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Pero vs. Sino. But…. Rather…. “Pero” is the word you’ve learned for “but.” But . . . there’s another word for “but”: sino. They’re not interchangeable. “Sino” is used when the first part of the sentence is negative and the second part contradicts it:

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pero vs sino

Pero vs. Sino

But…. Rather…

slide2
“Pero” is the word you’ve learned for “but.”

But . . . there’s another word for “but”: sino.

They’re not interchangeable. “Sino” is used when the first part of the sentence is negative and the second part contradicts it:

We didn’t go to the movies but to the concert.

No fuimos al cine sino al concierto.

They don’t want the red car but the blue one.

No quieren el coche rojo sino el azul.

slide3
Look at the two sentences you saw at the beginning:

We didn’t go to the movies but to the concert.

No fuimos al cine sino al concierto.

They don’t want the red car but the blue one.

No quieren el coche rojo sino el azul.

In both cases, “but” is followed by a phrase. What if it’s followed by a conjugated verb?

He didn’t eat lunch but read a book.

You still use “sino” because you can still say “but rather”:

He didn’t eat lunch but rather read a book.

But since you have a conjugated verb, you have to put “que” in there:

No almorzó sino que leyó un libro.

slide4
And that’s it. Pretty straightforward. Just be on the lookout for a “rather” that can accompany “but.” If you can say “but rather,” use “sino,” not “pero.” And if there’s a conjugated verb after it, throw in a “que.”
slide5
OK, that’s the explanation you get in textbooks. But something that works is thinking of “sino” as “but rather”:

We didn’t go to the movies but rather to the concert.

No fuimos al cine sino al concierto.

They don’t want the red car but rather the blue one.

No quieren el coche rojo sino el azul.

slide6
If you can’t say “but rather,” then it’s “pero”:

I didn’t want to go to the movies, but I went.

I didn’t want to go to the movies, but rather I went. ??????

That doesn’t make sense. So you say,

No quería ir al cine, pero fui.