Despite in Chinese With 虽然……但是

How to Say Although in Chinese 虽然...但是

Connectors are what linguists call “conjunctions.” The Chinese word for them is “连词 liáncí – ‘connect + word.’ They serve to connect separate thoughts and show how they are connected. Examples in English are words like “and,” “or,” “because,” etc. Chinese connectors are one of the most straightforward elements of the language to understand, so be sure not to overthink them too much :). Today we are going to look at the Chinese conjunction 虽然……但是 Suīrán……dànshì (despite in Chinese).

Despite in Chinese With Suīrán……dànshì

One way to say “although” or “even though” in Chinese is to start a sentence with 虽然 suīrán (despite in Chinese). However, unlike in English, Chinese people will always add the equivalent of ‘but’ (“但是 dànshì,” “但 dàn,” or “可是 kěshì”) at the beginning of the second clause. 

One way to imagine “虽然 suīrán + Clause 1, 但是  dànshì + Clause 2” is to remember that Clause 1 sets up an expectation and Clause 2 shows how that expectation wasn’t met (either positively or negatively).

Here are some examples:

Despite in Chinese – Sentence 1:

虽然我的房子不宽,但我有很多花草。 – Level 26
Suīrán wǒ de fángzi bù kuān, dàn wǒ yǒu hěnduō huācǎo.
Although my house isn’t big, I have a lot of flowers and plants.

You’ll note that the English translation doesn’t have any representation of “但 dàn,” and that’s because English assumes the context is clear enough without it. Chinese, however, requires adding it. 

Regarding this sentence, you can imagine a young man describing his apartment to a lady he’s keen on. He wants to set expectations (虽然我的房子不宽 Suīrán wǒ de fángzi bù kuān), but express that despite what one might think of a small apartment, he still has excellent taste in decoration (但我有很多花草 dàn wǒ yǒu hěnduō huācǎo). 

Sentence 2:

虽然今天下雪了,但是我还是要上学。 – Level 33
Suīrán jīntiān xiàxuě le, dànshì wǒ háishì yào shàngxué.
Even though it snowed today, we still had to go to school.

The expectation is that if it snows, the school will be closed. The speaker uses 虽然 suīrán (despite in Chinese) because that expectation was NOT met.  

This sentence illustrates the simplicity of Chinese grammar. For example, suppose you were living in Guangdong 广东 Province in the south where it rarely snows, the sentence would likely be “因为今天下雪了,所以我不要上学。Yīnwéi jīntiān xià xuěle, suǒyǐ wǒ bùyào shàngxué.” Instead of “虽然…, 但是… Suīrán…, dànshì” you have “因为…, 所以… Yīnwèi…, suǒyǐ…,” and the meaning changes significantly to match the different context.

Despite in Chinese – Sentence 3:

花仙子是住在花里的人,虽然她们和你的手差不多大,但她们能做很多你做不到的事! – Level 33
Huāxiānzǐ shì zhù zài huā lǐ de rén, suīrán tāmen hé nǐ de shǒu chàbùduō dà, dàn tāmen néng zuò hěnduō nǐ zuòbùdào de shì.
Flower Fairies live among flowers, even though they are only as big as your hand, they can do lots of things you can’t.

One might imagine that if a fairy (花仙子 huāxiānzǐ) were only the size of your hand (和你的手差不多大 hé nǐ de shǒu chàbùduō dà) that it would not be more powerful than you are. It’s that expectation that influences the speaker to use 虽然 suīrán (despite in Chinese), because although you have that expectation, (but) fairies can do many things that you can’t (她们能做很多你做不到的事 tāmen néng zuò hěnduō nǐ zuòbùdào de shì). 

Keep an eye out for 虽然…, 但是… Suīrán…, dànshì…(despite in Chinese) moving forward. Ask yourself what the expectation is after reading “虽然 suīrán + Clause 1,” and then how it is unmet in “但是 dànshì + Clause 2.”

Also, don’t forget there is no such thing as “learning” grammar, it is more about acquisition. You can read more about how to acquire Chinese grammar in a natural way in this post.

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Chinese Conjunctions
5 April , 2021
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