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Learn the proper way to use Por and Para in Spanish

When learning Spanish, one of the most challenging aspects for many students is understanding the difference between Por and Para.

These two tiny words, por and para can change the whole meaning of the sentence if not used properly therefore you must learn the difference and the right way to use them early on.

Let’s explore the topic of Por and Para together and learn how to use them correctly.

 

Table of Contents

What is Por?

    In Spanish, Por is a preposition that is used quite often. Por helps you talk about moving around, how you get from place to place, how you communicate, and exchange things, how long stuff lasts, and the reasons why you do things.

It’s really handy for expressing all sorts of ideas about actions, motives, and methods in both movement and communication. It is like a Swiss Army knife of prepositions.

If you used Google Translator and tried to find out how Por would sound in English, you probably ended up disappointed.

It probably gave you that Por is translated to “For” in the English language, and that is the most general translation but Por has so many more meanings.

Here are several possible English translations of Por:

For -> (indicating purpose or reason) “Lo hice por ti.” (I did it for you.)

By -> (denoting means or method) “Por favor, llama a casa.” (Please, call home.)

Through -> (indicating movement or passage) “Caminamos por el parque.” (We walked through the park.)

Because of -> (expressing cause) “Llegamos tarde por el tráfico.” (We arrived late because of the traffic.)

Due to -> (indicating reason or cause) “La cancelación del vuelo fue por el mal tiempo.” (The flight cancellation was due to the bad weather.)

On behalf of -> (representing someone) “Hablo por todos nosotros.” (I speak on behalf of all of us.)

Around -> (indicating movement or location) “Caminamos por la plaza.” (We walked around the square.)

Along -> (denoting movement parallel to something) “Paseamos por la playa.” (We strolled along the beach.)

Per -> (indicating rate or division) “Vendemos los tomates por kilo.” (We sell tomatoes per kilogram.)

During -> (indicating a period of time) “Por la mañana, desayuno en la cafetería.” (In the morning, I have breakfast in the cafeteria.)

In exchange for -> (indicating exchange) “Te doy esto por tu ayuda.” (I give you this in exchange for your help.)

Via -> (denoting method of transportation) “Viajamos a Europa por avión.” (We travel to Europe by plane.)

Throughout -> (indicating duration or extent) “Estuvimos riendo por toda la película.” (We were laughing throughout the entire movie.)


The translation of this little complex Spanish preposition depends on the situation and context in which you are using it. 

We will cover that in the sections below, after we figure out the meaning and uses of Para.

What is Para?

    Para is another essential preposition in Spanish that you’ll find yourself using frequently. Similar to Por, 

Para is a versatile word that helps you convey various aspects of actions, destinations, purposes, and goals.

Whether you’re discussing where something or someone is headed, who the intended recipient is, when something needs to be done by, or why a particular action is being taken, you will be using para.

Similar to Por, the general translation of Para is “for” but the preposition can have many other translations in English, depending on the situation and the context of the sentence you are using it in. 

Here are several possible translations for Para:

 

For -> (indicating purpose or recipient): “Este regalo es para ti.” (This gift is for you.)

To -> (denoting destination or goal): “Salimos para la playa.” (We’re going to the beach.)

In order to -> (expressing intention or purpose): “Estudia mucho para aprobar el examen.” (Study hard in order to pass the exam.)

Towards -> (indicating direction): “El tren va para el sur.” (The train is heading towards the south.)

By -> (denoting deadline or point in time): “El informe debe estar listo para el viernes.” (The report must be ready by Friday.)

Considering -> (suggesting a viewpoint or perspective): “Para ser tan joven, tiene mucha experiencia.” (Considering how young he is, he has a lot of experience.)

As -> (indicating comparison or standard): “Para una ciudad pequeña, tiene muchos servicios.” (As a small town, it has a lot of amenities.)

In order for -> (emphasizing necessary conditions): “Para que funcione, necesitamos más recursos.” (In order for it to work, we need more resources.)

For the sake of -> (emphasizing benefit or purpose): “Hice esto para el bienestar de mi familia.” (I did this for the sake of my family’s well-being.)

 

Main Differences Between Por and Para:

    Por and Para are very similar however there are a couple of differences that will help you decide when to use the correct preposition.

When two o more events or parts of a sentence are happening at the same time and if the parts are connected then you will be using Por because it usually communicates the means or a cause for something.

When events or parts of the sentences are happening one after another then you will be using Para because it communicates purpose, goal, or destination.

Now that you have an understanding of how Por and Para are defined and translated, let’s dive into the common rules and use cases on when you should use Por and when Para.

When to use Por: (STEEMD)

    As we talked about it earlier, you use por to talk about movement, mean and mode of travel and communication, duration, emotion, exchange,, motivation and substitution.

The best way to get a grasp on when to use Por on your Spanish Adventure is to understand the situation and context when Por is used instead of Para.

Here is a list that will make it easier for you to memorize it:

Substitution
Travel & Communication
Exchanges
Emotions
Motivation
Duration

 

This forms an important acronym STEEMD which will help you navigate through this complex topic and help you level up your Spanish fluency.

Now we are going to dive into each topic in more detail:

1) Substitution

When we talk about replacing or substituting someone or something with a different person or thing, we will be using Por.

Por in this case would be translated as: For, instead of

Examples:

ES: n la clase, mi amigo habló por mí.
EN: In class, my friend spoke for me.
ES: Fui al mercado por mi mamá porque estaba enferma.
EN: I went to the market for my mom because she was sick.
ES: Mi hermana dibujó por mí en el concurso de arte.
EN: My sister drew for me in the art contest.
ES: El vecino arregló el grifo por el fontanero, que estaba ocupado.
EN: The neighbor fixed the faucet instead of the plumber,
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Examples:

Spanish: En la clase, mi amigo habló por mí.
English: In class, my friend spoke for me.

Spanish: Fui al mercado por mi mamá porque estaba enferma.
English: I went to the market for my mom because she was sick.

Spanish: Mi hermana dibujó por mí en el concurso de arte.
English: My sister drew for me in the art contest.

Spanish: El vecino arregló el grifo por el fontanero, que estaba ocupado.
English: The neighbor fixed the faucet instead of the plumber, who was busy.

 

2) Travel & Communication

Por is used to talk about how we travel and communicate. It talks about the ways to travel, (by car, by plane etc.), about travel routes and the means and way we communicate (via email, phone etc).

Por in this case would be translated as:

by, on, through, via

Examples:

ES: Viajamos por avión.
EN: We travel by plane.
ES: Hablamos por teléfono.
EN: We talk on the phone.
ES: Pasamos por el centro de la ciudad.
EN: We pass through the city center.
ES: Envié el archivo por correo electrónico.
EN: I sent the file by email.
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Examples:

Spanish: Viajamos por avión.
English: We travel by plane.

Spanish: Hablamos por teléfono.
English: We talk on the phone.

Spanish: Pasamos por el centro de la ciudad.
English: We pass through the city center.

Spanish: Envié el archivo por correo electrónico.
English: I sent the file by email.

 

3) Exchanges

When we talk about exchanging or trading something with someone, it could be all kinds of things like objects, money food etc, then we use Por.

Por in this case would be translated as: For

Examples:

ES: Intercambiamos juguetes por dulces.
EN: We exchange toys for candy.
ES:¿Quieres cambiar tu bicicleta por mi tabla de surf?
EN: Do you want to trade your bicycle for my surfboard?
ES: Ellos intercambian ropa usada por libros.
EN: They exchange used clothes for books.
ES: Podemos cambiar nuestras recetas de cocina por las tuyas.
EN: We can trade our cooking recipes for yours.
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Examples:

Spanish: Intercambiamos juguetes por dulces.

English: We exchange toys for candy.

Spanish: ¿Quieres cambiar tu bicicleta por mi tabla de surf?

English: Do you want to trade your bicycle for my surfboard?

Spanish: Ellos intercambian ropa usada por libros.

English: They exchange used clothes for books.

Spanish: Podemos cambiar nuestras recetas de cocina por las tuyas.

English: We can trade our cooking recipes for yours.

4) Emotions:

When we talk about exchanging or trading something with someone, it could be all kinds of things like objects, money food etc, then we use Por.

Por in this case would be translated as: For

Examples:

ES: Siento gratitud por tus palabras de apoyo.
EN: I feel gratitude for your words of support.
ES: Tengo admiración por su valentía.
EN: I have admiration for his bravery.
ES: Él siente envidia por el éxito de su amigo.
EN: He feels envy for his friend's success.
ES: Tenemos respeto por la opinión de nuestros mayores.
EN: We have respect for the opinion of our elders.
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Examples:

Spanish: Siento gratitud por tus palabras de apoyo.
English: I feel gratitude for your words of support.

Spanish: Tengo admiración por su valentía.
English: I have admiration for his bravery.

Spanish: Él siente envidia por el éxito de su amigo.
English: He feels envy for his friend’s success.

Spanish: Tenemos respeto por la opinión de nuestros mayores.
English: We have respect for the opinion of our elders.

5) Motivation:

When we talk about the motive or reason behind an action that someone is doing, we use Por to express those reasons and motivations.

Por in this case would be translated as: because of

Examples:

ES: Por el mal tiempo, cancelaron el evento al aire libre.
EN: Because of the bad weather, they canceled the outdoor event.
ES: Por la falta de tiempo, no pude terminar mi proyecto a tiempo.
EN: Because of the lack of time, I couldn't finish my project on time.
ES: Por la preocupación por su salud, decidió dejar de fumar.
EN: Because of concern for his health, he decided to quit smoking.
ES: Por el aumento del tráfico, llegamos tarde a la reunión.
EN: Because of the increase in traffic, we arrived late to the meeting.
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Examples:

Spanish: Por el mal tiempo, cancelaron el evento al aire libre.
English: Because of the bad weather, they canceled the outdoor event.

Spanish: Por la falta de tiempo, no pude terminar mi proyecto a tiempo.
English: Because of the lack of time, I couldn’t finish my project on time.

Spanish: Por la preocupación por su salud, decidió dejar de fumar.
English: Because of concern for his health, he decided to quit smoking.

Spanish: Por el aumento del tráfico, llegamos tarde a la reunión.
English: Because of the increase in traffic, we arrived late to the meeting.

6) Duration:

When we talk about the motive or reason behind an action that someone is doing, we use Por to express those reasons and motivations.

Por in this case would be translated as: because of

Examples:

ES: Corrimos por dos horas seguidas.
EN: We ran for two hours straight.
ES: Estudié por toda la tarde.
EN: I studied for the entire afternoon.
ES: Ellos intercambian ropa usada por libros.
EN: They exchange used clothes for books.
ES: Podemos cambiar nuestras recetas de cocina por las tuyas.
EN: We can trade our cooking recipes for yours.
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Examples:

Spanish: Corrimos por dos horas seguidas.
English: We ran for two hours straight.

Spanish: Estudié por toda la tarde.
English: I studied for the entire afternoon.

Spanish: Estuve en la reunión por tres horas.
English: I was in the meeting for three hours.

Spanish: Nadé en la piscina por una hora.
English: I swam in the pool for an hour.

 

When to use Para? (PRODDS)

   Para, similar to Por, has its own set of situations where you will be sure to use Para as an expression in order to form the sentence correctly.

We use Para when we talk about the purpose of doing something, the recipients of actions and things, opinions, final destinations, deadlines for doing something and standards.

All this can be structured into the following 6 situations:

Purpose
Recipient
Opinion
Deadline
Destination
Standard

The 6 situations when we are supposed to be using Para form the PRODDS Acronym, This will make it easier for you to remember the key things to consider when using Para.

Lets go into details about each one below:

1) Purpose

When we talk about the purpose of doing something, we will be using Para.

Para in this case would be translated as: In order to

Examples:

ES: Leo libros de cocina para aprender a cocinar platos nuevos.
EN: I read cookbooks in order to learn how to cook new dishes.
ES: Compramos una cámara para tomar fotos en nuestro viaje.
EN: We bought a camera in order to take photos on our trip.
ES: Estudio inglés para conseguir un trabajo en el extranjero.
EN: I study English in order to get a job abroad.
ES: Me inscribí en un curso de baile para mejorar mis habilidades.
EN: I enrolled in a dance course in order to improve my skills.
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Examples:

Spanish: Leo libros de cocina para aprender a cocinar platos nuevos.
English: I read cookbooks in order to learn how to cook new dishes.

Spanish: Compramos una cámara para tomar fotos en nuestro viaje.
English: We bought a camera in order to take photos on our trip.

Spanish: Estudio inglés para conseguir un trabajo en el extranjero.
English: I study English in order to get a job abroad.

Spanish: Me inscribí en un curso de baile para mejorar mis habilidades.
English: I enrolled in a dance course in order to improve my skills.

 

2) Recipient

We use Para to indicate who or what is the recipient of something. Who is the recipient of a message, gift or some other thing someone is giving.

In this case Para is translated as: For

Examples:

ES: Este regalo es para mi mejor amigo.
EN: This gift is for my best friend.
ES: Hice este dibujo para ti.
EN: I made this drawing for you.
ES: Esta carta es para mi abuela.
EN: This letter is for my grandmother.
ES: Compré estas flores para mi novia.
EN: I bought these flowers for my girlfriend.
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Examples:

Spanish: Este regalo es para mi mejor amigo.
English: This gift is for my best friend.

Spanish: Hice este dibujo para ti.
English: I made this drawing for you.

Spanish: Esta carta es para mi abuela.
English: This letter is for my grandmother.

Spanish: Compré estas flores para mi novia.
English: I bought these flowers for my girlfriend.

3) Opinion

We use Para to indicate who or what is the recipient of something. Who is the recipient of a message, gift or some other thing someone is giving.

In this case Para is translated as: For

Examples:

ES: Para mí, la música clásica es muy relajante.
EN: For me, classical music is very relaxing.
ES: Para mis padres, la educación es lo más importante.
EN: According to my parents, education is the most important thing.
ES: Para Juan, viajar es la mejor forma de aprender sobre otras culturas.
EN: According to Juan, traveling is the best way to learn about other cultures.
ES: Para los científicos, el cambio climático es una grave amenaza para el planeta.
EN: According to scientists, climate change is a serious threat to the planet.
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Examples:

Spanish: Para mí, la música clásica es muy relajante.
English: For me, classical music is very relaxing.

Spanish: Para mis padres, la educación es lo más importante.
English: According to my parents, education is the most important thing.

Spanish: Para Juan, viajar es la mejor forma de aprender sobre otras culturas.
English: According to Juan, traveling is the best way to learn about other cultures.

Spanish: Para los científicos, el cambio climático es una grave amenaza para el planeta.
English: According to scientists, climate change is a serious threat to the planet.

 

4) Deadlines

We use Para to talk about deadlines, in other words, we indicate when something is due or scheduled.

In this case Para is translated as: For, By, On

Examples:

ES: La entrega del proyecto es para el viernes.
EN: The project is due by Friday.
ES: La reunión está programada para las tres de la tarde.
EN: The meeting is scheduled for three in the afternoon.
ES: La película se estrena para la próxima semana.
EN: The movie premieres next week.
ES: La fiesta está planeada para el sábado por la noche.
EN: The party is planned for Saturday night.
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Examples:

Spanish: La entrega del proyecto es para el viernes.
English: The project is due by Friday.

Spanish: La reunión está programada para las tres de la tarde.
English: The meeting is scheduled for three in the afternoon.

Spanish: La película se estrena para la próxima semana.
English: The movie premieres next week.

Spanish: La fiesta está planeada para el sábado por la noche.
English: The party is planned for Saturday night.

 

5) Destination

We use Para to talk about the destination of a travel, or an end point of a person or thing.

In this case Para is translated as: For

Examples:

ES: Este paquete es para mi abuela en Argentina.
EN: This package is for my grandmother in Argentina.
ES: El vuelo es para París.
EN: The flight is for Paris.
ES: El autobús es para el centro de la ciudad.
EN: The bus is for the city center.
ES: Estoy haciendo este pastel para la fiesta de cumpleaños.
EN: I'm making this cake for the birthday party.
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Examples:

Spanish: Este paquete es para mi abuela en Argentina.
English: This package is for my grandmother in Argentina.

Spanish: El vuelo es para París.
English: The flight is for Paris.

Spanish: El autobús es para el centro de la ciudad.
English: The bus is for the city center.

Spanish: Estoy haciendo este pastel para la fiesta de cumpleaños.
English: I’m making this cake for the birthday party.

 

6) Standard

We use para to talk about comparing someone or something to a certain standard. Talking about speed, quality or durability of an object for example or the traits of a person as well.

In this case Para is translated as: For

 

Examples:

ES: Para ser un hotel económico, este lugar ofrece un excelente servicio.
EN: For a budget hotel, this place offers excellent service
ES: Para ser un teléfono antiguo, este dispositivo aún funciona muy bien.
EN: For an old phone, this device still works very well.
ES: Para ser un estudiante nuevo, él habla español muy fluidamente.
EN: For a new student, he speaks Spanish very fluently.
ES: Para ser un día de invierno, hace mucho calor.
EN: For a winter day, it's very hot.
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Examples:


Spanish: Para ser un hotel económico, este lugar ofrece un excelente servicio.
English: For a budget hotel, this place offers excellent service.

Spanish: Para ser un teléfono antiguo, este dispositivo aún funciona muy bien.
English: For an old phone, this device still works very well.

Spanish: Para ser un estudiante nuevo, él habla español muy fluidamente.
English: For a new student, he speaks Spanish very fluently.

Spanish: Para ser un día de invierno, hace mucho calor.
English: For a winter day, it’s very hot.

 

Resources for Practicing Por and Para:

    You have now learned the basics of this complex topic of Por and Para. You understand the difference between these two Spanish prepositions and now it is time to start practicing this new knowledge you acquired. 

It is important to practice it because Spanish speakers use the two prepositions daily. During my Spanish studies, I have found several good resources and websites where you can practice Por and Para almost for free. Here are a couple of sites where you will find free Por and Para exercises in many forms: 

 

 SpanishDictionary: – offers a structured exercise platform where you can practice with more than 100 questions.

 StudySpanish: – it has a bit of an old-school look but you will find a couple of nice exercises where you can test your Por and Para knowledge. 

 Study.com – is also a nice place where you can find some free exercises for Por vs Para.

There are many more places out there where you can learn and practice Spanish, but let’s start with these 3 first. Once you complete them you can continue with other exercises and worksheets online.  

Conclusion:

You have reached the end of the Por and Para topic, my fellow Spanish learner. Now you have a good knowledge and understanding of the Por and Para prepositions in Spanish. 

You know their meaning and the differences between them and you know when each one is supposed to be used in the Spanish language. 

Now you need to continue upgrading your Spanish fluency by practicing and solving exercises on this topic. You can do that with the resources  I have provided you earlier. 

If you want to learn more about how to improve your Spanish fluency, you should read the Complete Spanish Language Guide. The guide will show you some useful and effective ways to improve your learning and level up your fluency to new heights.