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That's exactly it. There are two ways of saying "but" in Spanish. "pero" means "but" in the sense of I want to eat this cake, but I'm on a diet, (quiero comer esta torta, pero estoy a dieta). "sino" is used in sentences with negation such as It's not that I don't want the cake, but that I'm on a diet (no es que no quiera la torta, sino que estoy a dieta), or if you prefer one thing over the other like I don't want cake, but strawberries instead. (no quiero torta, sino fresas). Hope that helps!
Ok so if the first part of the sentence is something positive (in the sense that it's something you DO, or soemthing IS) then the 'but' is negating that so we use pero. But if the first partof the sentence is negative (like you DO NOT do something or something IS NOT) then the 'but' makes it positive and we use sino?
eg. So 'I don't want the cake, but I want the straberries' = no quiero la torta, sino las fresas whereas 'I want the cake, but not the strawberries' = quiero la torta, pero no la fresas.
Is this right?
@Filius - re: Can you also just say...
Luis is a DouLingo admin and a great guy. I have nothing but love and respect for him.
However, I have to take exception with his response to your question.
If Luis says you can say that instead of the answer that was stated, then it's probably true cuz he's da man.
However, personally I am struggling with pero and sino and I think that getting these two sorted out is the spirit of this skill set.
With that said, I kind of wish that he would have appended his reply to you with a little something extra like, "Just make sure that you're not rewording in order to get around not being able to use pero and/or sino correctly."
I say that because it's exactly the kind of thing I would do if I asked somebody that and that was the answer I got. But that's probably just me. ;)
What I've learned in addition to what Luis said is that when you're denying something such as this, you don't need the "a". For example, you're saying that you DON'T see any men, so there are no men to personify or not. If you were referring to specific men that someone else could see, you would say "no veo a los hombres", because you know they exist, you just don't see them.
The way I understand it is that "sino" is used when the clause before is negative and the clause after is positive (ex. no soy nino, sino soy hombre -- I am not a boy, rather I am a man) while "pero" is used when the preceding clause is positive and the following clause is negative (ex. ?Quieres carne pero no leche? -- You want meat but no milk?). I hope that helps.
See the post above by PennRolfs. The simple answer is:
sino = but...instead No bebo leche, sino agua (I don't drink milk, but water instead.)
pero = except Como carne, pero no el viernes (I eat meat, but not on Friday.)
I'm not sure if that Spanish is exactly right, but hopefully you get the general idea.