“pero” vs. “sino” in Spanish

PERO vs SINO in Spanish

Welcome to our grammar lesson about pero vs. sino, where we will learn and practice how to choose between these Spanish words.

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

In this lesson we will learn how to choose between “pero” and “sino”, with example sentences.

At the end you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

“pero” vs. “sino”

Use of “pero”

pero means “but”.

It expresses an opposition between two elements.

Placing “pero” in a sentence is easy: simply translate from English and place pero in the same spot 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.

Soy español pero no me gusta dormir la siesta.
I’m Spanish but I don’t like napping.

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 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.
The Spanish economy is going through a negative phase, but in the coming years it may improve.


Use of “sino”

sino means “but” or “but rather…”.

We use “sino” only in sentences that follow this pattern: “not this, but rather that”:

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

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

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


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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Practice

Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about “pero” vs “sino”:


Exercise

Now we are going to practice with sentences.

Fill the gaps choosing between “pero”, “sino” and “sino que”:

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

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

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

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

Solutions:
1) sino
2) pero
3) pero
4) sino que