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Por vs Para: 4 key differences

4 key differences

¡Hola amigos! Have you ever wondered when to use “por” and when to use “para” in Spanish? They both mean “for” or “by,” but using them correctly can be a bit tricky. Don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this post, we’ll break down Por vs Para: 4 key differences in a way that’s easy to understand. Let’s get started!

But first, let’s dispel a myth. One of the reasons you may find it complex is because Spanish learners are often told that por and para both mean for. While this isn’t wrong, it’s not entirely true.  There are many other translations for por and para in English – and it all depends on the context. 

POR can mean:

  • for
  • because of
  • through
  • by
  • over
  • per
  • instead of
  • to

PARA can mean:

  • for
  • in order to
  • by
  • to
  • according to

Por vs Para: 4 key differences

  1. POR is for reason, PARA is for purpose

Use por to talk about the reason for doing something. In this scenario, you’d translate it as “because of”.

  • Estudio español por mi trabajo = I’m studying Spanish because of my job

Use para to describe the purpose behind doing something. Consider its English translation to be “in order to”.

  • Estudio español para trabajar en Argentina = I’m studying Spanish in order to work in Argentina.

          2. POR is for travelling, PARA is for the final destination

Por describes travelling through or around a place. 

  • Este autobús pasa por el centro de la ciudad = This bus goes through the city centre.
  • El año pasado viajamos por España = Last year we travelled around Spain.

Para describes travelling to a place. It refers to the final destination of the journey.

  • Este autobús va para el centro de la ciudad = This bus goes to the city centre. 

          3. POR is for duration, PARA is for deadlines

Use por  to describe duration – in other words, how long something lasts. The trick for spotting this scenario? You should always be able switch por for durante (“during”) in the sentence.

  • Estudié por (durante)dos horas = I studied for (during) 2 hours.

We always use para to refer to a date in the future –typically, when there is a deadline looming.

  • Necesito terminar el informe para mañana = I need to finish the report by tomorrow.

          4. POR is “by” someone, PARA is “for” someone

Por  refers to a person who did something – in plain English, something was done by someone. 

  • Este puente fue construido porlos romanos = This bridge was built bythe Romans.

Para refers to the person something was done for – in other words, something was done for someone.

  • Compré este libro para mi hermana = I bought this book for my sister.

4 main differences between por and para

  1. Para mí (“in my opinion”)

You can say creo que to start offering your opinion in Spanish. But if you want to sound a bit more authentic, introduce your opinion by saying para mí.

  • Para mí, tienes toda la razón = In my opinion, you’re absolutely right.
  1. Por aquí  (“around here”)

If you have a vague inkling of where something is but can’t provide an exact location, you can use por to describe your approximate whereabouts.

  • No hay ningún cine por aquí, creo que hay uno por el centro = There isn’t any cinema around here. I think there is one somewhere in the city centre.
  1. Por teléfono  (“on the phone”)

It’s not just por teléfono, but also por internet, or por correo electrónico. Basically, all these phrases are used for a type of transmission.

  • Anoche hablé con Ana por teléfono = Last night I spoke to Ana on the phone.

Our Spanish Summer Courses are an excellent opportunity for students to understand firsthand from native Spanish speakers the correct use of “Por”, “Para” , and other grammar that can be hard to understand in a classroom setting. Learn more about our courses here

You can also learn more about these prepositions in the following link, A Marte con las preposiciones: Por y Para

Keep practicing and remember, stay tuned, because we’ll keep sharing more invaluable tips to help you improve your  French, German, and Spanish language skills here at www.elc.ie .

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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