specifying what exactly you're asking for. Rather, you're leaving it vague so that the listener can respond to you in a way that's convenient for them. Instead of specifying your request to achieve the goal of making a reservation, you're implying that you want the staff to decide the next move to make it happen.

    So, in response to the phrase 予約したいんですけど, the restaurant staff have the freedom to choose how to respond, like "What date?" or "How many guests?" etc. depending on how they want to handle the reservation process going forward — So in a way, this is a considerate way of communicating.

    Like I mentioned earlier, there are more effects that が and けど can create. To explore more, check out Kanae's article Kedo: Why Do Japanese People End Sentences with "But"…?