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The diference between "por" y "para"

"Por" and "para" have a variety of meanings, and they are often confused because they can each be translated as "for."

Gracias por la información. "Thanks for the information"

Este regalo es para Juan. "This gift is for Juan"

To learn to use "por" and "para" correctly, you need to do two things: Learn the rules for how por and para are used. Memorize model sentences.

"Por" has many uses, and so it is the more problematic of the two.

Rule: to express gratitude or apology Model: Gracias por la ayuda. (Thanks for the help.)

Rule: for multiplication and division Model: Dos por dos son cuatro. (Two times two equals four.)

Rule: for velocity, frequency and proportion Model: Voy al restaurante cinco veces por semana. (I go to the restaurant five times per week.)

Rule: meaning "through," "along," "by" or "in the area of" Model: Andamos por el parque. (We walk through the park.)

Rule: when talking about exchange, including sales Model: Él me dio diez dólares por el libro. (He gave me ten dollars for the book.)

Rule: to mean "on behalf of," or "in favor of," Model: No voté por nadie. (I didn't vote for anyone.)

Rule: to express a length of time Model: Yo estudié por dos horas. (I studied for two hours.)

Rule: to express an undetermined, or general time, meaning "during" Model: Se puede ver las estrellas por la noche. (One can see the stars during the night.)

Rule: for means of communication or transportation Model: Prefiero viajar por tren y hablar por teléfono. (I prefer to travel by train and speak by phone.)

Rule: in cases of mistaken identity, or meaning "to be seen as" Model: Me tienen por loco. (They take me for crazy.)

Rule: to show the reason for an errand (with ir, venir, pasar, mandar, volver, and preguntar) Model: Paso por ti a las ocho. (I'll come by for you at eight o'clock.)

Rule: when followed by an infinitive, to express an action that remains to be completed, use por + infinitive Model: La cena está por cocinar. (Dinner has yet to be cooked.)

Rule: to express cause or reason Model: El hombre murió por falta de agua. The man died for lack of water.

Rule: "estar por" means to be in the mood, or inclined to do something Model: Estoy por tomar café. (I'm in the mood for drinking coffee.)

Rule: in passive constructions Model: El libro fue escrito por Octavio Paz. (The book was written by Octavio Paz.)

"Por" also appears in many idiomatic expressions:

por adelantado in advance

por ahora for now

por allí around there; that way

por amor de Dios for the love of God

por aquí around here; this way

por casualidad by chance

por ciento percent

por cierto certainly

por completo completely

por dentro inside

por desgracia unfortunately

por ejemplo for example

por eso therefore

por favor please

por fin finally

por lo general generally

por lo visto apparently

por medio de by means of

por lo menos at least

por lo tanto consequently

por mi parte as for me

por ningún lado nowhere

por otra parte on the other hand

palabra por palabra word for word

por primera vez for the first time

por separado separately

por supuesto of course

por suerte fortunately

por todas partes everywhere

por todos lados on all sides

por último finally

"Para" -- in contrast, has relatively fewer uses.

Rule: to indicate destination Model: El hombre salió para Madrid. (The man left for Madrid.)

Rule: to show the use or purpose of a thing Model: El vaso es para agua. (The glass is for water.)

Rule: to mean "in order to" or "for the purpose of" Model: Para hacer una paella, primero dore las carnes. To make a paella, first sauté the meats.

Rule: to indicate a recipient Model: Este regalo es para ti. (This gift is for you.)

Rule: to express a deadline or specific time Model: Necesito el vestido para el lunes. (I need the dress by Monday.)

Rule: to express a contrast from what is expected Model: Para un niño lee muy bien. (For a child, he reads very well.)

Rule: "estar para" to express an action that will soon be completed Model: El tren está para salir. (The train is about to leave.)

It is quite important to learn to use these two prepositions correctly, because if you inadvertently substitute one for the other, you might end up saying something altogether different from what you had intended.

Study the two examples:

Juan compró el regalo para María. Juan bought the gift for Maria. (he bought it to give to her)

Juan compró el regalo por María. Juan bought the gift for Maria. (he bought it because she could not)

"Por" and "para" can also be used in questions. "¿Por qué?" means "Why?" (for what reason) while "¿Para qué?" means "Why?" (for what purpose).

¿Por qué estudias español? For what reason do you study Spanish? Possible answer: Porque es un requisito. Because it's required.

¿Para qué estudias español? For what purpose do you study Spanish? Possible answer: Para ser profesor de español. In order to become a Spanish teacher


July 4, 2015



Good explanation I just started but I think this will help a lot.


Muchas gracias! Esto me aydara mucho!


Very nice,it helped me however I might just learn the para rules and use por for all else. Thanks


Mil gracias. ¡Qué lista completa!

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