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.
1. In short, when to use por vs para
|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!
Por vs para for people
|Este regalo es para Carmen||This gift is for Carmen||The beneficiary is the person, Carmen|
|Vengo por mi hijo||I come for my son||The reason I am coming is my son, meaning to pick him up|
|Hago este esfuerzo por mi hija||I make this effort for my daughter||I do it because of her|
|Hago esto para mi hija||I do this for my daughter||I do it for her, to give it to her|
Por vs para for things or events
|Esta casa es para las vacaciones||This house is for holidays||The purpose of the house is the holidays|
|Este regalo es por el cumpleaños de mi amiga||This gift is for my friend's birthday||The celebration is the reason why I bought it|
Por vs para for means of transport or communication
|Voy a Londres por avión||I'm going to London by plane||I travel by plane|
|Hablaremos el domingo por Skype||We will talk on Sunday by Skype||We talk by Skype|
|Te mando las fotos por correo electrónico||I send you the photos by email (||I send them by email|
|Vamos a las Islas Canarias por barco||We are going to the Canary Islands by boat||we travel by boat|
Por vs para for period of time
|El restaurante está cerrado por vacaciones||The restaurant is closed for holidays||The reason is closed is the holidays and it is for a period of time|
|Estoy ahora trabajando por cuatro horas al día||I'm now working for four hours a day||Expressing a period of time|
|Este trabajo tiene que estar terminado para las 3 de la tarde||This work must be finished by 3 p.m.||Expressing a deadline|
|Esta tienda solo abre por las mañanas||This store is only open in the mornings||Expressing a period of time|
|Me gusta pasear por la tarde||I like to walk in the afternoon||Expressing a period of time|
Por vs para for places
|¿Por dónde estás? Estoy por la Calle Mayor||Where are you? I'm on Calle Mayor||Whereabouts you are|
|El viernes voy para Málaga||On Friday I'm going to Malaga||The last destination|
|Esta tarde paso por tu casa||This afternoon I pass by your house||I go to your house on my way to another place|
|Esta tarde voy para tu casa||This afternoon I'm going to your house||My destination is your house|
|El tren pasa por Toledo||The train passes through Toledo||It goes through Toledo on its way to another place|
|El tren va para Madrid||The train goes to Madrid||Madrid is the last destination|
|Me gusta pasear por el parque||I like to walk through the park||To go around a place|
|Creo que el teatro está por aquí||I think the theater is around here||Somewhere around here)|
|Para ir a la estación de tren puedes coger el metro||To go to the train station, you can take the metro||In order to go to the train station|
Por vs para for Exchange and Prices
|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 dólares||I want to change 10.000 euros for dollars||I exchange currencies|
Por vs para for social situations
|Por culpa de mi hijo no puedo ir esta tarde al cine||Because of my son I can't go to the movies this afternoon||The reason I can’t go to the movies|
|Gracias por la invitación||Thank you for the invitation||The reason I thank you|
|Te pido perdón por mi actitud de ayer||I apologize for my attitude yesterday||The reason I am sorry|
3. 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.
Advanced chart comparing por vs para
|Person: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the motivation and with “para” you express more the idea of giving||Hago esto por mi hijo||Hago esto para mi hijo|
|Person: the difference is that with “por” you emphasize the motivation and with “para” you express more the idea of giving||I do this for my son||I 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 purpose||Esta tarta es por tu cumpleaños||Esta 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 purpose||This cake is for your birthday||This 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 goal||El soldado lucha por la democracia de su país||El 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 goal||The soldier fights for the democracy of his country||The soldier fights for the democracy of his country|
|Places: with “por” Valladolid is not the last destination, while with “para” it is the last destination||Este autobús pasa por Valladolid||Este autobús va para Valladolid|
|Places: with “por” Valladolid is not the last destination, while with “para” it is the last destination||This bus goes through Valladolid||This 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 recipient||Este cuadro fue pintado por Dalí||Este 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 recipient||This painting was painted by Dalí||This painting was painted for Dalí|
4. Mastering Por vs Para: A Step Towards Fluency in Spanish
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.