Por or Para in Spanish? Differences, Uses and Lots of Practice
There are different questions that every Spanish student asks himself during his learning process: ser or estar, pretérito indefinido or pretérito imperfecto, and, of course, por or para. These prepositions appear in each and every level (from A1 to C2) and they’re used constantly by native speakers.
Not sure how to use them? Don’t worry! We are here to give you the keys so that you can use them with confidence and understand once and for all how to do it correctly.
In this post you will find:
Uses of por in Spanish
As you have seen in this short conversation, the preposition por is very common in Spanish. But, does it always mean the same thing when we use it? And if not, in which cases can we use it? To make it clear to you how to use this word correctly, here are the uses.
1. Cause, reason or motive
We use por to explain the reason, cause or motive for something.
To ask the cause of something in Spanish we need to use por + qué.
Can we use por with a verb? Yes, of course. Look at following examples:
We use por + infinitive and porque + a conjugated verb to express the cause, reason or motive for something.
Porque, por qué and porqué are different and it is important to use them correctly. We use por qué (separated and with tilde) to ask the cause, we use porque (together and without tilde) to express the cause and we use porqué (together and with tilde) as a noun: no comprendo el porqué de su enfado = no comprendo la razón de su enfado.
Let’s pause a bit for a short practice:
2. Part of the day
We express the part of the day with the preposition por.
When we want to be more specific and indicate the time it is not possible to use por, we need the preposition de to indicate the part of the day.
3. Time (non specific dates)
As you have seen in the previous use of por, we can express a part of the day without specifying too much. The same thing happens with other expressions of time.
In these examples it means ‘more or less’ or ‘roughly’.
4. Non specific spaces
In these cases, it means ‘near’.
When we want to be more precise we use the preposition en.
5. Place of transit or passing through
We don’t talk about the destination, it’s just a point we go through. We use it with verbs of movement (PASAR, CAMINAR, IR, CRUZAR…).
But the means can also be a person.
We express the way or manner of doing something.
We express the way or manner of doing something.
When we talk about prices, how much we pay or how much something has cost, we use por. Remember that this is also an exchange: we give money and receive a product or a service.
This expresses amounts that are divided equally.
10. Agent (passive voice)
In passive voice, we indicate the agent with the preposition por. This means who performs the action. But how do we identify it? It is very easy. If we change the verb from passive voice into active voice, what comes after por becomes the subject of the sentence. Look at these examples:
Uses of para in Spanish
It seems impossible, but in this little conversation you have almost all the uses of the preposition para. You’ve probably heard one or two, you may already use them without realising it, but it’s important that you know them all so you can speak with confidence and not get confused with other prepositions. Here are the uses of para. Read them and practice. Here we go!
1. Purpose, aim or goal
We ask for the purpose with ¿para qué…? and answer with para + infinitive or para que + subjunctive.
The recipient is the person who receives the object or the action.
3. Destination or direction
With verbs of movement (IR, CAMINAR, etc.) it indicates the direction to a place.
We use para + pronoun, proper noun, or common noun to indicate what a person thinks. In this case, we can replace it with mi / tu / su / su… opinión or with the verbs CREER, PENSAR, or OPINAR.
We can use para with days, dates, seasons of the year… to indicate when we have to do something or until when we can do it, that is, the time limit or deadline.
It is a way of expressing an obstacle that does not prevent action. It can be replaced by ‘although’ or ‘in spite of’.
7. Clarifying information
Download the full overview for the uses of por and para in Spanish. Print it, study it, master it 💪🏽
Grammar tips por and para
Por / para mí – Por / para ti
After a preposition, the personal pronouns yo and tú change form:
Por / para + infinitivo
After a preposition the verb must be in the infinitive form. It’s not possible to use a conjugated verb.
¿Por 5 años o para 5 años?
A very common question for students of Spanish is this: Which is the correct option?
It is most common for native speakers not to use a preposition:
We do not need a preposition to indicate the duration of an action or situation.
The preposition is not necessary, but if you want to use one and you don’t want any problems, you can always use durante:
Estudié durante 5 años en Valencia.
Hemos vivido durante 3 meses en Portugal.
Expressions with por and para
In addition to the grammatical rules, there are some common idioms or expressions with por and para that you need to know if you want to understand native speakers. Here are some of the most common ones.
|Frequent expressions with por||Frequent expressions with para|
por favor (please)
¿Puedes ayudarme, por favor?
Un café con leche, por favor.
para colmo (to be the height)
Llegó tarde a mi fiesta y para colmo no me compró ningún regalo.
por ahora (at the moment, for now)
Me he mudado a Barcelona, pero por ahora no conozco a nadie.
para variar (for a change)
¿Por qué no vamos al cine para variar? Siempre vamos a la playa.
por cierto (by the way)
He hablado con María esta mañana. Por cierto, el otro día te llamó.
no estar para + sustantivo plural (not being in the mood)
Lo siento, no voy a ir al cumpleaños de Marta. No estoy para fiestas.
por poco (almost)
Tienes que conducir más despacio. Por poco tenemos un accidente.
ser tal para cual (to be a match made in heaven)
Matías y Juan son tal para cual. Es normal que siempre estén juntos.
por si acaso / por si las moscas (just in case)
Ahora no llueve, pero voy a llevar un paraguas por si acaso / por si las moscas.
no ser para tanto (not being so bad or terrible)
Es verdad que llegué tarde a su cumpleaños, pero no es para tanto. No sé por qué está tan enfadada.
por mi / tu / su… culpa (to put the blame on someone)
Hemos perdido el tren por tu culpa.
para chuparse los dedos (with food: really tasty)
Esta paella está para chuparse los dedos.
por adelantado (in advance)
Necesitamos pagar el 50% por adelantado.
Songs with por and para
If you want more practice, here you have 6 songs in Spanish to keep up with por and para. You can listen to them and you can even sing along. ¡A cantar!
1. Por quererte, Efecto Mariposa
3. Eres para mí , Julieta Venegas
5. Camino verde, Diana Navarro
2. ¿Y para qué?, José José.
4. Por amarte tanto, Melendi
6. El puente, Los Mismos
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