The dreaded "por y para" question...
I know I've heard/read the answer to this numerous times, but I keep coming back to it (I'm guessing it just comes down to a need to hammer it into my skull)... so here goes:
When should one use "por" and when should one use "para'"
Thanks in advance.
You should definitely take a look at the reference tab at the top of the page. It has a very detailed explanation of Por and Para as well as all of the "exceptions." And, there are exercises at the bottom with answers so you can check to see if you understand the concepts or not.
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I've seen that chapter from D. Richmond, and it is not the way I'd personally explain it, but there you go...
I prefer Dunia's simpler approach myself. There are very specific uses for each preposition (these are actually the easiest ones), but the main ones can be (roughly) summarized as:
Por = to give reasons (what makes you more or less "go through") and indicate approximate span through time and space (more or less "go through" time & space), medium (where messages go "through")
para = to give aims and purposes (the intended "end"), to mention a recipient (person at the "end") or the destination ("end" point), etc.
You are saying "Thanks" (gracias), and "por" gives the reason why you thank the other person.
aCTUALLY 'THANKS' FALLS UNDER THE SUBSTITUTION (/EXCHANGE) HEADING.
(damn caps lock!)
You are thanking someone for something they have given you (either tangible or not) and by thanking them you are in effect giving them something back -a substitution or exchange(the balance idea)
So if I wanted to say "thank you for something" I would use "por," since whatever I'm grateful for has motivated me to say "thanks'"
I don't have many problems with por and para after reading about them in the excitingly titled 'Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions' Dorothy Richmond (part of the 'Practice makes Perfect' series). (I'm sure I still mess up sometimes though)
She split para into four categories:
destination, purpose, deadline and standard.
Por into six:
duration, substitution, motivation, movement, emotions and idioms
and gave examples of each.
Pictorially she depicted 'por' as a set of scales and 'para' as an arrow
I found the scales/arrow analogy covered 95% of uses intuitively.
Yes, "viajo por avión" is correct.
I know that maybe thare are many exceptions (I can't think of them just now) but if you want a general rule to remember...
So, you're saying that to say, for instance, "I travel by plane," I would say "Viajo por avión."
That seems to make a lot more sense, now, but I seem to remember that there are a lot of confusing situations where you would use one rather than the other.
A very simple explanation would be:
por = by (agent)
para = for (destination)
I'm sure that a teacher could give you a better one, but this is my approach.