Para or Por?

This is one of the tricky areas of Spanish grammar which confuses most people! The reason being is that both can mean “for”, however they can mean different things in different contexts. I will outline below the key uses of “para” and “por” with examples to help you remember when to use each one:

Uses of “Para”

* Destination:

Un billete de ida y vuelta para Madrid, por favor. A return ticket to Madrid, please.

* Purpose:

El vino es para la fiesta. The wine is for the party.

* To compare unexpected qualities:

Para extranjero, él habla muy bien en español. For a foreigner, he speaks very good Spanish.

* “para” + verb = “In order to …”

Para ser médico, hay que estudiar mucho. To be a doctor, you must study a lot.

* Estar para = To be about to do something:

Estoy para salir. I am about to leave / go out.

* Time limit or a deadline:

Tengo que terminarlo para mañana. I have to finish it by tomorrow.
Necesito el dinero para viernes. I need the money by Friday.

Uses of “Por”

There are more uses of “por” than “para” making it more tricky to learn.

* Movement; to express “by”, “through”, “along”:

¿Hay una farmacia por aquí? Is there a chemist around here?
Paseamos por la ciudad. We walked through/around the city.
Paso por la oficina a las tres. I’ll drop by the office at three o’clock.

* To express gratitude or apology:

Gracias por el regalo. Thank you for the money.
Lo siento por llegar tarde. I’m sorry for arriving late.

* Means of communication or transportation:

Hablamos por teléfono. We speak on the telephone.
Viajamos por tren. We travel by train.

* Because of / due to. Anything concerning reasons:

No fuimos al parque por la lluvia. We didn’t go to the park because of the rain.

* In favour of:

Votamos por los socialistas. We voted for the socialists.

* On behalf of / instead of:

Compré el regalo por mi madre porque estuvo enferma. I bought the present for my Mum because she was ill.

[Compare this with the same sentence using “para”.]

Compré el regalo para mi madre. I bought the present for my Mum. [In this case, the present is to be received by the Mum (destination), however in the first example, using “por” this indicates that the present was bought on behalf of/instead of the Mum, as she was ill. The present was for someone else.]

* In exchange for / buying things:

Compré la camiseta por veinte euros. I bought the T-shirt for 20 euros.
Cambié cien libras por euros. I exchanged 100 pounds for euros.

* Specific length of time:

Fuimos a España por dos semanas. We went to Spain for two weeks.
Trabajé en Francia por diez años. I worked in France for ten years.

* Estar por: To feel like … :

Estoy por ir a la playa. I feel like going to the beach.

* To be remaining / still to be done:

Me queda la mitad del libro por leer. I still have half the book left to read.

* Idiomatic expressions:

por favor: please
por ciento: per cent
por hora: per hour
por supuesto: of course
por adelantado: in advance
por ahora: for now
por lo general: in general
por cierto: by the way
por lo visto: apparently
por todas partes: everywhere
por casualidad: by chance
por desgracia: unfortunately
por suerte: luckily
por poco: almost
por eso: therefore

 
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