The Ultimate Guide to the Differences Between ‘Pero’ and ‘Sino’ in Spanish
The difference between pero and sino in Spanish is real, although both of these words translate to “but” in English.
Many students of Spanish struggle with the distinction, and even native Spanish speakers make mistakes with the use of these conjunctions.
However, it’s easy to learn when you should use pero in Spanish and when to use sino in Spanish.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading, and I promise that at the end, you’ll be able to take a multiple choice quiz on the difference between pero and sino and get all the answers right.
Sentence Conjunctions and Connection Words
Before we go into the details of pero and sino, let’s review some grammar rules to make sure we’re on the same page.
Like in English, Spanish uses linking or connective words. There are two types of them:
1. Conjunctions – connect ideas within clauses and sentences
2. Transition words – connect sentences and paragraphs
Pero and sino are both conjunctions, meaning you should use them to link ideas within the same sentence. To be more precise, they belong to a specific group of coordinating conjunctions that you use to express contrast.
To learn more about other conjunctions and transition words, check out The Essential Guide to Spanish Linking Words.
Differences Between ‘Pero’ and ‘Sino’
Before we focus on the difference between pero and sino, let’s take a look at their similarities. (These are the reason for all the confusion!)
First, they both translate to “but” in English. Then, you use both of them as a coordinating conjunction to express contrasting ideas.
However, they’re not synonyms.
You’ll use pero in Spanish to add information to the statement before it. Possible translations: but, however, and nevertheless.
Sino in Spanish contradicts or corrects the statement before it. It translates into: but, but rather, and but instead.
Let’s see each one of them with example sentences and detailed instructions on how to use them.
How To Use ‘Pero’ in Spanish
As I mentioned, pero adds information that contrasts with the idea in the first sentence. Let’s take a look at some example sentences with pero in Spanish.
Me gustan las manzanas pero también me gustan las peras.
I like apples, but I also like pears.
Me gustan las bananas, pero no las piñas.
I like bananas, but I don’t like pineapples.
No me gustan las fresas pero sí me gustan los arándanos.
I don’t like strawberries, but I do like blueberries.
No me regalaste nada para mi cumpleaños pero me llamaste.
You didn’t give me anything for my birthday, but you called me.
In the above sentences you could substitute “but” with “however” or “nevertheless.”
The formula for using pero in Spanish is simple: statement 1 + pero + statement 2.
The statements can be positive or negative. The second statement introduces a contrasting idea that adds information to the information in statement 1. And of course, you can use this conjunction in any tense or mood combination.
No quiero ir al cine pero quiero ir al concierto.
I don’t want to go to the movies, but I want to go to the concert.
Quiero comer rico pero no quiero comer aquí.
I want to eat well, but I don’t want to eat here.
No quise salir pero tampoco quise quedarme en casa.
I didn’t want to go out, but I didn’t want to stay home either.
Quiero leer un libro pero que sea bueno.
I want to read a book, but I want it to be a good one.
How To Use ‘Sino’ in Spanish
Like pero, sino introduces a contrasting idea. In this case, however, the second information negates or contradicts the idea in statement 1. Sino only appears after a negative statement.
Be careful. Sino is a single word. “Si no” exists in Spanish but means “if not.”
No voy a salir si no vamos en coche.
I’m not going out if we’re not going by car.
The formula for sino in Spanish is slightly different from the formula for pero. There are even three possible formulas: Negative statement + sino + noun.
You’ll use this formula if the verb in the first statement also applies to the second sentence.
Let’s see sino in Spanish in sentences:
No me gustan las manzanas sino las bananas.
I don’t like apples, but I like bananas.
Do you remember a similar sentence from above?
No me gustan las fresas pero sí me gustan los arándanos.
I don’t like strawberries but I do like blueberries.
In the sentence with pero, you’re adding an idea that contrasts with the first negative statement.
In the sentence with sino, you give a substitute for the first negative idea instead of adding new information.
In the sentence “No me gustan las manzanas sino (me gustan) las bananas,” we don’t need to repeat the verb, as it is the same as in the first sentence.
What happens if we want to use a different verb in the second statement? The formula changes to: negative statement 1 + sino que + statement 2.
No hice mi tarea sino que pasé la tarde leyendo un libro nuevo.
I didn’t do my homework, but rather spent the afternoon reading a new book.
No sólo… sino (que) también
Sino is also often used with an expression no sólo that appears in the first statement. In this case you need to use sino también or sino que también in the second statement. Sino que también appears when the verb in the second sentence is different from the verb in the fist statement.
In this case sino (que) también adds information and does not negate the idea from the first statement. The use of pero in such a construction is incorrect, although you will hear even native Spanish speakers use it.
Mi madre no sólo sabe cocinar sino también sabe hacer pasteles.
My mother not only knows how to cook, but also how to bake.
Andrés no sólo no es amable sino que también pelea con todos.
Andres is not only unkind, but also fights with everyone.
‘Pero’ and ‘Sino’ in Spanish – Multiple-Choice Quiz
Now that you know the difference between pero and sino, let’s see how well you do on this quiz. Remember, there’s only one possible correct answer .
1. No quiero levantarme ___________ quedar en cama.
2. Hice la sopa ___________ no hice el postre.
3. Ayer llovió ___________ no se inundaron las calles.
4. Ayer no llovió, ___________hizo un día espectacular.
5. No sólo me llamaste ___________ también me mandaste flores.
6. No estudio ingeniería ___________ computación.
7. Me gusta el chocolate ___________ no me gustan los helados.
8. Esta noche no vamos al cine ___________ al teatro.
9. Tal vez no hable alemán ___________ hablo español.
10. Me encanta el karate ___________ judo es mi pasión.
Practice Spanish in Conversation
It’s easy to see the difference between pero and sino in Spanish if you spend some time understanding how they function in a sentence.
Now that you know all the theories, it’s time to focus on production. Remember, you want to use Spanish in conversation, understand and talk to other people. (Did you know that there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. alone?)
Sign up for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and start using pero and sino in Spanish in real conversations! Practice Spanish in a 1-to-1 class with one of our friendly and professional teachers from Guatemala. Check out our affordable pricing and flexible programs!
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