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Por vs. Para

Por and ParaIf you ask one of my English-speaking students what they consider the most difficult thing to learn in Spanish, they will normally say the subjunctive, "ser/estar" and "por/para". Due to the fact that these two Spanish prepositions have a variety of meanings and can each be translated as "for", they are sources of much confusion for English speakers learning Spanish.

Gracias por la carta (Thanks for the letter).

Este regalo es para mi novia (This gift is for my girlfriend).

 

To learn how to use "por" and "para" correctly, you need to learn their uses. Examples are give below.

 

Uses of "Por"

1. To indicate movement

2. Means of communication or transportation

3. Length of time or general time

4. Exchange

5. Price

6. Passive voice

7. Velocity, frequency

8. Multiplication and division

9. Cause or reason

10. "Por" + infinitive

11. In search of, for, or to get

12. Idiomatic expressions

Uses of "Para"

1. To indicate a recipient

2. To indicate destination

3. To indicate intention

4. Deadline or specific time

5. Comparison

6. Expressing opinion

7. Use or purpose

8. Idiomatic expressions

Uses of "Por"  

1. To indicate movement (through, along, around, by)

Paseé por las calles de Barcelona (I walked through the streets of Barcelona).

Salieron por la puerta de atrás (They left through the back door).

2. Means of communication or transportation (by, by means of)

Manda la carta por fax (Send the letter by fax).

Viajaré por avión (I will travel by plane).

3. Length of time or general time (during, in, for the period of)

Viajamos por la noche (We're traveling during the night).

Se puede ver las estrellas por la noche. (One can see the stars during the night).

4. Exchange (in exchange for, in place of)

¿Cuánto pagaste por la casa? (How much did you pay for the house?).

Puedes cambiar la camiseta por otra (You can change your T-shirt for another one).

5. Price (for)

Compré mi libro electrónico por 179 € (I bought my e-book for 179 €).

Sergio compró un coche de segunda mano por 1000 € (Sergio bought a second hand car for 1000 €).

6. Passive voice (by)

El libro fue escrito por Cervantes (The book was written by Cervantes).

El puente fue construido por los romanos (The bridge was built by the Romans).

7. Velocity, frequency (regular recurrence)

Voy al restaurante cinco veces por semana (I go to the restaurant five times per week).

La velocidad actual de la nave espacial es de 7,68 km por segundo (The orbital velocity of the Space Shuttle is currently 7.68 km per second).

Él estudia español tres veces por semana (He studies Spanish three weeks per week).

8. Multiplication and division

3 por 3 son 9 (3 times 3 is 9).

8 dividido por 4 son 2 (8 divided by 4 is 2).

I divided the team in half (Dividí en equipo por la mitad).

9. Cause or reason (because of, due to, on account of, on behalf of)

No me quedé por el calor (I didn't stay because of the heat).

Hoy, Pedro trabaja por su padre (Today, Pedro is working on behalf of his father).

El hombre murió por falta de agua (The man died for lack of water).

10. "Por" + infinitive

To refer to an unfinished state (yet).

Los platos están por fregar (The dishes are yet to be done).

Los ejercicios están aún por hacer (The exercises are yet to be done).

1.1 In search of, for, or to get

Fueron por el médico (They went to get a doctor).

Paso por ti a las ocho (I'll pick you up at eight).

12. Idiomatic expressions

“Por” appears in many idiomatic expressions.

Expressions with "Por"

 

Estar por

¡Por Diós!

Por otra parte

Por último/por fin

Por suerte

Por desgracia

Por supuesto

Por primera vez

Por mi parte

Por lo menos

Por medio de

Por lo visto

Por favor

Por eso

Por dentro

Por ciento

Por aquí

Por ahora

Por adelantado

¡Por fin!

Por una parte

Por otra parte

50 euros por barba

Por todas partes

Gracias por...

 

 

To be in the mood to

Oh, my God!/For God's sake

On the other hand

Finally

Fortunately

Unfortunately

Of course

For the first time

As for me

At least

By means of

Apparently

Please

Therefore

Inside

Percent

Around here/this way

For now

In advance

At last!

On the one hand

On the other hand

50 euros per head

All over, everywhere

Thanks for...

 

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Uses of "Para"  

1. To indicate a recipient

El libro es para tí (The book is for you).

Esta tarjeta postal es para tí (This postcard is for you).

2. Destination (toward, to, in the direction of)

Salgo para Barcelona el Viernes (I'm leaving for Barcelona next Friday).

Voy para Londres (I'm heading to London).

3. To indicate intention (In order to)

Estudio para abogado (I'm studying to be a lawyer).

Nado para divertirme (I swim to have fun).

4. To express deadline of specific future time (for, by)

Es para mañana (It's for tomorrow).

Necesito el ordenador para el lunes (I need the computer by Monday).

5. Comparison (for - compared with others, by the standard of, considering)

Para generosos, los ingleses (For generous people, there's no one like the English).

Para su edad, lee bien (For his age, he reads well).

6. To express opinion

Para mí, es demasiado crudo (For me, it’s too rare).

Para mucha gente, Brad Pitt es un actor estupendo (For many people, Brad Pitt actor).

7. To show the use or purpose of a thing (for the purpose of)

El lápiz es para escribir (The pencil is for writing).

8. Idiomatic expressions

“Para” appears in some idiomatic expressions.

Expressions with "Para"

 

Estar para

Para entonces

Para esa época

Para otra vez

Para que

Para siempre

Para variar

Ser tal para cual

¿Para qué?

 

 

To be about to

By that time

By that time

For another occasion

So that, in order that

Forever

Just for a change

To be two of a kind

Why? / For what purpose?

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Marino GuerreroMARINO GUERRERO

Marino Guerrero is a tutor of Spanish as a foreign language, dedicated to providing one-to-one Spanish lessons all over London and world wide through Skype.

 

 

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