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In the following statement:

Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures, but they do not have the luxury of downtime.

Is "but" used correctly here?

If I were the writer, I would write it as:

Company databases are neither immune to crashes or failures, nor they have the luxury of downtime.

Is my proposed alternative correct?

Update:

Sorry but I think I need to put the whole context so that its meaning is more strait forward:

Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures, but they do not have the luxury of downtime. It has to be recovered quickly.

  • But seems wrong. Both example have errors: 1 Company databases are neither immune to crashes and failures, nor do they have the luxury of downtime. OR 2 Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures, and do not have the luxury of downtime. – Greybeard May 21 at 7:51
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    It all depends on what is meant. WIth 'but' the intention is that the second setence is somehow in contrast to the first. In the context of software that makes sense because to prevent 'crashes or failures' sometimes it is useful to have downtime (turn off the computer) which is often a 'luxury' (people usually want the service 24/7. With 'and' there would be no intended connection between 'crashes' and 'downtime', they would just be different ways of the system not working. – Mitch May 21 at 13:09
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The conjunction "but" is used to join contrasting thoughts. The two clauses here express contrasting thoughts. Therefore, it makes sense to use "but."

The first thought is that databases may crash or fail. An implication of this fact is that databases will not be available all the time. That implication contrasts with the thought expressed in the following clause.

An analogous sentence: my raspberries are not growing slowly in this sunny weather, but I do not have the luxury of sufficient time to pick and preserve them.

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“But” signifies a contrast. So whether it is appropriate depends on whether the two clauses have a point of conflict. For example, consider the following pair:

  • Water is precious.
  • Everybody needs water.

We can set up a point of contrast by arguing for conflicting answers to “Should we drink water?”, depending on which proposition we pick. So we can connect the two with “but”:

  • Water is precious, but everybody needs water.

In your example, here are the propositions:

  • Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures.
  • They do not have the luxury of downtime.

We can set up a point of conflict by asking, “Do we need to budget for downtime?” The first statement requires it; the second doesn’t allow for it.

As such, linking the two clauses with “but” works.

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I suspect that in this case the original writer has used the word "but" correctly, however the sentence then only makes sense if the second clause is modified to make it a positive attribute. I'd suggest the intended meaning was actually,

"Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures, but they DO have the luxury of downtime." (losing the not and DO is my emphasis).

This makes sense semantically from a knowledge of how (some) company databases work. Your proposed modification also makes formal sense and would be a reasonable correction if we assume company databases should never have downtime. This is actually an arguable point depending on the kind of database so both modifications are possible but you are right to notice that the original sentence is structured incorrectly.

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    I think this is the opposite of what the writer intends. He's saying that even though crashes can't be prevented, they're not acceptable. – Barmar May 21 at 22:12
  • We can't say without more context. My instinctive (but unprovable) take on it was as an extract from a piece comparing the needs of a 24/7 online internet serving database with those of a private company accounting database, for example where overnight backups are still a thing, even today (and especially so if this is an older piece of writing). An extra "not" is the kind of editing error that is as likely as the "but" being a mistake. I fully accept that the opposite intention is totally valid but then it's worth observing you need to know the intent to fix the English. – DMFW May 22 at 13:58
  • Did you see the edit that added more context? – Barmar May 22 at 14:08
  • Fair enough. I withdraw my interpretation. – DMFW May 22 at 15:57
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I believe that the use of "they" is ambiguous. While databases are not immune to crashes or failures, it is companies that do not have the luxury of having database downtime. The use of they implies that it is the databases themselves that do not have the luxury of downtime, which doesn't sound quite right to me. Here is how I might compose that sentence to be as clear as possible:

Companies do not have the luxury of downtime, and their databases are not immune to crashes or failures.

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  • The question was about "but". And it's quite common to anthropomorphize computer technology, which is how "they" is being used to refer to the databases. – Barmar May 21 at 22:09

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