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Saying “for” en Español: Por vs. Para

Saying “for” en Español: Por vs. Para

If you’ve ever had trouble saying “for” in Spanish, you’re not alone! Let’s talk about por vs. para:

Dollarphotoclub_76238792-300x200The key to understanding por vs. para is to think of the meaning you want to convey. If I use a phrase such as “three for a dollar” in English, the “for” has a different meaning than it does in “this book is for you.” In the first case, “for” indicates an exchange or rate, while in the second case it indicates an intention or direction. Thus the Spanish translations of the two phrases are different: “tres por un dólar” and “este libro es para ti.

Uses for POR:

  • Expressing movement along, through, around, by, or about.
    Anduve por las calles de la ciudad. I walked through the streets of the city.
  • Denoting a time or duration when something occurs.
    Viajamos por tres semanas. We’re traveling for three weeks.
  • Expressing the cause (not the purpose) of an action.
    Me caí por la nieve. I fell down because of the snow.
  • Meaning per.
    Dos por ciento . Two percent.
  • Meaning supporting or in favor of.
    Trabajamos por derechos humanos . We work for human rights.
  • Introducing the agent of an action after a passive verb.
    Fue escrito por Bob Woodward . It was written by Bob Woodward.
  • Indicating means of transportation.
    Viajaré por avión . I will travel by plane.
  • Used in numerous expressions.
    Por ejemplo . For example. Por favor. Thank you.

Uses for PARA:

  • Meaning for the purpose of or in order to.
    Para bailar la bamba, necesita una poca de gracia .
    In order to dance the bamba you need a little grace.
  • With a noun or pronoun as object, meaning for the benefit of or directed to.
    Es para usted . It’s for you.
  • Meaning to or in the direction of when referring to a specific place.
    Voy para Europa . I’m heading to Europe.
  • Meaning by or for when referring to a specific time.
    Necesito el regalo para mañana . I need the gift for tomorrow.
    Vamos a la casa de mi madre para el fin de semana.
    We’re going to my mother’s for the weekend.

PERFECT Acronym for PARA
P – Purpose (Es un vaso para agua.)
E – Effect (Estudio para aprender.)
R – Recipient (El regalo es para ella.)
F – Future (La tarea es para mañana.)
E – Employment (Trabajo para IBM.)
C – Comparison (Para un niño, es muy alto.)
T – Towards (Voy para el parque.)


Song for when to use POR (To the tune of We Three Kings)
Pray for, Pay for, Thank for, Use for,
For the sake of, In exchange for,
Motive, Cause, In place of, Duration,
By, In, Through, For, Use POR

Song for when to use PARA (To the tune of London Bridge)
Destined person, Place or Time,
In order to become,
On the verge of, Considering,
Purpose, Use PARA

Rory
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Rory is passionate about the Spanish language, an expert instructor, and specifically energized by the practical use of language in industry & community settings.
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