Spanish Conjunctions: A Concise And Easy Guide

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These are words like and, but, so, used for joining words, phrases or clauses.

Como

This word has several meanings:

Use of como with the subjunctive

  • Como no podía hacerlo, pidió ayuda. Since he couldn't do it, he asked for help.

Como with relative clauses

Como can introduce Relative Clauses after words describing manner:

  • la manera como... the way that...

Using como to mean seeing that/as/since

In this case it must come at the head of the phrase:

  • Como se nos hacía tarde, decidimos dejarlo para el día siguiente. As/since it was getting late, we decided to leave it for the next day.

In this context ya que or puesto que, which both mean seeing that... can also be used.

Cómo (with the accent) means how.

Ni - nor, not even

This means nor or not even:

  • Ni Pedro ni Pablo pudieron entenderlo. Neither Peter nor Paul could understand it.

O - or

This is pronounced like the "o" in of:

  • Por carretera o en tren, tardará todo el día. By road or by train, it will take all day.

It's written and pronounced u before words that start with an o sound:

  • Las trampas u obstáculos impidieron su progreso. The traps or obstacles impeded your progress.
  • No me importa si son mujeres u hombres.

Pero, sino - but

Spanish has two words for but. Sino is used in constructions that mean not A but B, and especially in the formula - no sólo... sino - not only... but:

  • Esto no es vino, sino agua. This isn't water but wine./This isn’t water. It’s wine.
  • no sólo en España, sino en Latinoamérica también not only in Spam but in Latin America too

It sometimes means except.

  • No se podia hacer otra cosa sino disculparse. There was nothing else to be done except/but to say sorry.
  • No podía ser sino un mensaje de sus tíos. It could be nothing else except/but a message from his aunt and uncle.

The form sino que must be used when the words introduce a verb phrase:

  • No sólo hablaba alemán, sino que sabía otras cinco lenguas también. He not only spoke German but he knew five other languages as well.

In other cases but is translated pero, which differs from sino in that it does not suggest incompatibility or replacement, but merely a limiting of meaning:

  • Ana no sabe francés, pero sí sabe escribir a máquina. Ana doesn’t know French, but she can type.
  • Te daré cincuenta dólares, pero no te voy a dar un regalo también. I'll give you fifty dollars, but I’m not going to give you a present as well.
  • Es inteligente pero pemaoso. He’s intelligent but lazy.

Porque - because

Porque means because and it must be distinguished in pronunciation and spelling from por qué - why. Compare:

  • Yo comprendo, porque me lo explicaste. I understand, because you explained it to me.

and -

  • Yo comprendo por qué me lo explicaste. I understand why you explained it to me.

The phrase no porque requires the subjunctive:

  • Lo hizo no porque realmente quisiera hacerlo sino porque se sentía presionado. He did it not because he really waited to, but because he felt pressured.

Puesto que, ya que - since (= because)

No ha sido posible terminarlo, ya que/puesto que no hay dinero. It hasn’t been possible to finish it since there’s no money.

Pues

This may mean because when it is used as a conjunction, but this usage is literary, like the English for and it is not heard in spoken Spanish:

  • Se le entendía poco, pues (i.e. porque) hablaba muy bajo. One could understand very little of what he said, for he spoke in a very low voice.

In everyday language it is very common in the meaning in that case:

Si no te gusta, pues vete. If you don’t like, well, in that case go away.

Que

This word has numerous functions other than as a conjunction, and they must be clearly distinguished.

It may be a Relative Pronoun, as in:

  • La mujer que compró las flores. The woman who bought the flowers.

It means than in comparisons:

  • Eres más alto que yo. You’re taller than me.

Qué (with the accent) is a separate word and translates what in direct and indirect questions:

  • No sé qué hacer. I don’t know what to do.

The conjunction que introduces clauses in the same way as the English that:

  • El plomero dice que viene esta tarde. The plumber says he’s coming this afternoon/evening.

Unlike its English counterpart, it is not omitted (at least in normal styles):

  • Creo que es verdad. I think it’s true.

Y - and

Pronounced as though it were written i:

Niños y adultos pueden disfrutar de esa película. Children and adults can enjoy that movie.

It is written and pronounced e before any word beginning with an i sound:

  • Comercio e industria españoles Spanish commerce and industry
  • Vinieron Mario e Iris. Mario and Iris came.
  • musulmanes e hindúes Muslims and Hindus

but

  • carbón y hierro coal and iron (because hierro begins with a y sound)

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