Por vs. Para

Spanish students often worry about three subjects: the subjunctive, when to use ser or estar and when to use por or para. In many cases both por and para can mean for in English and cause quite a bit of confusion for non-native Spanish speakers. In fact, they both came from the same Latin word pro which also means for. In Spanish, both por and para take on the responsibilities of not only for, but also by, on, through, because of, in exchange for, in order to, and several other prepositions.

Por

Por is used to express movement through time or space. This can be:

1. A physical transition such as traveling

Viajé por Francia y España.
I traveled through France and Spain.
 

2. An exchange of objects

Pagaré $3 por este sandwich.
I will pay $3 in exchange for this sandwich.
 

3. A duration of time

Tengo que trabajar por ocho horas hoy.
I need to work for eight hours today.
 

4. A motivation/reason for doing something

Por su amor a los niños, quiere ser pediatra.
Because of her love for children, she wants to be a pediatrician.
 

Para

Para is generally used to convey destinations or end points. These can be:

1. Physical locations

Salgo para Chile mañana.
I leave for Chile tomorrow.
 

2. People (recipients)

Este regalo es para Adela.
This gift is for Adela.
 

3. Deadlines

Necesito la presentación para el viernes.
I need the presentation by/on Friday.
 

4. Goals

Trabaja mucho para ganar más dinero.
He works a lot in order to earn more money.
 

There are also many expressions that are used with por and para. Some of the most common are:

Por phrasesPara phrases
por ejemplo  (for example)para siempre  (forever)
por favor  (please)para variar  (just for a change)
por supuesto  (of course)para que  (so that/in order that)
por ciento  (percent)para con  (toward)
por qué  (why)
por fin  (finally)

Take a practice quiz!

Test what you know with our quiz tool.

Did this page answer your question?