Spanish Words “Pero” and “Sino”

In this lesson we will learn all about Spanish Words “pero” and “sino”, both of which mean “but” in English.

We will go through the following points:

1 – The Word “Pero”

The Spanish word “pero” means “but” in English. 

It is a conjunction that expresses a contraction or opposition between the elements it connects.

2 – Use and Placement

“Pero” is one of the most frequent connectors used in the Spanish language.

Its placement is very intuitive. We can pretty much translate from English and place “pero” in the same place we would place “but”.

Este hombre es simpático pero cobarde.
This man is nice but cowardly.

Tengo manzanas pero no fresas.
I have apples but not strawberries.

The decision whether to place a comma before “pero” is also intuitive. Whenever we feel there should be a short pause, we can place a comma, especially when “pero” connects long sentences.

Me gusta comer en este restaurante, pero también me gusta comer en casa.
I like eating in this restaurants, but I also like eating at home.

La economía española atraviesa una fase negativa, pero en los próximos años puede mejorar.
Spanish economy is going through a negative phase, but it can improve in the next years.

Placing a period before “pero” is also possible but not so frequent. After a period it is more common to use other connectors, such as “sin embargo”, which means “however, nevertheless”:

Esta ciudad tiene muchas atracciones turísticas. Sin embargo, para salir por la noche es un poco aburrida.
This town has many tourist attractions. However, for going out at night it is a bit boring.

3 –The Word “Sino”

There is another word in Spanish which translates as “but” in English, but only in the specific case where we mean “NOT this, BUT that”: the word “sino”.

No tengo manzanas sino fresas.
I don’t have apples but strawberries.

When “sino” introduces a sentence with a conjugated verb, it becomes “sino que”:

No estudio sino que trabajo.
I don’t study but work.

So whenever we translate “but” from English, it is good to take a second to consider if it should translate as “pero” or as “sino”.

4 – Practice: A Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge!: