Free Lessons

Por V’s Para – Part #1

Por or Para? Both mean “for” in Spanish but how do you know which to use when?

When you first start learning Spanish this doesn’t really seem like it matters, you will after all – be forgiven for your mistakes, especially if you conclude each verbal interaction with a local with “Lo siento, estoy aprendiendo Español (Read my Blog post on “How to say “I’, Sorry” in Spanish” here…)

As you progress through your language learning journey though you will naturally want to know the “How’s and Why’s” behind what you are learning so that you can make more sense of it and be able to apply it to different situations.

That’s where this lesson comes in. It is quite important to learn to use these two prepositions correctly, because if you inadvertently substitute one for the other, you might end up saying something altogether different from what you had intended. 

Juan compró el regalo para María. – Juan bought the gift for Maria. (he bought it to give to her)

Juan compró el regalo por María. – Juan bought the gift for Maria. (he bought it because she could not)

As you can see there’s lots to learn about Por & Para, in this blog post I cover the uses of both. As Para has relatively few uses (compared to Por) let’s start with that:

Para: Rules & Examples

  • Rule: to indicate destination
  • Example: El hombre salió para Madrid. (The man left for Madrid.)
  • Rule: to show the use or purpose of a thing
  • Model: El vaso es para agua. (The glass is for water.)
  • Rule: to mean “in order to” or “for the purpose of”
  • Model: Para hacer una paella, primero dore las carnes. (To make a paella, first sauté the meats.)
  • Rule: to indicate a recipient
  • Model: Este regalo es para ti. (This gift is for you.)
  • Rule: to express a deadline or specific time
  • Model: Necesito el vestido para el lunes. (I need the dress by Monday.)
  • Rule: to express a contrast from what is expected
  • Model: Para un niño lee muy bien. (For a child, he reads very well.)
  • Rule: “estar para” to express an action that will soon be completed
  • Model: El tren está para salir. (The train is about to leave.)

Por has many more uses, and so it is the more problematic of the two

  • Rule: to express gratitude or apology
  • Model: Gracias por la ayuda. (Thanks for the help.)
  • Rule: for multiplication and division
  • Model: Dos por dos son cuatro. (Two times two equals four.)
  • Rule: for velocity, frequency and proportion
  • Model: Voy al restaurante cinco veces por semana. (I go to the restaurant five times per week.)
  • Rule: meaning “through,” “along,” “by” or “in the area of”
  • Model: Andamos por el parque. (We walk through the park.)
  • Rule: when talking about exchange, including sales
  • Model: Él me dio diez dólares por el libro. (He gave me ten dollars for the book.)
  • Rule: to mean “on behalf of,” or “in favor of,”
  • Model: No voté por nadie. (I didn’t vote for anyone.)
  • Rule: to express a length of time
  • Model: Yo estudié por dos horas. (I studied for two hours.)
  • Rule: to express an undetermined, or general time, meaning “during”
  • Model: Se puede ver las estrellas por la noche. (One can see the stars during the night.)
  • Rule: for means of communication or transportation
  • Model: Prefiero viajar por tren y hablar por teléfono. (I prefer to travel by train and speak by phone.)
  • Rule: in cases of mistaken identity, or meaning “to be seen as”
  • Model: Me tienen por loco. (They take me for crazy.)
  • Rule: to show the reason for an errand (with ir, venir, pasar, mandar, volver, and preguntar)
  • Model: Paso por ti a las ocho. (I’ll come by for you at eight o’clock.)
  • Rule: when followed by an infinitive, to express an action that remains to be completed, use por + infinitive
  • Model: La cena está por cocinar. (Dinner has yet to be cooked.)
  • Rule: to express cause or reason
  • Model: El hombre murió por falta de agua. (The man died for lack of water.)
  • Rule: “estar por” means to be in the mood, or inclined to do something
  • Model: Estoy por tomar café.(I’m in the mood for drinking coffee.)
  • Rule: in passive constructions
  • Model: El libro fue escrito por Octavio Paz. (The book was written by Octavio Paz.)

Help consolidate your learning with this mini lesson on YouTube.

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