Here you will learn how to differentiate “por” and “para” and how to use them properly.
Don´t worry! This is a very common doubt among Spanish learners.“Por” and “para” are both prepositions that can be a challenge if you don’t know the intention of the sentence and the main uses these two words have. So keep scrolling and have a look at its most important uses as well as examples and comparisons to understand when to use them.
Now, “por” and “para” have some meanings that can be very similar, so we decided to present you a list of uses that can be confusing because of their resemblance. This is going to allow you to compare them and fully understand their use. Then you are going to find other uses for each word. This can be a little bit confusing, so take a piece of paper and a pen and let’s start!
- To express cause or purpose
To express the cause or reason of something:
- Yo vine hasta acá por ti (I came here for you)
- Voy a la tienda por pan (I go to the store for bread)
- Ella va a viajar por trabajo (She is going to travel for work)
To express the purpose of an action:
- José y Mariana caminaron para llegar al cine (José and Mariana walked to get to the cinema)
- Patricia salió de casa para ir a la tienda (Patricia went out of the house to go to the store)
- Queremos música para bailar (We want music to dance)
As you can see, some sentences may have a very similar meaning but the use and intention of the sentence is different, so the use of the words depend on what you want to express. Let’s compare a couple of them:
|Ella va a viajar por trabajo||Ella va a viajar para trabajar|
So, we know that both sentences express that somebody (a woman, ella) is going to travel and that the travel is related to job issues, or something similar to that, right? So, what is the difference?
Well, in the first case, the sentence means that the cause of her travel is her job, so she is traveling because of the job. In the second case, the sentence is showing that the purpose of the travel is her job, so she is traveling to work. See?
- To express a place or location
It indicates a temporary place where someone or something is passing through or passing by. It has a sense of inaccuracy:
- A él lo vi por la tienda (I saw him around the store)
- La universidad queda por tu barrio (The university is by your neighbourhood)
- Ayer caminé por la ciudad (Yesterday I walked by the city)
- El estudiante pasó por la puerta (The student passed through the door)
On the other hand, when “para” is used for locations, it is used to talk about the final destination of a trip or travel.
- Ese tren va para Armenia (That train goes to Armenia)
- Salgo para tu casa en 20 minutos (I go to your house in 15 minutes)
- Vamos para Bogotá a cenar con mis padres (We are going to Bogotá to have dinner with my parents)
Once again, let’s compare two similar sentences so we can discover the fundamental differences between “por” and “para”:
|Voy por Quito con mis amigos||Voy para Quito con mis amigos|
So, what is the difference between these two correct sentences? The first sentence means that you are going around Quito with your friends, with no particular destination. In the case of “para” it means you are going to Quito with your friends, so your final destination is Quito.
- A personal choice
It indicates a position taken by someone in a situation previously stated. It illustrates a wish that the person that speaks has. It is short for “si fuera por mi” (If it was for me):
- Por mí, no iría donde mis tíos (For me, I wouldn’t go to my uncle’s house)
- Por mí, me quedaría dormida todo el día (For me, I would stay asleep all day)
It indicates to whom the opinion belongs.
- Para Lucía, la pizza es mejor que la hamburguesa. (For Lucía, pizza is better than hamburger)
- Para mi, se debe tratar con respeto a los mayores (For me, you should treat elders with respect)
Now, let’s compare two similar sentences:
|Por mi, me quedaría en casa||Para mi, es mejor quedarse en casa|
As you can see, the first sentence illustrates what the person wishes or desires, but the other one expresses an opinion.
Now, let’s discuss other uses that “por” and “para” have that are not similar between each other but are very important to know.
- To express the medium of something:
- Hablo por teléfono (I talk by phone)
- Te envío la tarea por correo (I will send the homework by email)
- To talk about an exchange
- Te cambio los tomates por aguacates.
- Compraron una casa por poco dinero.
- To talk about moments of the day that are inaccurate:
- Mañana por la tarde te llamo
- Nos vemos el miércoles por la mañana
- To express periodicity:
- Salimos a caminar por dos semanas
- No estaré disponible por un mes.
- To distribute things:
- Serán ocho botellas por persona.
- Se dará una pizza por familia
- Passive sentences:
- El libro fue escrito por Gabriel García Márquez.
- La película fue dirigida por Ciro Guerra.
- To clarify the addressee or receiver:
- Este regalo es para Sonia.
- El paquete de la puerta es para mi papá.
- To express a time frame:
- La tarea es para el martes.
- Deben subir el video para la próxima semana.
Now, take a look at this love letter someone wrote and try to identify when and what for are used “por” and “para”:
He estado luchando por nuestro amor. Para mi no hay nadie más importante en el mundo que tú. Acá en mi pueblo todos me llaman loco, porque camino solo por la ciudad pensando en ti. Por eso, el lunes por la mañana iré para tu ciudad, conseguí el pasaje por solo $40 y viajaré para que podamos encontrarnos. Mi corazón es para ti.