He would miss the paycheck each week, but he wanted to retire.

I really don't understand the sentence especially the use of but. Why not thus, therfore or so?

And as for the verb "would", does it mean "used to V" or something else?

Could you help me understand the sentence?

  • 3
    Thus, therefore, so would imply that he wants to retire because he wants to miss his paycheck. re Are you perhaps misunderstanding miss? The situation described is that if he retires he will no longer receive a paycheck. He will "miss" it in the sense that he will "regret not having it anymore". Nonetheless, he wishes to retire. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 5 '18 at 17:12

The use of would in the OP's citation has a different meaning from the one hesitantly suggested in the question, used to. When we want to express the idea of an action performed regularly in the past, we can either say would or used to e.g. Every evening she would/used to sit at her desk and study for her exams. But in the clause “He would miss the paycheck” the meaning is totally different. See Macmillan's entry for would

In some cases would can be used as the past tense of will, for example in indirect speech introduced by a verb in the past tense:
I promised that I would visit her the next day.

  1. used for talking about what was going to happen in the past
    a. used for showing what someone expected, intended, promised etc when they were thinking or talking about the future

    • Most analysts expected that there would be a change in policy.

So try changing the sentence in the present tense, it might make the meaning clearer

  1. He'll miss the paycheck each week, but he wants to retire.
  2. He's going to miss the paycheck each week, but he wants to retire

First of all, in the examples above, there's no significant difference in meaning between the two future forms used, will and going to. The speaker is basically saying that the person being mentioned wants to stop working even if that means the end of his weekly wage.

He knows he will think back to the time when he received (i.e. miss) the weekly sum of money and probably feel some regret; however [= but], his desire or need to stop working is greater.

If we replace however with any of the adverbs suggested by the OP: thus, therefore or so, the meaning changes completely

He'll miss the paycheck each week, therefore/thus/so he wants to retire.

It's grammatical but illogical, the person knows he won't receive a weekly wage so that's why he is retiring.

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You could call the construction of the sentence in question the

"on the one hand, but on the other hand"

type of question.

For example,

On the one hand, I would like to be an Olympic athlete, but on the other hand, I am not willing to undergo the vigorous training needed to become one.

The but in the above sentence functions to conjoin the two independent clauses, but it also functions to separate the opposing ideas. One of the ideas you could call theoretical (viz., "I would like to be . . ."), and the other one realistic.

Another example:

I would like to be rich, but I will probably always be poor.

Here again, the theoretical clause (key word, would) is in opposition to the realistic clause. Safe to say, most people would enjoy being rich, at least in theory, but thinking realistically they know in their hearts they will always be relatively poor, as least compared to a truly rich person, such as a billionaire!

For further helpful information on the various ways of how to use the auxiliary verb would, look here.

In summary, conjunctions such as the word but (and other conjunctions such as or, and, because, and as) join together two independent clauses. When but is the conjunction, the construction of the complex sentence indicates a contrast between two sentences.

One final example,

On the one hand, I would like to correct her grammar, but on the other hand, I am afraid she will be offended if I do.

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  • 3
    He wanted to retire even though he was going to miss the paycheck, not because of it! – Kate Bunting Mar 5 '18 at 16:47
  • @KateBunting: I may be a little slow, but I'm not pickin' up what you're layin' down, Kate. Six of one, half dozen of the other, is the way I look at it, though I could be wrong. Don – rhetorician Mar 5 '18 at 17:26
  • StoneyB (above) makes the point which I was implying. – Kate Bunting Mar 6 '18 at 8:37
  • @KateBunting: I have great difficulty in understanding Stony B's comments. Just being honest here. Lord knows, there are a number of ways of considering conjunctions and how they function in sentences. I still stand by my analysis (which is more rhetorical than grammatical), but I allow for the opinions of others, even if (or especially when!) I do not understand those opinions. All the best. Don – rhetorician Mar 6 '18 at 18:01
  • 'He would miss the paycheck, therefore he wanted to retire' implies that the man wanted to retire in order to stop being paid! Using 'thus' or 'so' would have a similar meaning, which is obviously not what is intended. – Kate Bunting Mar 7 '18 at 9:28

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