Overview

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.

Basically, "por" is used to express movement through time or space. This can be:

- A physical transition such as traveling 

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

- An exchange of objects 

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

- A duration of time

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

- 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.)


And "para" is generally used to convey destinations or end points. These can be:

- Physical locations 

  • Salgo para Chile mañana. (I leave for Chile tomorrow.)

- People (recipients)

  • Este regalo es para Adela. (This gift is for Adela.)

- Deadlines

  • Necesito la presentation para el viernes. (I need the presentation by/on Friday.)

- 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:

para siempre forever por ejemplo for example
para variar just for a change por favor please
para que so that/in order that por ciento percent
    por supuesto of course
    ¿por qué? why?
    por fin finally

 

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