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

Welcome to our grammar lesson about 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 for practice.

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 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 disfruto comiendo en casa.
I like eating in this 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 in the coming years it may improve.

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, and after sino the correction of that negative statement.

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 usually becomes sino que:

No estudio sino que trabajo.
I don’t study but rather 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 something of the kind “not this, but that”, we use sino.
  • In any other case, we use pero.



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


Now we are going to practice with sentences.

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.

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