por vs para

Por vs Para: The Ultimate Guide (+Tons of Examples)

Spanish native speakers don’t have to think about when to use por vs para. For us language learners, it’s a different story. In this article, you’re going to discover the rules governing por vs para, and (more importantly) tons of examples that you can learn so you don’t even have to think about the rules at all when speaking Spanish.

In short, when to use por vs para

PORColumn 2
PORPARA
Por sends you to the past, looking for the cause of an event or the means to do something.Para sends you to the future, expressing the purpose or goal of something, also the last destination or date.

You can also watch this video from Mariana, teacher at Spring Spanish (a Spanish YouTube Channel I co-founded):

2.     Rules for the use of por vs para

Let’s take a closer look at the situations in which por is used.

Rules for POR

  • To express the cause or reason for doing something.
    • E.g., Hago esto por nuestra amistad. (I’m doing this for our friendship.)
  • To refer to the way or means to do something.
    • E.g., Te mando el documento por correo electrónico. (I’m sending you the document by email.)
  • To express a period of time.
    • E.g., Yo solo trabajo por la mañana. (I only work in the morning.)
  • To express that something happens along, around or through a place.
    • E.g., Este tren pasa por Salamanca. (This trains passes by Salamanca.)
  • To express that you are in favour of some idea.
    • E.g., Yo estoy por la libertad de expresión (I am in favor of freedom of speech.)
  • To express an exchange.
    • E.g., Quiero cambiar dólares por euros. (I want to exchange dollars for euros.)
  • In a passive sentence, it introduces the agent or person.
    • E.g., Este cuadro fue pintado por Dalí. (This painting was painted by Dalí.)
  • You always blame with “por”.
    • E.g., Por tu culpa no podemos ir al concierto. (Because of you we cannot go to the concert.)
  • You always thank with “por”.
    • E.g., Gracias por tu regalo. (Thank you for your gift.)
  • You always apologize or say sorry with “por”.
    • E.g., Perdona por el retraso. (Sorry for the delay.)

What about para? Let’s take a look

Rules for PARA

  • To express the person towards you direct the action
    • E.g., Esto es para mi madre. (This is for my mother.)
  • To express an object’s use or purpose
    • E.g., Esta taza es para el café. (This cup is for coffee.)
  • To express the deadline for something
    • E.g., Este trabajo es para mañana. (This work is for tomorrow.)
  • To express the last destination
    • E.g., Este tren va para Barcelona. (The train goes to Barcelona (Barcelona = end station)
  • To express the goal of an action
    • E.g., La empresa hace marketing para vender más. (The company does marketing to sell more.)

It’s hard to remember all these rules when you’re in a conversation with a native speaker. That’s why it’s much easier to memorize fixed word combinations with por and para that native speakers use (we call them chunks), like the examples you saw before.

If you memorize chunks in context from conversations with native speakers (or even example sentences) you don’t even have to think about the rules; you know they’re correct, so you can use them yourself right away.

The more chunks with por vs para you observe, the easier it’ll become for you – even as a Spanish beginner. So let’s take a look at some more examples!

People

SpanishEnglishExplanation
Este regalo es para CarmenThis gift is for CarmenThe beneficiary is the person, Carmen
Vengo por mi hijoI come for my sonThe reason I am coming is my son, meaning to pick him up
Hago este esfuerzo por mi hijaI make this effort for my daughterI do it because of her
Hago esto para mi hijaI do this for my daughterI do it for her, to give it to her

Something

SpanishEnglishExplanation
Esta casa es para las vacacionesThis house is for holidaysThe purpose of the house is the holidays
Este regalo es por el cumpleaños de mi amigaThis gift is for my friend's birthdayThe celebration is the reason why I bought it

Means of transport or communication

SpanishEnglishExplanation
Voy a Londres por aviónI'm going to London by planeI travel by plane
Hablaremos el domingo por SkypeWe will talk on Sunday by SkypeWe talk by Skype
Te mando las fotos por correo electrónicoI send you the photos by email (I send them by email
Vamos a las Islas Canarias por barcoWe are going to the Canary Islands by boatwe travel by boat

Period of time

SpanishEnglishExplanation
El restaurante está cerrado por vacacionesThe restaurant is closed for holidaysThe reason is closed is the holidays and it is for a period of time
Estoy ahora trabajando por cuatro horas al díaI'm now working for four hours a dayExpressing a period of time
Este trabajo tiene que estar terminado para las 3 de la tardeThis work must be finished by 3 p.m.Expressing a deadline
Esta tienda solo abre por las mañanasThis store is only open in the morningsExpressing a period of time
Me gusta pasear por la tardeI like to walk in the afternoonExpressing a period of time

Places

SpanishEnglishExplanation
¿Por dónde estás? Estoy por la Calle MayorWhere are you? I'm on Calle MayorWhereabouts you are
El viernes voy para MálagaOn Friday I'm going to MalagaThe last destination
Esta tarde paso por tu casaThis afternoon I pass by your houseI go to your house on my way to another place
Esta tarde voy para tu casaThis afternoon I'm going to your houseMy destination is your house
El tren pasa por ToledoThe train passes through ToledoIt goes through Toledo on its way to another place
El tren va para MadridThe train goes to MadridMadrid is the last destination
Me gusta pasear por el parqueI like to walk through the parkTo go around a place
Creo que el teatro está por aquíI think the theater is around hereSomewhere around here)
Para ir a la estación de tren puedes coger el metroTo go to the train station, you can take the metroIn order to go to the train station

Exchange and Prices

SpanishEnglishExplanation
SpanishEnglishExplanation
Voy a comprar un coche por 20.000€I'm going to buy a car for 20.000 €I exchange 20.000 € for a car
Quiero cambiar 10.000 euros por dólaresI want to change 10.000 euros for dollarsI exchange currencies

Social

SpanishEnglishExplanation
Por culpa de mi hijo no puedo ir esta tarde al cineBecause of my son I can't go to the movies this afternoonThe reason I can’t go to the movies
Gracias por la invitaciónThank you for the invitationThe reason I thank you
Te pido perdón por mi actitud de ayerI apologize for my attitude yesterdayThe reason I am sorry

4. Advanced: Chart comparing usage por vs para

Haven’t had enough yet? Let’s take a look at some examples where it isn’t so clear which preposition to use.

ExplanationPORPARA
Person: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the motivation and with “para” you express more the idea of givingHago esto por mi hijoHago esto para mi hijo
Person: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the motivation and with “para” you express more the idea of givingI do this for my sonI do this for my son
Celebration: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the reason and with “para” you express more the idea of purposeEsta tarta es por tu cumpleañosEsta tarta es para tu cumpleaños
Celebration: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the reason and with “para” you express more the idea of purposeThis cake is for your birthdayThis cake is for your birthday
To do something: the difference is that with “por” you stress the motivation and with “para” you express the idea of achieving a goalEl soldado lucha por la democracia de su paísEl soldado lucha para la democracia de su país
To do something: the difference is that with “por” you stress the motivation and with “para” you express the idea of achieving a goalThe soldier fights for the democracy of his countryThe soldier fights for the democracy of his country
Places: with “por” Valladolid is not the last destination, while with “para” it is the last destinationEste autobús pasa por ValladolidEste autobús va para Valladolid
Places: with “por” Valladolid is not the last destination, while with “para” it is the last destinationThis bus goes through ValladolidThis bus goes to Valladolid
Agent vs beneficiary: with “por” it is expressing the agent of the passive sentence, he painted the picture, Dalí is the agent, while with “para”, someone else painted the picture for him, Dalí is the recipientEste cuadro fue pintado por DalíEste cuadro fue pintado para Dalí
Agent vs beneficiary: with “por” it is expressing the agent of the passive sentence, he painted the picture, Dalí is the agent, while with “para”, someone else painted the picture for him, Dalí is the recipientThis painting was painted by DalíThis painting was painted for Dalí

Conclusion:

Even though there are clear rules for when to use por vs para, using them correctly might still be tricky, as you have just seen. Luckily, the more chunks you learn by heart, the easier it gets!

Want a head start? Make sure to sign up for your free Spanish Chunking Starter Pack now to get lists of essential Spanish chunks, a Chunking Guide, 12-Week Study Plan and an Over-The-Shoulder Chunking Demo with me.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *