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Lessons for topic Conjunctions

Si no vs. Sino

Si no or sino? That is the question of today's lesson. Do you know when to write one or the other? Both expressions seem very similar but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Although even native speakers make mistakes when writing these words, the truth is they are used in specific cases that are easily recognizable. Let's start this lesson with a little quiz: 

 

Which one would you use in the following sentence?:

Amalia no ha llegado al apartamento; ____ ya me hubiera llamado.

Amalia hasn't arrived at the apartment; otherwise she would have called me already.

 

What about in this one?:

no solamente cubre la ciudad de Bogotá, ____ varios municipios alrededor de... de Bogotá,

it doesn't just cover the city of Bogota, but rather several municipalities around... Bogota,

 

We will unveil the answers at the end of this lesson. Now, let's dive into the difference between si no and sino.

 

What is the English equivalent of si no?

Si no is made of two parts. The conditinal conjunction 'si' and the negation 'no'. We use si no to introduce a negative conditional sentence. In particular, we use si no when it works as "otherwise" to imply the idea of "on the contrary". Let's see a couple of examples:

 

porque todos son amantes de los animales, si no, no vendrían a vernos,

because they are all animal lovers, otherwise, they wouldn't come to see us,

Captions 45-46, Santuario para burros Voluntarios

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¿Grabó esto sin su permiso? Claro que sí. Si no, no la habría descubierto.

Did you record this without her permission? Of course. Otherwise, I wouldn't have discovered it.

Captions 52-54, Los casos de Yabla El perrito malcriado - Part 1

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What does the word sino mean in English?

In Spanish, the word sino is a conjunction that usually works as the English equivalent "but" or "but rather". Generally speaking, we use it to create a contrast between and affirmative statement that is placed right after a negative one. Let's see a couple of examples:

 

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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Por esta razón, no decimos "uno libro", sino "un libro".

For this reason, we don't say "uno libro," but rather "un libro" ["a book"].

Caption 39, Carlos explica Los Números: Números Cardinales

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Sometimes, we also use sino when we want to state an exception:

Nadie lo sabe sino tu padre.

Nobody except your father knows it.

 

And finally, we use sino when we want to add more elements to a single statement, usually with the formula 'no solo... sino también' (not only... but also): 

unas de las bandas más importantes de Latinoamérica, este... no sólo por su trabajo musical, sino también por su trabajo social y activismo ambiental.

one the most important bands in Latin America, um... not only because of their musical work, but also because of their social work and environmental activism.

Captions 10-12, Doctor Krápula Entrevista

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Let's solve the questions

Considering all of the above, it is time to solve the questions we posed at the beginning of this lesson. Let's unveil the answers:

 

Amalia no ha llegado al apartamento; si no ya me hubiera llamado.

Amalia hasn't arrived at the apartment; otherwise she would have called me already.

Caption 19, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capitulo 4 - Part 11

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no solamente cubre la ciudad de Bogotá, sino varios municipios alrededor de... de Bogotá,

it doesn't just cover the city of Bogota, but rather several municipalities around... Bogota,

Captions 57-58, Bogotá Chorro de Quevedo

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That's it for today. We hope this lesson helped you to understand when to write sino and si no. And don't forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

 

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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 newsletter@yabla.com.

 

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Different ways to use como

The Spanish word como (an adverb but also a conjunction) has many different meanings. Let's explore a few examples to learn how to properly use it.
 
Generally speaking, the adverb como has a comparative meaning. You can use it with the verb ser (to be) to compare things, people, actions, etc. There are different ways in which this como can be used, but it usually translates as "as" or "like."

 

Nadie como tú me llena

No one fulfills me like you

Caption 18, Michael Stuart Me Siento Vivo

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Yo tenía cuidado de no pisarlas como tú me enseñaste.

I was careful not to step on them as you taught me.

Caption 33, Guillermina y Candelario La Isla de las Serpientes - Part 1

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But the adverb como can also mean “about” and be used to make an estimate, or approximation (which in a way is also a comparison).
For example, to estimate an amount of money:

 

Que esto ya cuesta como veinticinco soles.

This alone already costs about twenty-five soles.

Caption 41, Cocinas Peruanas Short Film - Part 2

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Or to estimate an amount of time:

 

Estos muslitos se van a tardar como unos quince, veinte minutos.

These little thighs are going to take about fifteen, twenty minutes.

Caption 15, [Bears in the Kitchen] Osos en la cocina Pollo asiático

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On the other hand, as a conjunction, the word como has even more uses, equally interesting. For now, let's just study the most common ones: como meaning "as" or "since" and como meaning "if."
 
When the conjunction como is used to establish an antecedent condition it means "as" or "since:"

 

Como ya les dije,

As I already told you,

Caption 26, Lecciones de guitarra Con Cristhian - Part 1

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Y también como sos uruguaya,

And also since you are Uruguayan

Caption 62, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 7

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The conjunction como can also be used in a conditional clause that translates as an "if" clause. It's used with the subjunctive, it's not very common, and it's typically used to make threats or prevent people from doing or not doing something:
 

Como no vengas le digo todo a mamá.
If you don't come I'd tell mom everything.


Como no me hagas caso, lo pasarás mal
if you don't listen to me, there will be trouble


As you can see, this como is more commonly used in the negative form. And, by the way, it's just an alternative to using a si clause (which doesn't need the subjunctive):
 

Si no vienes le digo todo a mamá.
If you don't come I'll tell mom everything.
 
Si no me haces caso, lo pasarás mal
if you don't listen to me, there will be trouble

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Ni - Not even

Michael Stuart sings about a few things he either did not or cannot do. Listen in:

 

no te había ni conocido

I hadn't even met you

Caption 8, Michael Stuart Me Siento Vivo

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No me puedo ni imaginar

I can't even imagine

Caption 19, Michael Stuart Me Siento Vivo

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In both cases, we translated ni as "even," which may confuse some students who think first of ni as "nor," "or" or "neither" first and foremost. (For example: No tengo tiempo ni dinero para viajar, or, No tengo ni tiempo ni dinero para viajar translates as "I don't have the time nor the money to travel").

But the ni we hear in Michael Stuart's song is a ni as in ni siquiera that means "not even."

In the case of Michael Stuart's lyrics, we translate ni as "even" instead of "not even" because English doesn't do no double negative the way Spanish does. (Sorry! A lame attempt to illustrate our grammatical point.) If it did, we'd translate caption 19 from our song as "I can't not even imagine."

When there is only one (single) negative, the substitution of ni for no in a sentence not only changes the meaning from "not" to something more along the lines of "not even," but it tends to make the statement a bit more emphatic as well.

 

  • Desde que choqué, no manejo.
  • "Since I crashed, I do not drive."

 

  • Desde que choqué, ni manejo.
  • "Since I crashed, I don't [even] drive [at all]."


To a native speaker, the second statement has an implied meaning along the lines of "It's not like I drive more carefully now, I don't even drive at all!" or "I don't even think about driving!"

 

  • Todos los días ella pasa frente a mí y ni me saluda.
  • "Every day she passes in front of me and does not even say hello."
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U for O, E for Y

 

un segmento de una hora u hora y media

a period of one hour or one hour and a half

Caption 40, Rafael T. La Cultura Maya - Part 1

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Sooner or later we all notice cases where u replaces o ("or") or where e replaces y ("and"). These conjunctions change when the word following them starts with the same letter sound. Therefore in the example above, o changes to u because the beginning sound of the next word, hora, is [o] (note that the h is silent).

The rule of thumb is pretty simple: With the conjunctions o ("or") and y ("and"), the vowels change if they are followed by the same vowel sounds.

Here are some examples of the vowel change in action:

¿Vas a comprar siete cervezas u ocho?
"Are you going to buy seven beers or eight?"


¿Quieres cervezas o gaseosas?
"Do you want beers or sodas?"


and...

Julieta e Ignacio estudian la medicina.
"Julieta and Ignacio study medicine."


Yasmil y Javier tocan a la guitarra.
"Yasmil and Javier play the guitar. "


Try speaking the sentence without changing the vowel and you should hear that it sounds funny to say the same vowel sound twice. That should help you remember this simple rule.

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