Do your Spanish-speaking friends constantly correct you when you try using “por” and “para”? Don’t worry, they mean no harm! This is a very common weak spot among Spanish learners. But you’re different because you were lucky enough to find this article, so keep on reading to finally master these two Spanish prepositions!
“Por” and “para” are both prepositions that can be a challenge if you aren’t sure about the intention of the sentence and the specific uses these two words have. Here, at iAmigo School, you’ll learn their most important uses as well as examples and comparisons to understand when to use them.
Now, “por” and “para” sometimes have similar uses in Spanish, so we decided to put up a list of uses that can be puzzling because of their resemblance. This list is going to allow you to compare them and fully understand their use in Spanish. Then, you’re going to learn about the other uses of each word.
Don’t panic! This isn’t confusing, but do take a piece of paper and a pen, and let’s start!
Por vs Para in Spanish
1. To Express Cause or Purpose
Por: In Spanish, we use “por” to express the cause or reason of something:
- Yo vine hasta acá por ti.
I came here for you.
- Voy a la tienda por bananos.
I go to the store to get some bananas.
- Ella va a viajar por trabajo.
She’s going to travel for work.
Para: And, we use “para” to express the purpose of an action in Spanish. For example:
- 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 in Spanish might have a very similar meaning but the use and intention of the sentence is different! So, before using “por” or “para”, take a moment to think of what you want to say: is this related to the purpose? Or the reason?
Let’s take a look at two sample sentences in context:
Ella va a viajar por trabajo.
Ella va a viajar para trabajar.
So, we now know that both sentences express that somebody (a woman, ella) is going to travel and that the trip is related to her job, right? But what’s the difference in Spanish?
Well, in the first case, the sentence means that the cause of her trip is her job, so she is traveling because of the job. In the second case, the sentence is showing that the purpose of the trip is her job, so she is traveling in order to work.
See? Spanish never was this easy!
2. To Talk About a Place or Location
Por: In Spanish, “por” also indicates a temporary place where someone or something is passing through or passing by. It has a sense of inaccuracy:
- Yo 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 around the city.
- El estudiante pasó por la puerta.
The student walked through the door.
Para: Differently enough, when “para” is used for locations in Spanish, it is used to talk about the final destination of a trip or travel.
- Ese tren va para ciudad de Armenia.
That train goes to the city of Armenia.
- Salgo para tu casa en 15 minutos.
I’ll go to your house in 15 minutes.
- Vamos para Bogotá a cenar con mis padres.
We’re going to Bogota to have dinner with my parents.
Once again, let’s compare two similar sentences in Spanish so we can discover the fundamental differences between “por” and “para”! Read the following sample sentences in Spanish:
Voy por Quito con mis amigos.
Voy para Quito con mis amigos.
So, what’s the difference between these two correct sentences in Spanish? Take a moment to think and then go ahead and read our explanation.
In Spanish, the first sentence means that you’re going around Quito with your friends, with no particular destination. And, in the case of “para”, the sentence means that you’re going to Quito with your friends and that that’s your final destination.
3. To Talk About an Opinion or Choice
Por: “Por” indicates a position taken by someone in a situation that was previously stated. In Spanish, it specifies a wish that the speaker has. It’s short for “si fuera por mí” (if it was for me):
- Por mí, no iría donde mis tíos.
As for me, I wouldn’t go to my uncle’s house.
- Por mí, me quedaría dormida todo el día.
If it was up to me, I would stay asleep all day.
Para: When talking about personal choice in Spanish, “para” indicates the person to whom the opinion belongs.
- Para Lucía, la pizza es mejor que la hamburguesa.
In Lucía’s opinion, pizza is better than a hamburger.
- Para mí, debemos tratar con respeto a los mayores.
In my opinion, we should treat elders with respect.
Now, let’s compare two similar Spanish sentences:
Por mí, me quedaría en casa.
Para mí, 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.
Other Uses of Por vs Para in Spanish
Now, let’s learn about other uses that “por” and “para” have that aren’t similar between each other. These are very important to know if you want to speak Spanish more fluently.
The Spanish Preposition "Por"
A. To express the medium of something:
- Hablo por teléfono.
I’m talking on phone.
- Te envío la tarea por correo.
I’ll send the homework via email.
B. To talk about an exchange:
- Te cambio los tomates por aguacates.
I’ll trade you tomatoes for avocados.
- Compraron una casa por poco dinero.
They bought a house for little money.
C. To talk about moments of the day that are inaccurate:
- Mañana por la tarde te llamo.
I will call you tomorrow afternoon.
- Nos vemos el miércoles por la mañana.
See you Wednesday morning.
D. To express periodicity:
- Salimos a caminar por dos semanas.
We went walking for two weeks.
- No estaré disponible por un mes.
I will be unavailable for a month.
E. To distribute things:
- Serán ocho botellas por persona.
There will be eight bottles per person.
- Se dará una pizza por familia.
One pizza per family will be provided.
F. Passive voice sentences:
- El libro fue escrito por Gabriel García Márquez.
The book was written by Gabriel García Márquez.
- La película fue dirigida por Ciro Guerra.
The film was directed by Ciro Guerra.
The Spanish Preposition "Para"
A. To clarify the addressee or receiver of an object:
- Este regalo es para Sonia.
This present is for Sonia.
- El paquete de la puerta es para mi papá.
The package at the door is for my dad.
B. To express a deadline:
- La tarea es para el lunes.
The assignment is due on Monday.
- Deben subir el video para la próxima semana.
They should upload the video by next week.
Time to Practice!
Oof! Those were a lot of uses, so good job for making it to the end of our Spanish article! In order to make these distinctions between “por” and “para” clearer, let’s do a reading exercise. Let’s take a look at this love letter Romeo wrote to Julieta in Spanish. Try to identify when and what for are used “por” vs “para”, we know you can do it!
Una carta de Romeo para Julieta - A Letter From Romeo to Juliet
He estado luchando por nuestro amor. Para mí 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.
Well, that wasn’t as hard as it sounded, right? We’re sure that this article will be one of the building blocks toward your fluency in Spanish. After reading this article and practicing with us, no other Spanish-speaking friend of yours will correct you when using “por” or “para” again!
If you learned a lot of new and useful phrases with this Spanish article, make sure to check out one of our other useful articles. You’ll always learn something new!