“pero” vs. “sino” in Spanish – Learn and Practice

Welcome 😊 to our grammar lesson on how to choose between pero and sino in Spanish.

Both pero and sino mean but in English. However, we use them in different types of sentences.

At the end of the lesson, you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise to practice.

Use of “pero”

pero means “but”.

It expresses an opposition between two elements.

Using “pero” in a sentence is easy: simply translate from English and place pero in the same spot but occupies:

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

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

Mi perro es bueno, pero a veces muerde.
My dog is good, but sometimes it bites.

It is common to place a comma before pero, specially when it connects long sentences:

Me gusta comer en restaurantes, pero también disfruto comiendo en casa.
I like to in restaurants, but I also enjoy eating at home.

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

Use of “sino”

sino means “but” or “but rather…”.

We use it only in sentences that follow this pattern: “not this, but that”.

That means before sino we always need a negative statement.

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

Él no juega al fútbol sino al tenis.
He doesn’t play soccer but tennis.

No quieren estudiar sino dormir.
They don’t want to study but to sleep.

When sino introduces a sentence with a conjugated verb (a verb not in the infinitive), it usually becomes sino que:

No estudio sino que trabajo.
I don’t study but work.(“trabajo” is the verb “trabajar” conjugated in present tense)


In order to translate “but” into Spanish, we follow this logic:

  • If we are saying “not this, but that”, we use sino.
  • In any other case, we use pero.



Take this short Quiz about “pero” vs “sino”:


Fill the gaps choosing between “pero”, “sino” and “sino que”. Click on the gray spaces to see the solutions:

1) No compramos manzanas sino peras.
We don’t buy apples but rather pears.

2) Hace calor, pero llueve.
It’s hot, but it’s raining.

3) Los españoles son ruidosos pero también simpáticos.
Spaniards are loud but also friendly.

4) Mi amigo no duerme, sino que piensa con los ojos cerrados.
My friend doesn’t sleep, but rather thinks with his eyes closed.