Unit 12: More uses of SE, future and conditional tenses

12.6 Meanings of sino

Sino is used after a negative to express “but” in the sense of “but rather” or “on the contrary.” It is used for contrast and is followed by que (not translated) before a conjugated verb.

Certain statements may employ either pero or sino, but the meaning shifts slightly from the simple “but” (no contrast implied) to “but rather”:

No votaron, sino que discutieron el asunto. They didn’t vote, but rather [they] discussed the matter.
No votaron, pero discutieron el asunto. They didn’t vote, but they did discuss the matter.

See these further examples:

No fueron por autobús, sino por tren. They didn’t go by bus, but rather by train.
Nélida no sigue siendo una mera empleada, sino que llegó a ser jefa de su departamento. Nélida is no longer a mere employee, but rather became head of her department.
Varsovia es grande, pero, como otras ciudades grandes, tiene muchos problemas. Warsaw is large, but, like other large cities, it has many problems.

Sino must be translated with care, as it has two other meanings, the first of which is “but” in the sense of “except”:

Nadie se ha enterado de eso sino ella. No one has found out about that except her.

When combined with no, its other common meaning is “only”:

No tengo sino diez minutos para explicar la cuestión. I only have ten minutes to explain the issue.

Remember the expression no sólo… sino también:

No sólo no me lo dijo ayer, sino también se negó a revelármelo hoy. Not only did he not tell it to me yesterday, but also he refused to reveal it to me today.



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