Treecie - I went in search of "está por" "está para" on Google and found the uses for por & para. This book [A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, 4th Edition] gives partial preview but enough info for this topic. I have the 5th Edition as one of my go to books. The link should take you to Page 506 http://goo.gl/IRMkKw where you can read lots.
Now you'll see its comprehensive & touches on our issue. However I can't memorize all that so my conclusion is 1) spanish doesn't have a word for about as we have used it here 2) we need a "phrasal verb" in this situation. 3) different regions will use different phrases.
My dictionary defines estar por as [be about to] [be going to] [be in favor of] [be approximately at] and it lists several synonyms such as [estar próximo] [estar a punto] and even [estar para]. So I checked out estar para and we have [be about to] [be in the mood for] [be ready for] and yes the synonyms are cross referenced.
So whats the answer- there isn't one definitive answer. I read recently that a good language learner has to accept the gray areas & its what causes many to quit when they discover this aspect. I am no guru but I do like understanding how the language works. Hope something here helps.
My grammar ( Spanish Verbs and Essentials of Grammar ) says estar por + infinitive means ' to be in favor of ' or ' is yet to be '. Such as: La carta esta por escribir ( the letter is yet to be written ) y yo estoy por escribirla ( I am in favor of writing it ).
Estar para + infinitive means to be about to. Such as ' Estoy para salir ' ( I am about to leave ).
I think Duo has this one backwards - or am I reading this wrong?
Is there an order to the questions within a Duolingo lesson? I had the impression they were randomly chosen by the software. It is a game, after all, me against the computer, and I think of it as "the luck of the draw." I have a choice - I can guess and risk a heart, or I can search for the phrase on the Internet in order to meet the DL challenge. Without fail, when I choose to do the research, I learn more than I would have learned from the Duolingo lesson alone. Here are a couple of sites that I find helpful in these circumstances:
rmcgwn's response up above provides a link to a google book preview - on that page (506) it says that "estar por" is used for "about to" in Latin America, whereas in Spain it means more "to be in favour of something/thinking about doing something". This may be the same reason DL has translated it as such. I was also wondering if there was a way to say "about to" which would be correct in spain – could that be "estar para" perhaps, as you said?
I checked the following three websites, and while the translations for this sentence vary, they all seem to support the Duolingo translation:
No, I hadn't heard of that particular usage before either, and I've been studying Spanish for three years now. I guesd unfortunately it's one of those strange things that just needs to be memorized-- every language has them, English included.
The idioms bonus section from the store is actually about Spanish proverbs, like their own versions of sayings like "a watched pot never boils" and so on.
I got burned, too, with "This is ending." I decided that one reason my answer was wrong is because..."This is ending" is an example of the present progressive, i.e. a conjugated form of "to be" plus a gerund. In Spanish, one could also use the present progressive ("Esto está terminando" maybe?). Alternatively, in Spanish, we could use the present indicative. Unlike English, "Esto termina" can mean either "This ends" or "This is ending." Thus, why would we go to the extra trouble of adding "estar por" when a simple "termina" would do?