6 Different Ways To Say 'But' In Spanish (Formal & Informal)

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6 Different Ways To Say 'But' In Spanish (Formal & Informal)

Although you may have learned in a Spanish course that pero is how to say “but” in Spanish, you also have several variations of this conjunction at your disposal.

You could technically use pero for many scenarios.

Still, it’s well worth learning alternatives for “but”, as understanding them can help you follow what a native Spanish speaker says.

Let’s look at the options you have for saying “but” in Spanish.

Different ways to say “but” in Spanish

Below I’ve outlined “pero” and some alternative terms in Spanish.

Pay attention to their respective nuances and appropriate contexts.

1. Pero

Pero is the most common and literal translation of “but” in Spanish.

This is not to be confused with perro meaning “dog”.

This word joins two sentences or words together and functions to help you talk about two concepts and contrast them. As you will notice in the following examples, the word pero functions just as the English word “but”. This word is common and informal.

The formula for using pero when writing or speaking in Spanish is, therefore, similar to the English construction:

First sentence + pero + Second sentence

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

No creemos que llueva, pero llevamos el paraguas de todos modos.

We don't think it will rain, but we will take an umbrella anyway.
Listen to audio

No tiene coche, pero le gusta caminar para hacer ejercicio.

He doesn't have a car, but he likes to walk for exercise.
Listen to audio

Estamos contentos con el piso nuevo, pero tenemos muchas cosas para arreglar.

We are happy with the new flat, but we have many things to fix.

2. Sino

The conjunction sino is a common word in Spanish that can mean “but rather”. If you have a sentence that negates a statement and a sentence that includes a contrasting affirmation, these sentences are often joined with the conjunction sino in Spanish.

In many cases, the sentence before the conjunction sino will contain incorrect information that the speaker wants to correct in the following statement. Use the following formula when integrating sino into your sentences:

Sentence with negation + sino + Sentence with the corrected fact

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

Alicia: Pensé que era tu cumpleaños ayer.

Alicia: I thought it was your birthday yesterday.
Listen to audio

Carmen: No. No era mi cumpleaños ayer, sino anteayer.

Carmen: No. It wasn't my birthday yesterday, but the day before yesterday.
Listen to audio

Juan: ¿No abrieron un restaurante nuevo la semana pasada?

Juan: Didn't they open a new restaurant last week?
Listen to audio

Antonio: No. No abrieron un restaurante nuevo la semana pasada, sino hace dos meses.

Antonio: No. They didn't open a new restaurant last week, but two months ago.

3. Sin embargo

Even though sin embargo is slightly more formal than pero it has similar meanings. Sin embargo can mean “nevertheless” or “however”. Some scenarios in which you may hear this conjunction are in business meetings, at school, or in a political discussion between heads of state.

In those Spanish business meetings or political discussions, the speaker will use the following sentence structure when they use the conjunction sin embargo:

First statement or sentence + sin embargo + Second statement or sentence

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

El gobierno ha mejorado las leyes fiscales; sin embargo, muchas personas todavía tienen dificultades con las finanzas.

The government has improved tax laws; however, many people still have financial difficulties.
Listen to audio

Su hijo ha mejorado sus habilidades en el idioma inglés; sin embargo, tiene dificultades con las matemáticas.

Your child has improved her English language abilities but has difficulties with mathematics.

4. No obstante

No obstante has a few meanings, including “nevertheless” or “even so”. This conjunction is similar to sin embargo and is ideal for formal situations such as university lectures or business meetings.

When you use no obstante remember that it is a conjunction for connecting two contrasting concepts or presenting two contrasting concepts. A formula that may help you use no obstante correctly is the following:

First statement or sentence + no obstante + second statement or sentence

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

El gobierno intenta mejorar las vidas de la gente; no obstante, muchas personas no tienen éxito ni esperanza.

The government tries to improve people's lives; nevertheless, many people are unsuccessful and lack hope.
Listen to audio

La teoría de los simulacros es un tema clave; sin embargo, la alegoría de la caverna de platón es más importante.

The simulacra theory is one key theme; nevertheless, Plato's cave allegory is more important.

5. Excepto

If you want to say “with the exception of”, excepto is one ideal conjunction. It also means “but” and shows that there is an exception to a general norm or trend. Sentences that include the conjunction excepto will often contain a Spanish noun.

The formula you can use to integrate excepto into your sentence is:

First sentence + except + Spanish noun

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

Todos los estudiantes están callados excepto Luisa.

All the students are quiet except Luisa.
Listen to audio

Todos los niños comen mucho excepto la más joven.

All the children eat a lot except the youngest.

6. Menos

Use menos in a similar way to excepto.

It’s an informal word that can mean “with the exception of”, but remember that menos also means “less” or “fewer” in other contexts.

Since menos means “but” in Spanish, you may think you can use pero for sentences such as Todos los paises han seguido adelante pero Francia.

However, in this situation, you must use the conjunction menos or excepto in Spanish.

You may use this formula to remember how to use the conjunction menos in a sentence:

First sentence + menos + Spanish noun

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

Mis vestidos son todos rojos menos este azul.

My dresses are all red except this blue one.
Listen to audio

Sus viajes eran todos muy largos menos el más reciente.

His trips were all very long except the most recent one.

Using pero as an interjection in a sentence

If you’ve often heard Spanish speakers use pero when shocked or surprised, this usage is usually coupled with an exclamation.

In situations like this, the speaker is emphasising the following exclamation after the word pero, but the word pero is not acting as a conjunction in this case.

Just as we would use the word just or wow, it’s more for emphasis.

Usage examples:

Listen to audio

Pero ¡mira cuántas personas están cantando! ¡Qué guay!

Just look how many people are singing! How cool!
Listen to audio

Pero ¡qué escándalo!

Wow, what a scandal!

Use different words to say “but” in Spanish to express your point of view

“But” is an essential connector in English, and the same goes for Spanish.

And just like English, there are many ways to say it.

To perfect your Spanish, learn the different ways to say “but” in Spanish. Using conjunctions properly will help you become a better Spanish speaker.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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