-1

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.

5
  • 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, 2020 at 7:51
  • 1
    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, 2020 at 13:09
  • 1
    'Company databases are not immune to crashes or failures, but neither do they have the luxury of downtime.' The contrast is between the required time for repairs, and the zero time available. Jun 17, 2021 at 12:05
  • ... or conceivably with say injured tennis players who, if injured / ill, may miss a tournament or two to recover (we are not given the previous paragraph). Oct 15, 2021 at 10:57
  • If downtime is a consequence of crashes, it doesn't make sense to use "nor": they are not alternatives. On the other hand if (scheduled) downtime is an alternative to crashes, then using "nor" is ok. It sounds as if the former is the sense of the passage, but it's not 100% certain which is intended.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 15, 2021 at 11:45

5 Answers 5

0

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.

0

“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.

-1

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.

4
  • 1
    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, 2020 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, 2020 at 13:58
  • Did you see the edit that added more context?
    – Barmar
    May 22, 2020 at 14:08
  • Fair enough. I withdraw my interpretation.
    – DMFW
    May 22, 2020 at 15:57
-1

The conjunction "but" is incorrectly used in the example sentence. I think "also" or "and" is more appropriate here:

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

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

1
  • It's not clear that this is the sense meant. It depends if the downtime is caused by crashes or by maintenance (actions to avoid crashes). You seem to assume it means the latter, but that's not certain from the question. You should at minimum state what you think the meaning is.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 15, 2021 at 11:49
-2

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.

1
  • 1
    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, 2020 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.