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:
I have a question related to this wonderful helpful post. So suppose I'm calling a friend and
- asking for his brother (= asking him to get his brother on the phone), is this "Eu pergunto pelo irmão dele"?
- Then when I'm asking about his brother (= "Tell me how your brother is doing"), is this "Eu pergunto sobre o irmão dele"?
- When someone calls for someone, as in, a child falls down and calls "Moooom", is this "Ele chama pela mãe dele"
- When the child says "Go and call mom so she comes here", do I say "Vai chamar pela mãe" or "Vai chamar a mãe"?