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According to dictionaries, 「けど」 means ‘but’, ‘although’, ‘however’.

However, it seems to have slightly another meaning at the end of the sentence. For example, here are few example sentences with their approximate translations (correct me if I'm wrong):

  • 「まあ、いいけど。」 — ‘I guess, it's okay.’
  • 「お話があるのですけど」 — ‘I have something to tell you’
  • 「セーターが欲しいんだけど」 — ‘I'm looking for a sweater’

Translations demonstrate that「けど」 introduces some uncertainty, but don't feature anything close to ‘but’ or ‘however’.

Can anyone clarify how the meaning of 「けど」 at the end of sentence can be expressed in English, when it's appropriate to use this word, and what's it ‘politeness level’?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There is also .

 お話があるのですが

It is sort of a hedge (weakening). And I see the exact same thing in English. Are you a native English speaker? If so, you should have encountered these expressions. I know a person who ends a sentence with but.

It's okay, but ... [Sentence ends without continuation]

Another variant I observe in English is:

Do you want this, or ... [Sentence ends without continuation]

And very often, I see English speaking people starting a conversation with so:

So, I am doing a project.

I personally feel uncomfortable with these, but it is the same thing in English and Japanese. Maybe they are slightly different in that, in Japanese, people put the period, but that will be awkward in English.

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2  
I think it's stronger when done in English. Japanese seem to use it fairly often to soften things, but if it were done in English that much, you'd sound really wishy-washy and weak. –  William Jul 20 '11 at 18:38
    
Not a native English speaker, but getting your point well. Thanks for mentioning 「が」, didn't know that! @William: Exactly. So much uncertainty is what made me think that 「けど」 may mean something different then simply ‘but’. For now, my version is that when 「けど」's meaning is not similar to ‘but’ or ‘however’, then it's just softening the statement. When it's appropriate to use such softening is another big question, I guess… –  Anton Strogonoff Jul 20 '11 at 19:22
5  
@Anton Strogonoff: This type of statement comes from the Japanese style of not needing a subject. The context of the sentence is implied rather than stated. So, 「けど」 still means "but, however", but, the second part of the sentence is not stated. For example, 「セーターが欲しいんだけど」 means, "I am looking for a sweater but, ..." and the second clause is assumed to be "I need help picking one" or something similar. The second part is dropped simply because it is unnecessary, as a sales attendant/friend will know to help you already. –  Greg Sotiros Jul 20 '11 at 23:53
    
Greg gives a good explanation. And, the basic idea is that it is avoiding to say the continuation, expecting you to infer the continuation and making you responsibile for the continuation. My personal feeling (not necessarily shared by others) is that this is actually rude, contrary to how it is supposed to function. One extreme example that is rather common is, in a business situation, 失礼ですが 'I am being rude, but ...' can mean 'What is your name?'. It is expecting this much inference. I personally hate this expression. Ironically, using this expression itself sounds rude to me. –  user458 Jul 21 '11 at 0:16
    
Wow, so that the answer is basically that 「けど」 does mean ‘but’ in these cases, it's just that the second part is omitted. I knew that lots of implied stuff in Japanese is a norm, but it never occured to me that it's just another form of it. Thanks a lot, @Greg Sotiros! –  Anton Strogonoff Jul 21 '11 at 5:52

I often have the impression that though would be a good translation.

I guess it's ok, though.

I have something to tell you, though.

Only in the last sentence it doesn't really work in English.

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