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Por or Para?
Friday, November 11, 2022 @ 7:17 PM

Should be straightforward....and it is if you can get your head around 22 rules! What is it with so many rules?  They are never-ending.

Anyway, I am sure that many of you do have a problem deciding which “for” is the correct one to use: Por or Para… and it can become very confusing as they have a variety of meanings. So I thought I would endeavour to explain it in as much detail as possible…. as I dived into it I found it more and more confusing, with more and more rules but I think I eventually cracked it….. so for those who are interested, this is how it goes:


Gracias por la información.

Thanks for the information.

Este regalo es para Juan.

This gift is for Juan.


To learn to use "por" and "para" correctly, you need to do two things:

1.         Learn the rules for how por and para are used.

2.         Memorise model sentences.


"Por" has many uses, and so it is the more problematic of the two.


Rule 1: to express gratitude or apology

Model: Gracias por la ayuda.

(Thanks for the help.)


Rule 2: for multiplication and division

Model: Dos por dos son cuatro.

(Two times two equals four.)


Rule 3: for velocity, frequency and proportion

Model: Voy al restaurante cinco veces por semana.

(I go to the restaurant five times per week.)


Rule 4: meaning "through," "along," "by" or "in the area of"

Model: Andamos por el parque.

(We walk through the park.)


Rule 5: when talking about an exchange, including sales

Model: Él me dio diez dólares por el libro.

(He gave me ten dollars for the book.)


Rule 6: to mean "on behalf of," or "in favour of,"

Model: No voté por nadie.

(I didn't vote for anyone.)


Rule 7: to express a length of time

Model: Yo estudié por dos horas.

(I studied for two hours.)


Rule 8: to express an undetermined, or general time, meaning "during"

Model: Se puede ver las estrellas por la noche.

(One can see the stars during the night.)


Rule 9: for means of communication or transportation

Model: Prefiero viajar por tren y hablar por teléfono.

(I prefer to travel by train and speak by phone.)


Rule 10: in cases of mistaken identity, or meaning "to be seen as"

Model: Me tienen por loco.

(They take me for crazy.)


Rule 11: to show the reason for an errand (with ir, venir, pasar, mandar, volver, and preguntar)

Model: Paso por ti a las ocho.

(I'll come by for you at eight o'clock.)


Rule 12: when followed by an infinitive, to express an action that remains to be completed, use por + infinitive

Model: La cena está por cocinar.

(Dinner has yet to be cooked.)


Rule 13: to express cause or reason

Model: El hombre murió por falta de agua.

(The man died for lack of water.)


Rule 14: "estar por" means to be in the mood, or inclined to do something

Model: Estoy por tomar café.

(I'm in the mood for drinking coffee.)


Rule 15: in passive constructions

Model: El libro fue escrito por Octavio Paz.

(The book was written by Octavio Paz.)



"Por" also appears in many idiomatic expressions:


por adelantado

(in advance)

por ahora

(for now)

por allí

(around there; that way)

por el amor de Dios

(for the love of God)

por aquí

(around here; this way)

por casualidad

(by chance)

por ciento


por cierto


por completo


por dentro


por desgracia


por ejemplo

(for example)

por eso


por favor


por fin


por lo general


por lo visto


por medio de

(by means of)

por lo menos

(at least)

por lo tanto


por mi parte

(as for me)

por ningún lado


por otra parte

(on the other hand)

palabra por palabra

(word for word)

por primera vez

(for the first time)

por separado


por supuesto

(of course)

por suerte


por todas partes


por todos lados

(on all sides)

por último



"Para" -- in contrast, has relatively fewer uses.


Rule 1: to indicate destination

Model: El hombre salió para Madrid.

(The man left for Madrid.)


Rule 2: to show the use or purpose of a thing

Model: El vaso es para agua.

(The glass is for water.)


Rule 3: to mean "in order to" or "for the purpose of"

Model: Para hacer una paella, primero dore las carnes.

(to make a paella, first sauté the meats.)


Rule 4: to indicate a recipient

Model: Este regalo es para ti.

(This gift is for you.)


Rule 5: to express a deadline or specific time

Model: Necesito el vestido para el lunes.

(I need the dress by Monday.)


Rule 6: to express a contrast from what is expected

Model: Para un niño lee muy bien.

(For a child, he reads very well.)


Rule 7: "estar para" to express an action that will soon be completed

Model: El tren está para salir.

(The train is about to leave.)


It is quite important to learn to use these two prepositions correctly because if you inadvertently substitute one for the other, you might end up saying something altogether different from what you had intended. Study the two examples:


Juan compró el regalo para María.

Juan bought the gift for Maria.

(he bought it to give to her)


Juan compró el regalo por María.

Juan bought the gift for Maria.

(he bought it because she could not)


"Por" and "para" can also be used in questions. "¿Por qué?" means "Why?" (for what reason) while "¿Para qué?" means "Why?" (for what purpose).


¿Por qué estudias español?

For what reason do you study Spanish?


Possible answer:


Porque es un requisito.

Because it's required.


¿Para qué estudias español?

For what purpose do you study Spanish?


Possible answer:

Para ser profesor de español.

In order to become a Spanish teacher.


PHEW!!!!  Good Luck!

Like 5


June said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 9:33 AM

Muchos grazias I will be passing this information on to my friends in Spanish class. Thank you for taking the time to explain it so clearly. X

Lynn said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 9:42 AM

The best and clearest and most comprehensive explanation yet! Also the examples are good as these are relatable and you can transpose the situation to others as a check

Mary Mulcahy said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 10:16 AM

An excellent clear learning tool with useful everyday examples to help remember the rules and uses. Muchísimas gracias.

Judy said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 10:50 AM

Thank you for this! I am learning Spanish and this explanation has come at just the right time for me as I was getting VERY confused with por and para.

marelison said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 11:02 AM

Thank you for/por this !

Jo said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 11:38 AM

Very helpful when learning Spanish also the idiomatic expressions.

Douglas MacGregor said:
Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 1:03 PM

excellent explanation like many others i find por and para confusing well done!

Barbs said:
Sunday, November 13, 2022 @ 10:16 AM

Thank you for a very useful summary with clear examples

Lagalesa said:
Sunday, November 13, 2022 @ 1:29 PM

Gracias por este!!

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