When to use "a" or "para"

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For the sentance "I go to the store to buy milk" I thought it would be "Voy a la tienda para comprar leche." (I am working through lesson 1.7) But when I double checked my work in the translator, it also came up with "Voy a la teinda a comprar leche."

So when should I use "a", and when should I use "para"'

14220 views
updated JUN 17, 2009
posted by Tonya25

9 Answers

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Samdie, no sé si hay algún tipo de malentendido. No entiendo muy bien la traducción de tu primera frase. Lo que yo quiero decir es esto:

I went to Madrid to see her (Fuí a Madrid para verla).


Ah!. In that case you need to say "I went to Madrid to see her." (as you did in your follow-up post) instead of your "I went to see her to Madrid." (as you did in your original post). I'm afraid that I can't offer any rational explanation for why one can't reverse the the order but, I assure you that your original version doesn't work.

updated JUN 17, 2009
posted by samdie
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Samdie, no sé si hay algún tipo de malentendido. No entiendo muy bien la traducción de tu primera frase. Lo que yo quiero decir es esto:

I went to Madrid to see her (Fuí a Madrid para verla).

I went to see her so that she wouldn't get bored. (Fuí a verla para que no se aburriese).
Esta última sí creo que es comprensible para mí.

updated JUN 17, 2009
posted by nila45
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I went to see her to Madrid

I went to see her so that she couldn't get bored.


"I went to see her to Madrid" This is somewhere between meaningless and ambiguous.
My first thought would be "I went to see her in Madrid." Also possible, would be "I accompanied her to see Madrid."

"I went to see her so that she couldn't get bored." "couldn't" doesn't work. Your choices are "wouldn't" or (less commonly) "shouldn't".

updated JUN 16, 2009
posted by samdie
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I went to see her to Madrid

I went to see her so that she couldn't get bored.

En español, sólamente sabemos si es propósito o no por el sentido de la frase, ¿no'

updated JUN 16, 2009
posted by nila45
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Lazarus, as always, a very helpful explanation. Thank you, I understand better now.

updated JUN 15, 2009
posted by Tonya25
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With verbs of motion it is common to add a complement with "a" to indicate what we intended to do in that new location:

Fui a verla

The preposition "para" is mainly used -among other things- to indicate purpose, so in theory we can say that the purpose is "to see her", and write:

Fui para verla

However, it is more common the use of "a" to describe what we'll do when we get there, and leave "para" when the purpose of the motion is not just what we'll do upon our arrival:

Fui a verla para que no se aburriera
I went to see her so she didn't get bored

So, the main action is to see her, but the purpose of seeing her is to entertain her so she doesn't get bored.

updated JUN 15, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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Thanks for the info. I was modeling my sentence after those presented in Lesson 1.7. I didn't realize there was so much more to it. Back to do another lesson! smile

updated JUN 15, 2009
posted by Tonya25
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Tonya25:

For another look at this, see this link to the Reference Section here at SpanishDict.com:

http://www.spanishdict.com/reference/grammar/prepositions

Specifically, see:

Simple Prepositions
Uses
1. "a" (to , it, by, for), and the second bulleted item about connecting one verb to an infinitive.

In your question, "Voy" (I am going) is the verb that needs to be connected to the infinituve "Comprar" ( to buy).

I hope this is some help to you.

Best regards,
Moe

updated JUN 15, 2009
posted by Moe
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¿A **qué vas a la tienda? ---| Voy a la tienda **a comprar leche.

¿Para qué vas a la tienda? ---| Voy a la tienda para comprar leche.

Basically you need to answer in the manner the question is being phrased.

¿Por qué vas a la tienda? ---| Voy a la tienda porque necesito comprar leche.

updated JUN 15, 2009
posted by 00b83c38