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Pero, sino and sino que

Do you know how to say “but” in Spanish? If you are wondering why we need a lesson to answer such a simple question, there’s a reason for that. In fact, we have three options to express the conjunction “but” in Spanish: pero, sino and sino que. Let’s look at each one:



Pero in Spanish

As a conjunction, the Spanish word pero works like the English conjunction “but.” Let’s look at some examples:


Pues, fue muy estresante y agotador pero a la vez divertido porque…

Well, it was really stressful and exhausting but at the same time fun because…

Caption 62, Cleer - Entrevista a Lila

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llegó al país de los Muiscas una bella pero mala mujer llamada Huitaca,

a beautiful but evil woman named Huitaca arrived in the country of the Muiscas,

Caption 28, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bochica

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We use pero in Spanish to create contrast between two statements. This contrast helps us to expand the information provided by the first statement. While most of the time the first statement is a positive one, there are some cases in which that statement can be negative:


No podemos ver, pero podemos escuchar.

We can’t see, but we can listen. 


In this case, you could also replace pero with sin embargo (however):


No podemos ver. Sin embargo, podemos escuchar.

We can’t see. However, we can listen.


What does sino mean?

We use the conjunction sino to create a contrast between two statements where the first one is ALWAYS a negative one. Let’s take a look:


lo importante no es ganar, sino competir.

the important thing isn't winning, but competing.

Caption 41, Club 10 - Capítulo 1 - Part 5

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Que no es una chica, sino un chico. -Oh...

That's it's not a girl, but rather a boy. -Oh…

Caption 40, Extr@: Extra en español - Ep 01 La llegada de Sam - Part 2

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You can think of sino as something that we could replace with por el contrario (on the contrary). Also, keep in mind that when you have a verb after sino, you need to use its infinitive form.


Sino que

We use sino que exactly the same way as the conjunction sino. The difference is that we use sino que when both statements contain a conjugated verb. Let’s take a look:  


En general, la... la gente no es sólo respetuosa, sino que es súper amable con nosotros.

In general, the... the people are not only respectful but are super kind to us.

Captions 41-42, El Instituto Cervantes - Jefa de biblioteca

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O sea que no solamente era una cosa, sino que eran varias.

I mean that it was not only one thing, but rather there were many.

Caption 27, María Marí - Su pasión por su arte - Part 2

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Simple rules for using “but” in Spanish

Considering the fact that you have three options, you might not always know which option to choose in order to say “but” in Spanish. Luckily, there are some simple rules that will help you to figure out whether you need to use pero, sino or sino que. Let’s have a look:


- If the first statement is positive you need to use pero.

- If the first statement is negative, you need to use either sino or sino que.

- If the first statement is negative and you have a conjugated verb in both statements you need to use sino que.

- If you can replace “but” with “however” (sin embargo), you need to use pero.

- If you can replace “but” with “on the contrary,” (por el contrario) you need to use sino.


That's all for now. Now that you know how to say “but” in Spanish, try to write 5 sentences with pero, 5 sentences with sino and 5 sentences with sino que. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to


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