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I've heard けど / でも has to be placed after the part that contradicts the other part.
I never heard of it actually as I learned it by context and not by grammar rules.

Is it true, or does it depend on what the speaker means to express?

For example: What is the correct way to say "I can but I can't be bothered"?
(Please also include another, better way of saying it if you know of one. It wouldn't hurt to learn something new :) )

(1) できるけど、めんどくさいよ or
(2) できる、めんどくさいけどよ

My ears tell me to go with (1) as it makes more sense to my ears.
However, according to my brain, I should go with (2), since Japanese particles usually apply to the word they come after... but then again there are exceptions to almost everything in Japanese so I'm really confused.

P.S.: This problem may even arise from my understanding of English, as I'm learning a 3rd language (Japanese) through a 2nd language (English).

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Please note that けどよ can sound a bit crude in many contexts. The neutral way to phrase (2), keeping the same order would be できるよ、めんどくさいけど –  dainichi Dec 13 '12 at 2:08
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2 Answers 2

To me the placement of けど affects which clause you are contradicting. Both are correct insofar as both are common constructions in colloquial Japanese. If formal writing, you wouldn't want to end a sentence with けど, but you'll find that even in more polite speech it's OK to add some kind of exception or contradiction to a previous statement. Just be sure to up it to like なんですけど or variants.

As for the actual difference in meaning in your examples, to my ears the placement determines which part you are contradicting. For example, if you say "できるけど、めんどくさいよ" then I would interpret that to be something like "I can do it, but it's boring/troublesome/whatever," with the nuance being that you are saying you are able, but that you would very much prefer not to. "できる、めんどくさいけど" would be the other way. It's saying "I can do it, though it is troublesome/boring/whatever," with the nuance being the implication that you may not really want to do it, but you are willing to do it. Think of it as though you were putting the けど first in both sentences, so the second would be "めんどくさいけど、できる。" The difference is a little more obvious that way: you're saying "I can" without wiggling around it like you would be if you said "できるけど." This is what I mean by the location determining which one you are contradicting.

So to get to the point of your question, if you want to make it clear that you can't be bothered to do something, or basically say that you will not do it, your example 1 is better.

I don't see much in your question about でも, but I'll just note that でも can't be used in exactly the same way. It's a little closer in meaning to the English "but," offering a stronger contrast or contradiction, and I would say it comes at the end of a sentence much less often.

I think saying "できるけど" is fine, but instead of めんどくさい you could say like "わざわざしたくない"

You could look here for some other examples of alternate phrasing: http://eow.alc.co.jp/search?q=can%27t+be+bothered

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Thanks for the extra vocabulary alternatives. I do understand what you're trying to imply. Correct me If I'm wrong but けど at the end of a sentence may somewhat give the nuance of complaint or something, right? + Yeah, now that I thought it over, I never actually heard でも at the end of a sentence... I think I get the nuance and meaning better now thanks to your answer! Much thanks! –  xTCx Dec 13 '12 at 20:52
    
It's not as much of a complaint as much as it is a kind of passive way of suggesting that something might be undesirable. That is, it's not really rude. –  ssb Dec 14 '12 at 7:34
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It might help you to think of けど as "although" instead of "but", that way it will attach to the same clause as in English.

Although I can, I can't be bothered
できるけど、めんどくさいよ

If you want something grammatically (or at least structurally) more similar to "but", you could use だけど/しかし/でも, although these require new sentences.

I can. But I can't be bothered
できる。でもめんどくさいよ

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I see. By the way isn't だけど actually だ + けど? I know it can be used mainly in this 2 situations: 1) after a noun/na-adj. 2) sub clauses. Correct me if I'm wrong please! Thank you by the way :) –  xTCx Dec 13 '12 at 20:44
    
@xTCx, yes だけど is just だ + けど. だ refers to the previous sentence (or something in the discourse). So だけど is kinda like "In spite of that", where だ has the same function as "that" and けど has the same function as "In spite of". But when it starts a sentence, it's often more natural to just translate it as "But". –  dainichi Dec 14 '12 at 0:21
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@xTCx, and yes, you're right it appears after nouns and na-adj, but when this happens, were are really also talking about subclauses. So e.g. 緑だけど is [緑だ]けど, where 緑だ means "it's green" and けど means "although". I.e. "Although it's green" or "It's green, but". When だけど stands alone, だ can be seen a subclause by itself. –  dainichi Dec 14 '12 at 0:29
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