What’s the Difference Between Pero and Sino?


Pero and sino are Spanish words that can be used to express contrasting ideas. As a result, they’re both translated as ‘but’. Despite the fact that they share the same translation, these words cannot be used interchangeably because they have different purposes. For that reason, many Spanish learners wonder what’s the difference between ‘pero’ and ‘sino’. 

Pero and sino are used to connect more than one sentence. Pero is used to add more information to a previous statement. It can be translated as ‘but’, ‘however’, ‘nevertheless’. Sino is used to contradict or correct a previous statement. It means ‘but’, ‘but rather’ and ‘but instead’. 

For both new and experienced Spanish learners, knowing when to use ‘pero’ or ‘sino’ can be a challenging task. For that reason, in the following sections, we’ll explain the difference between these words as well as when and how to use them.

Additionally, we’ll provide examples of how to apply these words in real-life situations and we’ll introduce some practical phrase structures that you can follow when using them. Hopefully, by the end of this, knowing the difference between ‘pero’ and ‘sino’ will no longer be a problem for you. 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Pero’ and ‘Sino’ in Spanish?

Since they both are directly translated as ‘but’ and they are used to connect sentences and words, it’s easy to assume that ‘pero’ and ‘sino’ are synonymous. However, these Spanish conjunctions have different purposes in a Spanish sentence. 

On top of connecting sentences and words, pero adds further information or characteristics to a previous sentence. ‘Pero’ is the direct translation of ‘but’, but (pero) it’s also closer in meaning to ‘however’ or ‘nevertheless’. Notice that in the following examples that ‘pero’ is just adding extra information to the first statement: 

Me gustan los perros, pero también los gatos
I like dogs, but also cats

Ayer estuvo nublado, pero no hizo frío
Yesterday was cloudy, but it wasn’t cold

On the other hand, sino is also used to connect two or more sentences. Unlike ‘pero’, ‘sino’ has the purpose to negate or contradict the information presented before. As a result, it can be translated as ‘but’, ‘but rather’ or ‘but instead’. Another big difference between these words is that ‘sino’ only works with negative statements while ‘pero’ can work with either positive or negative statements.

No me gustan los perros, sino los gatos
I don’t like dogs, but I like cats

Sofía no es española, sino mexicana
Sofia is not Spanish, but rather Mexican

In the previous examples, we’re negating that I like dogs and that Sofia is Spanish and we’re contradicting these statements by including the correct information: I like cats and Sofia is Mexican. 

Now that you have a general idea of the differences between these words, let’s see how and when to use ‘pero’ and ‘sino’ in Spanish. 

When & How to Use ‘Pero’ in Spanish

In Spanish, ‘pero’ allows you to connect more than two sentences with contrasting or opposite ideas. The purpose of this word is adding further characteristics or extra information to a previous statement. Unlike ‘sino’, ‘pero’ doesn’t negate or contradict the information presented, it just adds more details. 

Depending on the context, this Spanish conjunction can be translated as ‘but’, ‘however’ or ‘nevertheless’. Here are some examples and phrase structure that you can follow when using this word. Notice that ‘pero’ introduces this extra information. 

[Statement #1] + pero + [Statement  #2]

Hoy está soleado, pero no hace mucho calor 
Today is sunny, but it’s not very hot

Ayer hablé con Isabel, pero no sé qué le pasa
Yesterday I talked to Isabel, but I don’t know what’s going on with her

No te tiene que gustar la escuela, pero de todas formas tienes que ir
You don’t have to like school; however, you still need to go

La novia de Andrés es muy bonita, pero nada amable 
Andres’ girlfriend is very pretty, but she’s not nice at all

Quería la cine con Ricky, pero no tuve tiempo
I wanted to go to the movies with Ricky, but I didn’t have time

Notice that in all these examples the sentences that come after pero express some opposite ideas to the information expressed by statement #1. However, these opposite ideas are just adding more information.

Take Note: You can conjugate your statements to any tense verb that you need. Just keep in mind that by using ‘pero’ you will be adding more information to your sentence. 

When & How to Use ‘Sino’ in Spanish

Just like ‘pero’, sino is another Spanish word that connects sentences and words with opposite information. We use ‘sino’ when we want to negate or contradict a previous statement. Generally speaking, ‘sino’ only works with negative sentences and it can be translated as: ‘but’, ‘but rather’ or, ‘but instead. 

Here are some examples of how to use ‘sino’ in Spanish sentences as well as the phrase structure you can use with this word. 

[Negative Statement] + sino + [noun]

Esto no es agua, sino
This is not water, but tea 

No estudio italiano, sino español
I don’t study Italian, but Spanish

Brenda no quiere ir a México, sino a España
Brenda doesn’t want to go to Mexico, but instead Spain

Mañana no pasaré el día con mi novia, sino con mi familia
Tomorrow I won’t spend the day with my girlfriend, but rather with my family

Notice that when using ‘sino’ you’re negating some previous information but you’re also correcting it. This isn’t the case with ‘pero’ where you’re just adding more details. Additionally, notice that ‘sino’ is introducing the word that is going to contradict your previous statement. 

Sino también – Not only, but also

Sino también is a Spanish term that you can use to add more information to a previous statement. In order to do this, you need to create sentences using ‘no sólo…sino también’ which are the direct translation of ‘not only…, but also’. Here are some examples of how to use this structure: 

[Subject] +[no sólo] + [verb conjugated] + [info] + sino también + [info]

Juan no sólo es grosero, sino también desagradable
Juan is not only rude but also very disagreeable 

Mateo no sólo habla español, sino también francés y portugués
Mateo not only speaks Spanish but also French and Portuguese

Mis papás no sólo viajaron a Europa, sino también a África 
My parents not only traveled to Europe but also to Africa

In the previous examples, both statements worked with the same verb. However, if the extra information needs another verb, you will need to use the following structure: 

[Subject] +[no sólo] + [verb conjugated] + [info] + sino que también + [verb conjugated] + [info]

Andrés no sólo me compró flores, sino que también me invitó al cine
Andres not only bought me flowers but also invited me to the movies

Diana y Paula no sólo saben cocinar, sino que también preparan bebidas y postres
Diana and Paula not only know how to cook but also prepare drinks and desserts

Take Note: Since they both are adding extra information to a previous sentence, ‘no sólo…sino también’ is a formal synonym of ‘pero. 

Wrapping Up

Sino and pero can be easily confused because they’re both translated as ‘but’. However, these words are not exact synonyms since they have different purposes in a Spanish sentence. As a result, depending on the situation, you will need to use one or the other. Here are some key points that will help you understand the difference between these words: 

Pero 

  • Means ‘but’, ‘however’ or ‘nevertheless.’ 
  • Used to connect multiple sentences with contrasting ideas.
  • Adds further information and details to a previous statement. 

Sino

  • Used to connect multiple sentences with contrasting ideas. 
  • Negates or corrects previous information. 
  • Works with negative sentences
  • Means ‘but’, ‘but rather’ or ‘but instead’. 

Incorrect

No estudio español, pero italiano I don’t study Spanish, but Italian

Correct

No estudio español, sino italiano I don’t study Spanish, but Italian

Incorrect

Ayer estuvo soleado, sino no hizo calor Yesterday was sunny but rather hot

Correct

Ayer estuvo soleado, pero no hizo calor Yesterday was sunny, but it wasn’t hot

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the differences between ‘pero’ and ‘sino’ and you will be able to use them correctly.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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