Por vs Para

Para vs por
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The Spanish prepositions por and para tend to be difficult for Spanish students, because they can – but don’t always – both mean "for." Por is considerably more common, so in theory, you might be able to get away with just memorizing the uses for para and then using por for everything else. In reality, it’s good to learn the rules, so here they are.

This lesson is divided into two sections. In the first, the uses of por and para are compared and contrasted. In the second, the uses of por which don’t have a complementary para usage are explained.

Por vs Para

I. Location / Movement

Por = General location or movement

"by (way of), through, via, around, near"

Hay mucha gente por aquí.   There are a lot of people here.
Voy a Madrid por Bilbao.   I’m going to Madrid via Bilbao.
Sal por esta puerta.   Go out through this door.
Está por el norte.   It’s to the north.

Para = Specific destination

"to, toward"

Van para el colegio.   They’re going to(ward) school.
Voy en tren para Madrid.   I’m going by train to Madrid.

II. Time

Por = Duration, inexact point in time

"for, in, around"

Estudié por 3 horas.   I studied for three hours.
por la mañana
por la tarde
por la noche
  in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
Te veré por Navidad.   I’ll see you around Christmastime.

Para = Deadline, time by which

"by, before, for"

Lo haré para mañana.   I’ll do it by tomorrow.
Termínelo para el lunes.   Finish it before Monday.

III. Reasons

Por = Cause, Motive

"out of, for (the sake of), because (of), due to, in support of"

Lo hizo por necesidad.   He did it out of necessity.
Lo hizo por tí.   He did it for your sake.
No me quedé por el calor.   I didn’t stay because of the heat.
Lo hago por gusto.   I do it because I like to.
Votó por el partido socialista.   He voted for the Socialist party.
Gracias por el regalo.   Thank you for the gift.

Para = Purpose, Benefit

"for, in order to"

Estudio para abogado.   I’m studying to be a lawyer.
El libro es para tí.   The book is for you.
No me quedé para comer.   I didn’t stay to eat.
Lo hago para ganar dinero.   I do it to earn money.
Es un mercado para touristas.   It’s a shop for tourists.
una taza para café   coffee cup

IV. Relationship

Por = Exchange/Payment/Substitution

(in exchange/payment) "for, on behalf of"

Me dió 2 lápices por mi pluma.   He gave me 2 pencils for my pen.
Pagué mucho por los libros.   I paid a lot for the books.
Escribí la carta por Lupe.   I wrote the letter for (on behalf of) Lupe.

Para = Comparison/Contrast/Differences


Para niño, escucha bien.   For a child, he listens well.
Para generosos, los marroquís.   For generous people, there’s no one like Moroccans.
¿Quién es Ud. para hablarme así?   Who are you to talk to me like that?

V. Viewpoints

Por = Say so, Attitudes

"according to, from"

por lo que dice …   from what he says …
por los sondeos …   according to the polls …

Para = Opinion

"in one’s opinion, for"

para mí …   in my opinion …
para él …   in his opinion, for him …

Additional uses of por

Means/Agent: "by, on, with"

Le hablé por teléfono.   I talked to him by/on the phone.
Lo hizo por su propia mano.   He did it with his own hand.
Por trabajar todos los días, gané mucho dinero.   By working every day, I earned a lot of money.
Fue decidido por el presidente. (passive voice)   It was decided by the president.

Math: Multiplication and Division

2 por 3 son 6   2 times 3 is 6
6 dividido por 2 son 3   6 divided by 2 is 3
Dividí la clase por la mitad.   I divided the class in half.

Appearance, Consideration: "as"

Me tienen por experto.   They see me as an expert.
tener a alguien por amigo,
tenerlo a uno por amigo
  to consider someone a friend

Frequency, Proportion: "per"

Paga 10 Euros por hora.   He pays 10 Euros per hour.
tres veces por semana   three times per week
por ciento   percent

Something which is yet to be completed: por + infinitive

Los platos están por fregar.   The dishes are yet to be done.

 Related lessons

Spanish quizzes Por vs Para Quizzes

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on por vs para with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises:

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Spanish lesson plans Spanish lesson plans

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Por vs para

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