Prepositions in Spanish: Por Versus Para
The truth is that grammar is crucial to becoming fluent in a foreign language. And an easy place to start is with prepositions in Spanish.
If we want to command Spanish like native speakers, we need to master the grammar and make it our friend throughout the process! Let’s explore a quick distinction between two oft-confused prepositions in Spanish: por and para. But first, what exactly are prepositions?
What Are Prepositions?
In Spanish, just as in English, prepositions are words that establish relationships between:
- Nouns: Pon el mantel sobre la mesa (Put the tablecloth on the table)
- Nouns and pronouns: El regalo es para él (The gift is for him)
- Nouns and verbs: Ella estaba jugando con sus amigos (She was playing with her friends)
Prepositions in Spanish
Spanish prepositions are: a, ante, bajo, cabe, con, contra, de, desde, durante, en, entre, hacia, hasta, mediante, para, por, según, sin, sobre, tras, versus, and vía.
As you can see, many different prepositions allow us to express our ideas correctly.
Por vs Para
If English is your native language, the use of these two similar-sounding prepositions is tricky since they both translate to “for.” In order to understand them, we need to think of the meaning we want to convey. For example, if I use the phrase “two for one” in English, the “for” has a different meaning than it does in “This Christmas card is for you.” In the first situation, “for” indicates an exchange or deal, while in the second it indicates a direction or purpose. The Spanish translations of the two sentences are: dos por uno and este regalo de Navidad es para ti.
In order to remember when to use por and when to use para, follow this small guideline:
When to Use Por
- When it comes to a cause, motive or reason.
- Vine a ver esta película por ti (I came to watch this movie for you).
- With the meaning of “through”.
- Caminar por la calle (Walk through the street).
- With the meaning of “because of”.
- Esto pasó por tu culpa (This happened because of you).
- When denoting time or duration.
- Caminamos por tres horas (We walked for three hours).
- For exchanges.
- Dos por uno (Two for one).
- For frequency.
- Corro dos veces por semana (I run two times a week).
When to Use Para
- With the meaning of “in order to”.
- Para llegar a tiempo (In order to get on time).
- When you want to specify a future moment in time.
- La tarea es para mañana (The homework is for tomorrow).
- With destination.
- El avión para Nueva York sale en 10 minutos (The plane to New York leaves in 10 minutes).
- When you mean “for the benefit of.”
- Este regalo es para ti (This present is for you).
- With the meaning of “in the direction of” when referring to a specific place.
- Voy para Antigua Guatemala (I am heading to Antigua Guatemala).
Take a practice quiz to test your skills!
We hope these tips help you use por and para correctly! Want to practice your skills through conversation with a native speaker? Schedule a free class with one of our friendly, certified teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Want more Spanish resources for beginners? Check these out!
- How to Give Congratulations in Spanish - January 20, 2021
- How to Talk About Learning a Language in Spanish - January 10, 2021
- “How Much Is It?” in Spanish: A Guide to Travel and Shopping - January 3, 2021