When you started learning Spanish, how many times did you doubt which one to use – por or para? Can you tell the difference?
Students often find it challenging to understand the uses of Spanish por and para. And why wouldn’t they?! This usually happens because we translate both as for in English. However, they can also be translated as: by, per, along, through, etc.
Stay tuned because we will tackle the most important ones in this post. But also, with the help of the exercises below, you will understand the difference between por and para in Spanish better.
Spanish Por and Para
A rule of thumb is that por usually means because of/for/due to and para means to/in order to. For example:
- Estudio español por mi trabajo. → I study Spanish because of/for/due to my work.
- Estudio español para viajar. → I study Spanish to/in order to travel.
The first sentence would answer the following question: why are you studying Spanish? One of the reasons can be that your job is in Spain and it’s required of you to learn the language or you need it to communicate at work.
The second sentence talks about your goal. Imagine that you love to travel and to visit a Spanish-speaking country you want to learn Spanish.
However, this rule will not always save the day, since Spanish por and para have other meanings and uses.
The Spanish preposition por might even be more complicated since it has many uses. It is normally used to express the cause of action. Hopefully, it’s going to be easier for you to understand the difference between por and para in Spanish with the help of the audios and examples below.
Causes and Reasons (Why?)
We use Spanish por vs para in all those situations where we want to give a reason why something happens or why we did something.
- Lo hice por amor. → I did it for love.
- Se suspendió el vuelo por una avería. → The flight was cancelled due to a failure.
- No me gusta esta ciudad por la humedad. → I don’t like this city because of the humidity.
Exact Duration or Imprecise Time
Another difference between por and para in Spanish is that you can use the preposition por to express duration of time or imprecise point in time.
- Trabajé por diez horas. → I worked for ten hours.
- Trabajo por la noche. → I work at night.
- Prefiero estudiar por la mañana. → I prefer to study in the morning.
Which one do you think we use when we talk about the general location, por or para in Spanish? That’s right!, por is the right choice!. Let’s see how in the examples below.
- Viajé por Asia. → I traveled around Asia.
- Ve por aquí. → Go this way.
- El anuncio está por todas partes. → The advertisement is everywhere.
Moving/Traveling Through a Place
Por also refers to movement within an area or place.
- El pájaro salió por la ventana. → The bird went out through the window.
- Van a pasar por la ciudad. → They are going to go through the city.
- Se entra por aquí pero se sale por ahí. → You enter through here, but you leave through there.
Means/Methods We Use for Doing Something
Usually, if we are using something to communicate or to transport something, por comes to the scene. This is what we mean.
- Te envío la información por correo electrónico. → I will send you the information by email.
- Enviaron el paquete por avión. → They sent the package by plane.
- Hablé con mi amigo por teléfono. → I talked to my friend by/over phone.
We don’t usually use passive voice in spoken Spanish. However, if there’s a need, the passive construction in Spanish is always introduced by preposition por, just like in the examples below.
- La casa fue construida por Gaudí. → The house was built by Gaudí.
- El libro fue escrito por Ana López. → The book was written by Ana López.
- El edificio ha sido derribado por los nuevos compradores. → The building has been demolished by the new buyers.
Prepositions of Location
If we are talking about the differences between por and para in Spanish, the use of por with prepositions of location is one of them. Por adds the idea of motion to these prepositions.
- El coche pasó por detrás de la casa. → The car passed behind the house.
- El gato saltó por encima de la mesa. → The cat jumped over the table.
- El barco pasó por debajo del puente. → The boat passed under the bridge.
Price or Exchanges
With the preposition por we can talk about the price or an exchange of goods.
- Cambiaré mi camisa por otra. → I will exchange my shirt for another one.
- Pagué mucho por la casa. → I payed a lot for the house.
- Lo compró por 15 euros. → He bought it for 15 euros.
Speed and Frequency
How frequent do we do something? We can describe this thanks to the preposition por, like in the next examples. Also, we use por when talkin about speed.
- Nado una vez por semana. → I swim once per/a week.
- El coche va a 150 kilómetros por hora. → The car goes at 150 kilometers per hour.
Thanks or Sorry
Another situation where we use Spanish por vs para is to say that we are sorry or to thank someone for doing something.
- Gracias por el regalo. → Thanks for the present.
- Gracias por ayudarme. → Thanks for helping me.
- Lo siento por llegar tarde. → Sorry for arriving late.
We know that para is often used to express the outcome of an action. However, it also has other uses, like the ones below.
Among many other uses, para also has a comparison role. Like this:
- Para ser español Juan no habla mal inglés. → For a Spaniard Juan doesn’t speak bad English.
- No era tan malo para esa época. → It was not as bad for that time.
- Para corredor, no está en muy buena en forma. → For a runner, he is not in very good shape.
When talking about the difference between por and para, para is used to talk about a final physical destination.
- Salgo para España mañana. → I am leaving for Spain tomorrow.
- ¿Para dónde vas? → Where are you going?
- Los jefes salieron para la reunión. → The bosses left for the meeting.
When dealing with deadlines or a limited amount of time left, then we use the preposition para.
- Quiero el informe para mañana. → I want the report for tomorrow.
- Tengo que estar en casa para las cinco. → I have to be home by five o’clock.
- Voy a casa de mis padres para el fin de semana. → I am going to my parents’ house for the weekend.
This one is interesting, because when we talk about our goals or objectives, para is always followed by the infinitive.
- Estudio para aprender. → I study to learn.
- Hace ejercicio para estar en forma. → She exercises to be in shape.
- Tengo que ahorrar para comprar una casa. → I have to save money to buy a house.
Talking more about the uses of Spanish por and para, we give opinions using para.
- Para mí, es muy aburrido. → For me, it’s very boring.
- Para ellos, la vida es buena. → For them, life is good.
- Cuando trabajas, para mí lo importante es ser eficiente. → When you work, the important thing for me is to be efficient.
Para also serves to describe the purpose of objects or things.
- La cuchara es para la sopa. → The spoon is for the soup.
- Necesita gafas para conducir. → He needs glasses to drive.
- Para hacer pan, hace falta harina. → To make bread you need flour.
The recipient of the action or a direct object is expressed with para.
- La carta es para mi madre. → The letter is for my mother.
- ¿Tienes algo para mí? → Do you have something for me?
- No te comas la tarta, no es para ti. → Don’t eat the cake, it is not for you.
Spanish Por and Para: Expressions
There are many expressions with por or para in Spanish that you will encounter. Some of these expressions are the most common ones and we will show them to you in the following table.
Expressions with Por
|Palabra por palabra
|Word by word
|Por aquel entonces
|At that time
|Por el amor de Dios
|For the love of God
|Around there/Over there/That way/Out there
|Around here/This way
|By the way
|Por culpa de
|Oh, my God!
For God’s sake!
|Por el momento
|For the moment
For the time being
|Por esa época
|Around that time
For that reason
On the outside
From the outside
|Por lo común
|Por lo demás
|Apart from that
|Por lo general
|Por lo menos
|Por lo mismo
|For the same reason
|Por lo tanto
|Por lo visto
|Por medio de
|By means of
|Por mi parte
|As for me
For my part
|Por ningún lado
Por ninguna parte
|Por otro lado
Por otra parte
|On the other hand
|Por primera vez
|For the first time
|Por si acaso
|Just in case
|Por su cuenta
|On one's own
|Por su parte
|One one's behalf
For one's part
|Por todas partes
Por todos lados
|Por un lado
Por una parte
|On the one hand
Expressions with Para
|Para esa época
|By that time
|Para la próxima (vez)
|For the next time
|Para otra vez
|For another occasion
In order that
|For what reason
Por and Para: Exercises
Gap Fill Exercises
Por and Para Mixed Exercises
- The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice – I, J, K, L, N, O (page 309-312).
- Spanish DeMystified – Written Practice 1 (page 378).
- Spanish DeMystified – Track 68 (page 379 and 380).
Now that we’ve explained the most common confusions that students encounter when learning about Spanish por and para, we also need to tell you that sometimes rules escape logic.
However, like with any other grammar topic in Spanish, for example preterite and imperfect, practice will get you far. Once you get familiar with the language, you will be able to use por or para in Spanish just because it sounds right. And not only that! You will see the difference between por and para in Spanish much faster.
In case you need some help with practicing this or any other grammar section which you feel the need to improve, check out our page of online Spanish conversation classes.
Now, let’s hear a word or two from you:
- Is there any Spanish por and para use that you struggle with the most?
- Have you already reached a point where you don’t have to think about the rules and you just know which preposition to put?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
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