POR vs PARA
Por vs Para
Por vs Para. In English, the single word “for” is used in instances where Spanish speakers would need to choose between using
either “para” or “por.” English speakers are not accustomed to having a need to distinguish between different uses of the word “for,” and therefore they do not automatically think in this way.
Even with a strong understanding of the rules for the use of “para” and “por”, you may still encounter sentences which seem difficult to categorize and translate to one or the other of these two Spanish prepositions. In order to improve your ability in this aspect of the Spanish language it is useful to keep in mind the following points:
1. Where there is a need to translate “for” to either “para” or “por” you will have to learn and apply some Spanish
language rules which are supplied later in this document. A solid understanding of these rules will orient your
mind for correctly translating. Proficiency in translating will be a matter of internalizing the rules through practice.
(Prior to extensive practice, it will be helpful to examine the various connotations which can be produced by
exchanging “para” and “por” in the same sentence.)
2. Do not expect that there will only be a single grammatically correct way to translate a given English sentence into
one using “para” or “por.” Some translated sentences can be grammatically correct using either “para” or “por”.
The choice of which to use will be a matter of what meaning you wish to express. Likewise, when you read or
hear a Spanish sentence which uses “para” or “por,” its meaning may be more specific or refined than the more
ambiguous English “for” can convey.
3. When trying to determine whether “para” or “por” is needed for a particular sentence, it may be that multiple rules
seem to apply. Pay attention to whether the multiple rules all seem to justify the use of just one (but not both) of
these two Spanish prepositions. Where identification of a uniquely applicable rule seems difficult, but where
multiple potential rules all point to the same choice, it’s likely that this is the appropriate choice—even if you can’t
say precisely why.
4. At times the selection of “para” or “por” can feel confusing or frustrating because you are trying to find a solution
where one is not normally needed to translate the English “for.” When you are having difficulty determining which
to use in your sentence, remember it’s also possible that:
- Para or por might not even be needed in order to translate the sentence correctly.
- The English word “for” might be implicitly included in the Spanish verb you are using.
- The form [verb + por] or [verb + para] may be the required construction with particular Spanish verbs in
order to create their meaning for this specific use. (In other words, the verb has the meaning it does in
this case only because it is followed by para or por.)
- Or lastly, perhaps the use of para or por in your instance is susceptible to regional differences, and the
same exact phrase may mean different things in different countries (such as with “estar por” and “estar
The following sentences are examples of how using either “para” or “por” may change the meaning of your sentence.
The “Selection Rules” column shows the reason that either “para” or “por” was used in each sentence.
|Juan compro un regalo para Maria. (Juan bought a gift to Maria)||Recipient of a thing.|
|Juan compro un regalo por Maria.||Sustitution of the doer of the action.|
|Estas tortas son para mis hijos.||Recipient of a thing|
|El coche fue reparado por el mecánico.||Doer of an action|
|Gaste tres dolares por un sandwich.||Exchange.|
Por vs Para is one of the main problem for Spanish students. Por vs para have very specific uses in Spanish. Por has many different uses and therefore poses the most problems. Para is usually associated with either destination or limitation. In many cases the differences of Por vs Para is not very clear.
- The preposition PARA is used to express : Destination o purpose
- Este regalo es para María. This gift is for Mary.
- Estudia para abogado. He studies ( to be) a lawyer.
- POR is used to indicate: A TRAVES o A LO LARGO (through or along)
- Viajamos por Europa. We travel through Europe.
- El ladrón entró por la ventana. The thief entered through the window.
- POR has the meaning of : in behalf of, in favor of, instead of.
- Compre el regalo para Maria. I bought the gift for Mary. ( In other words, I am going to give the gift to Mary)
- Compre el regalo por Maria. I bought the gift for Mary. ( The gift is for another person but Mary could not go to buy it so I went for her)
- POR is used after the verbs IR (TO GO) , MANDAR (TO SEND) , VOLVER (TO RETURN) ,VENIR(TO COME) in order to show the reason for the errand.
- El niño viene por agua. The boy comes for water.
Exercise # 1
Complete with POR o PARA.
1. El avión sale ___________ San Juan.
2. Ellos pasan _________ aquí.
3. Compre esta falda __________ Elena.
4. Este libro es __________ Juan.
5. Queremos viajar ________ Chile.
6. El periódico es _________ papa.
- PARA is used to express: DEADLINE, TIME LIMIT
- La tarea es para mañana. The homework is for tomorrow.
- Necesito el dinero para mañana. I need the money for tomorrow.
- POR is used to express: PERIOD OF TIME.
- Mi hija vivió en Nicaragua por tres meses.
- POR is used to indicate an INDEFINITE TIME OR PLACE.
- Las llaves tienen que estar por aquí. The keys have to be around here.
- Yo vivo por el parque. I live around the park.
Complete con POR o PARA.
1. Tengo que hacerlo _______ mañana.
2. Mi padre estuvo enfermo _______ un año.
3. ¿ __________ cuando lo necesita?
4. ¿Hay una escuela______ aquí?
- We use PARA to express: IN ORDER TO
- Necesito anteojos para leer.
- POR express what to remain to be done.
- Tengo mucho por hacer. There are remains much to be done.
- POR is used to express manner, means or motive.
- La carta llego por correo. The letter arrived by mail.
- Lucha por la libertad. He is fighting for freedom
- POR is used to express; IN EXCHANGE FOR, MEASURE or NUMBER.
- Lo venden por docenas. They sell it by dozens.
Complete con POR or PARA.
1. Ellos luchan ______ su ideal.
2. Quiere vender la casa _________ 20 mil dólares.
3. Yo te doy este libro ________ el tuyo.
4. Envío el paquete _________ avión.
5. Estamos en Nicaragua _______ ocho días.
6. Esta foto es _________ Carmen.
7. Tengo mucho __________ hacer.
8. Oigo los anuncios __________ la radio.
9. Yo lo necesito _________ el siete de julio.
10. Voy __________ Nicaragua.
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