Sino in Spanish: Being Contrary, But, Not Only

In the section on Talking about Ifs, Ands and Buts, you learned about the word pero, which means but. (This is not to be confused with the word perro, which means dog!)

What you didn’t learn then was that there is another word for but in Spanish that has a slightly different meaning: sino!!.

Sino in Spanish

but, however
but rather, on the contrary

When to Use PERO

You will ordinarily use pero before a complete clause or statement, be it a negative one or a positive one. You will know that pero is the correct choice if you can substitute the word however and still convey the correct English meaning.

Por ejemplo:

Me gustan mucho las manzanas, pero los plátanos me gustan más.
I like apples very much, but I like bananas more.
El auto rojo está muy maltratado, pero el motor está superbueno.
The red car has been badly taken care of, but the motor is in great condition.

When to Use SINO

When what follows the word but is NOT a complete clause or statement, you may need to use sino instead. If you can substitute but rather or on the contrary and still convey the correct English meaning, then you will know that sino is the correct choice.

Por ejemplo:

If what follows sino is a conjugated verb or a subordinate clause (rather than an infinitive or a noun), you’ll need to use sino que.

Por ejemplo:

Not Only … But Also

Sino has another use. If you want to say that you not only won first place but also the grand prize, you will use the phrase no sólo … sino. Don’t forget the accent mark in sólo!

The word también is frequently used with no sólo … sino. También means too or also.

Por ejemplo:

No sirven comida en el bar, sino en el restaurante.
They don’t serve food at the bar, but rather in the restaurant.
No me gusta hablar, sino cantar.
I don’t like talking, but rather singing.
A Sarita no le gusta Orlando Bloom, sino Johnny Depp.
Sarita doesn’t like Orlando Bloom, but rather Johnny Depp.
No sólo vamos a Irlanda sino a Escocia también.
We’re not only going to Ireland but to Scotland, too.
No sólo comimos pastel sino helado también.
We didn’t just eat cake but ice cream also.
No sólo gané el gran premio sino también un viaje a Nueva York.
I didn’t just win the grand prize but also a trip to New York.

Remember that if what follows is a subordinate clause (e.g., a conjugated verb), you need to use sino que.

Por ejemplo:

1. No sólo estoy enamorado de Silvia, sino que quiero casarme con ella.
- I’m not only in love with Silvia, but also I want to marry her.

2. No sólo dices que tengo que cambiarme, sino que les dices a todas tus amigas que vago soy.
- You don’t just tell me that I have to change, but you also tell all your friends how lazy I am.

¡No sólo quieres que te de un regalo, sino que tiene que valer más de cien dólares también!
Not only do you want me to give you a present, but it has to be worth more than one hundred dollars, too!

In the next section we'll talk about the Spanish Future Tense.


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