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Do they mean the same when used in a sentence?

Example:

A scream would occasionally escape from her, only to be absorbed by the dark metallic walls.

A scream would occasionally escape from her, but only to be absorbed by the dark metallic walls.

Do both sentences mean the same? If not, what would be the difference?

closed as off-topic by TrevorD, Barrie England, Rory Alsop, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 14 '13 at 12:05

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    The "but" sounds awkward in this sentence. The first sentence sounds natural. – Lumberjack Oct 13 '13 at 8:28
  • Isn't this more proof-reading? – Barrie England Oct 13 '13 at 8:30
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    I agree with @BarrieEngland. I've commented previously that a lot of your questions would be better on Writing. OTOH, I don't necessarily agree with Lumberjack: I think there may be a subtle difference between the two and that the choice may depend on what comes before and/or after this sentence. That is precisely why this and a lot of your other questions may be better on Writers. – TrevorD Oct 13 '13 at 13:25
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is asking for writing advice and would be better asked on Writing. – TrevorD Oct 13 '13 at 13:30
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    The question asks for a general answer but gives only one special context. In general, only and but only are not substitutable. *They but only work that way occasionally. – John Lawler Oct 13 '13 at 18:03
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This is not a special case of but, only or but only. The words but and only mean just the same here as elsewhere in an English sentence.

1 used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned: he stumbled but didn’t fall
2 [with negative or in questions] used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated: one cannot but sympathize

Let there be no confusion here with the secondary definition of but that is not relevant here (used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated: one cannot but sympathize) -- use the primary: (used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned: he stumbled but didn’t fall)

The sentences do not mean the same thing.

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