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We failed to make a thorough search of the house; but no trace of her could be found.

[Cf. English for S.S.C. Bank & Other Competitive Exams by Dr. Shambu Sharma (P.D.F)]

Is the conjunction but correct in this sentence?

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2 Answers 2

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It could be correct in a very narrow band of possible meanings. For instance, a hypothetical situation could be that we were preparing to leave for a big camping trip and walking in and out of the house carrying camping gear out to the pickup truck and attached camping trailer. Then, just as we absolutely need to leave to beat rush hour traffic our child "Betty-Boo" notices that her pet cat/hamster/etc. named "Maud" is missing. We make a frantic and hasty search of the house and find no trace of Maud. We lock up the house and drag Betty-Boo into the camper although she's in tears and sure that Maud will die from lack of food and water while we are on vacation. So we call our close friend "Guido" who lives a few doors down and knows where we hide our spare key and we ask Guido to please go over and look in and around the house to try and find Maud. We tell Guido we're not even sure that Maud is in the house - she might have wandered outside. We failed to make a thorough search of the house; but no trace of her could be found.

So, yes, it is possible to envision a scenario where this usage could make sense. But it's not a normal usage. Since scenarios like I described above are pretty rare, most likely it's not a correct usage, but you will have to provide the context to be able to say for certain.

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I would say this phrase can have 2 different meanings:

  1. No trace of her could be found, because they couldn't do a search
  2. They couldn't do a search because they didn't find a clue to continue

For the first, i would use thus:

We failed to make a thorough search of the house; thus no trace of her could be found.

Which means "finding the trace" happened "after" failing the search.

For the second one, I would use since:

We failed to make a thorough search of the house; since no trace of her could be found.

Which means they didn't find a trace, and couldn't do a search "afterward".

Although it might not make much sense, "Why do they need a trace to search the house?" It has a more clear meaning if it uses in conjunction with some place bigger, like a jungle. However it can mean, that they couldn't do a search because for example they didn't have access to the house.

Using but doesn't make much sense to me in this particular question. It would make sense if it was the following way:

We made a thorough search of the house; but no trace of her could be found.

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