Both of the words “Por” and “Para” in Portuguese can mean “FOR” or “TO” in English, however the distinction between the two is a little more complicated than that. So let´s take a closer look …
PARA can mean “TO”, “FOR”, “TOWARDS” and “IN ORDER TO”, whereas
POR can mean “BY”, “FOR”, “THROUGH”, “VIA”.
Here are a few hints to help make it a bit easier when deciding on which preposition to use:
Use “Para” when talking about destination or direction:
“Este ônibus vai para o centro da cidade.” (This bus goes to the centre of the city).
Or when talking about purpose:
“Vou comprar um bolo para a Maria.” (I am going to buy a cake for Maria).
Use “Por” when expressing movement:
“Este voo vai por Chicago.” (This flight goes via Chicago).
When referring to numbers:
“O comboi ia a 180 km por hora.” (The train was going at 180 km per hour).
When expressing the agent in a passive sentence:
“A fruta foi comida por ele.” (The fruit was eaten by him).
When explaining the cause of something:
“Tenho fome por não comer o pequeno-almoço.” (I´m hungry because I didn´t have breakfast).