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Difference Between Para and Por

Para vs Por

The words “para” and “por” are the Spanish words for the English word “for.” They are the most frequently used prepositions in the Spanish language although there are many other words that are used for the word “for.” Like their English synonym, they are used differently in most sentences or phrases. Choosing which one to use depends on what you want to convey just like when using most other prepositions.

Take these sentences, for example: (a) “Two for a peso.” (b) “These flowers are for Jean.” In the first sentence, the word “for” refers to a rate while in the second sentence it refers to an intention. Since they convey different meanings, in the Spanish translation of the sentences, two different prepositions are used, “para” and “por”: (a) “Dos por un peso.” (b) “Estas flores son para Jean.”

The word “por” is used in sentences or phrases that express movement, the time and duration of an occurrence, and the cause of an action. Examples are:

“I will travel for one week. Voy a viajar por una semana.”
“Marcus walked the streets. Marcus caminaba por las calles.”

It is also used to mean per, in favor of or in support of, as well as to introduce the person who initiates an action. It is used to indicate a mode of transportation and in many other common expressions. For example:

“Tres por ciento. Three percent.”
“Fue hecho por John. It was made by John.”
“Por barco. By boat.”

The word “para,” on the other hand, is used together with a noun or a pronoun for which the action is intended for. For example: “It’s for her. Es para ella.” It is also used to refer to a place or direction. For example: “A trip for two. Un viaje para dos.” It is also used to refer to a specific time as in this sentence: “I am going to my grandmother’s for the weekend. Me voy a casa de mi abuela para el fin de semana.”

In the sentence, “Mike bought the gift for Rose,” there are two different Spanish translations which also mean two different instances. (a) “Mike compro el regalo por Rose.” (b) “Mike compro el regalo para Rose.” In the first sentence, it is meant that the gift is bought by Mike in behalf of Rose because she cannot buy it herself. In the second sentence, it is meant that the gift is intended for Rose.

Summary:

1.Although the words “por” and “para” are both Spanish words for the English word “for,” they denote different meanings when used in sentences.
2.They are both prepositions. While “para” is used to express the phrases “for me” or “for you,” “por” is used to express the act of doing something for someone.
3.The word “para” is used to express an opinion, a direction, a purpose, or to compare things while the word “por” is used to show that an action is still to be done when referring to a means of transport and with the passive tenses of the verb ser.


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3 Comments

  1. Ok I get Spanish is extremely expressive! With the number of variables it is harder to understand this distinction but using the ‘rate’ vs ‘intention’ guideline most uses seem to fall into either a mechanical vs human use of the words.

    I think. The rest will have to be learned by listening to speech. At least for me!

    Thanks for this explanation!

  2. As a native Spanish speaker I noticed an error on an example:

    “Me voy a casa de mi abuela para el fin de semana.” is incorrect (at least is not used orally and would sound weird) but It can be corrected using both por and para which makes the language more difficult and awesome at the same time.

    “Me voy a casa de mi abuela para pasar el fin de semana.” – I am going to my grandmother’s to spend the weekend

    “Me voy a casa de mi abuela por el fin de semana. ” – I am going to my grandmother’s for the weekend

  3. Thanks for the explanation!

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