Spanish Lessons in Ipswich

How to use ‘para’ and ‘por’ in Spanish

Students of Spanish know that where you use for in English, you use para or por in Spanish. The words are rarely interchangeable and the words can present challenges even to people who have been learning Spanish for several years.

This is a familiar theme in Spanish where the difference between ser and estar present similar problems for the learner.

Luckily, through continued study by attending classes, lots of reading and lots of conversation, getting it right will become second nature. Nevertheless, a bit of clarification about which word is appropriate in which context should help you gain a firmer understanding.

Possibly the easiest way to think about the issue is to consider the different ways in which English speakers for. The word has more than one meaning depending on what we want to say. By way of example, let’s compare two sentences which use for in different ways.

English phraseSpanish translation
I am staying for two weeksMe quedo por dos semanas
The gazpacho is for meEl gazpacho es para mi

As you can see, the meaning of for is very different in each case, and the Spanish translation reflects this difference. In the first example, for refers to duration whilst in the second, it refers to a destination.

However, this brief example barely covers the different ways that the Spanish speaker uses por and para.

Some further explanation follows.

When to use por

Used to expressExample in SpanishMeaning
By way of
Él caminó por el parque.He walked through the park.
Tienes que conducir por la autopista.You have to drive along the motorway.
Because ofSoy cansado por el viaje.I am tired because of the journey.
La manzana cayó por la gravedad.The apple fell because of gravity.
PerTomo solo dos copas de vino por día.
I only drink two glasses of wine per day.
Recibieron una descuenta de diez por ciento.
They received a discount of ten percent.
In support of

Estamos protestando por salarios iguales.
We are protesting in support of equal pay.
Es un voto por la libertad.
It is a vote for freedom.
By (Person doing the action)La paella fue hecha por mi abuelo.
The paella was made by my grandfather.
La obra de teatro es por Cervantes.
The play is by Cervantes.
By (Using a certain means)Vamos a Escocia por coche.
We are going to Scotland by car.
Él pinta por números.He paints by numbers.

When to use para

Used to expressExample in SpanishMeaning
In order to (Do something)Necesito un sacacorchos para abrir esta botella.I need a corkscrew in order to open this bottle.
For the purpose ofÉl lleva gafas para leer su libro.He wears glasses to read his book.
For the benefit ofTengo un regalo para ti.I have a gift for you.
Headed for¿Este tren es para Zaragoza?
Is this train headed for Zaragoza?
By (Specifycing a time)Estaré en casa para el lunesI will be home by Monday

Some further examples of how to use para and por can be found in a similar article here.



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