Por and Para
"Para" is the easy preposition. It is always the destination/goal/objective/the planned action. Normally you can imagine it as motion from somewhere to (para) elsewhere, even in abstract cases.
- Dei algo para ele = I gave (to) him something
- Vou para a escola = I go to school.
(If there are exceptions, they are few).
A good translation for "para" when used for an "objective/planned action" is "in order to".
- Eu vim para resolver meu problema = I came to (in order to) solve my problem.
So, whatever comes after "para" is a destination/goal.
Now "Por" is the complicated one. It can be:
- Foi por isso que eu voltei = It was because of it that I came back
- Fiz por amor = I did it for love (because of love)
A mix between cause and thing you want to "promote/benefit"
- Ele luta pela comunidade = He fights for the community (to help it, to keep it alive, to benefit it)
- Tudo por você = All for you / All because of you (it's not an accusation, but the subject wants to see "you" well - see further explanation below).
Means through which things are done:
- Ela me falou por telefone = She told me by the phone
- Por meio de ... = by means of...
On behalf of
- Eu falo por ele = I speak on behalf of him
Ask for / wait for
- Ela pede por água = She asks for water
This "ask for" case is tricky. One could think that "water" is the goal/objective. But just see that the motion is not from her to the water, but from the water towards her.
- To say "ela pede para água" is nonsense.
- But you can say "pede para sair" (asks to get out). Here, sair is the objective, the planned action.
The same would apply to "esperar".
- Ele espera por um milagre (he waits for a miracle - to come to him)
- Ele espera para fazer de novo (he waits to do it again)
- Foi por isso que eu voltei = I came back because of it.
- Foi para isso que eu voltei = I came back for that (as the planned acion, came back in order to do that)
- Tudo pela comunidade = All for/because of the community (I do all I can to help the community)
- Tudo para a comunidade = All for/to the community (the community is receiving the things being given. Motion towards the community)
- Eu falo por ela = I speak on behalf of her
- Eu falo para ela = I speak to her/I tell her
- Ele respondeu por mim = He answered on my behalf
- Ele respondeu para mim = He answered me
Further explanation about "the cause/accusation".
There is the expression "por causa de", which means because of. In that sentence I commented above, the difference would be:
- Tudo por você = All for you (In this, "você" inspires the subject and he wants to do everything for "you").
- Tudo por causa de você = All because of you (this one can be more like an accusation, all that happened was because of "you")
Go back to "Prepositions! - All you wanted to know":
Go back to the Portuguese Help Index:
Muito obrigado O Danmoller!!! iv'e been trying to figure out the differences between por, para and pelo i never know which ones to use, but now you have cleared up some of it for me, thank you.
Eu falo por a toda comunidade português aqui, obrigado!
Por/ para is very difficult for me. I feel that there should be an entire skill with a few lessons dedicated to just this topic.
How did you do this formatting? HTML? Anyway, great post, very informative, (although I'm, again, not sure it was relevant to the lesson where you posted the link to this, but thanks anyway... XD)
Obrigado. Desde apredo português (for only 2 months), it appears you have a very clear understanding of the two prepositions. I just encountered both today for the first time.