Por vs. Para

Por and Para can be confusing at first because they are often translated to the same words in English, particularly “for”. The key to understanding the difference between the two is context.

Para

1. Specific place/Destination/Direction

Salgo para Nueva York mañana. I am leaving for New York tomorrow.
Salimos para San Diego. We left for San Diego.
Yo vi a mi amigo cuando iba para Chile. I saw my friend when I was leaving for Cuba.

2. In order to (purpose)/ specific use of something

Necesito lentes para ver. I need glasses in order to see.
Quiero ir allí para hablar con la chica. I want to go there to talk to the girl.
Para aprender, tienes que estudiar. In order to learn, you have to study.
Voy a la oficina para hablar con él. I am going to the office in order to talk to him.
Ella necesita dinero para ir al cine. She needs money to go to the movies.
Ella estudia para ser dentista. She is studying in order to be a dentist.
Voy a la tienda para comprar leche. I am going to the store in order to buy milk.
Es una caja para lápices. It is a box for pencils.

3. Comparing things (considering that)

La mochila es pequeña para todos los libros que tienes. That backpack is small considering all the books that you have.
Ella es muy alta para su edad. She is very tall for her age.
Para un maestro, no sabe mucho. For a teacher, he doesn´t know very much.

4. For whom it is done

Voy a limpiar la casa para mamá. I am going to clean the house for mom.
Compramos un regalo para nuestro maestro. We bought a gift for our teacher.

5. Deadline/Date in the future

Hay que terminar la tarea para mañana. The homework is due by tomorrow.

6. Used with reflexive pronoun «sí, mí, tí» to mean for oneself –

Ella se fue a la tienda y fue de compras para sí. She went to the store and went shopping for herself.

Por

7. Duration/How long it lasts

He vivido en Santiago por diez años. I have lived in Santiago for ten years.
Voy a viajar por un mes. I am going to travel for a month.
Estudié por tres horas. I studied for three hours.

8. Exchange

Pagué mucho dinero por el libro. I paid a lot of money for the book.
Cambié mi libro por otro. I traded in my book for another.

9. Means of Transportation (“por” is for things, “en” is for passengers)

Voy a viajar en tren. I will travel by train.
Ella mandó la carta por avión. She sent the letter by plane.

10. General Location/(Passing)Through/Around/By/Along

El huracán pasó por Cuba. The hurricane passed through Cuba.
Me gustaría pasar por todo México. I would like to travel through all of Mexico.
Quiero caminar por el río. I want to walk along the river.
¿Hay una taquería por aquí? Is there a taco stand around here.
La carretera pasa por La Paz. The highway passes through La Paz.
El chico tiró la pelota por la ventana. The boy threw the ball through the window.

11. Because of (Cause)/Motive/Due to

Cancelaron el evento por la tormenta. They cancelled the even because of the storm.
No puedo acampar por la nieve. I can´t camp due to the snow.
Acapulco es famoso por sus playas. Acapulco is famous for its beaches.
Ayer ella no fue a clase por estar enferma. She did not go to class yesterday due to being sick.
Por ser buen estudiante, ganó el premio. For being a good student, he/she won the prize.

12. In order to get/In search of + noun

Fui a la tienda por leche. I went to the store for milk.
Ella necesita ir a la farmacia por medicina. She needs to go to the pharmacy for medicine.

13. In Place of Someone Else

¿Puedes ir por mí? Can you go for me? (in my place)
Ayer yo trabajé por Ana porque ella se enfermó. Yesterday I worked for Ana because she got sick.

14. By whom something is done

El libro fue escrita por tu mamá. The book was written by your mom.

15. “Por” expressions (indefinite amount of time, “per”, adverbial expressions)

Por la mañana/tarde/noche
Por eso (that’s why)
¡Por fin!
Gracias por
Hablar por teléfono.
Dar un paseo por + lugar (place)
Condujo cien millas por hora.

16. Use after certain verbs

Enviar, ir, luchar, mandar, preguntar, regresar, venir, volver.
* Don´t use por or para with the verbs pedir, buscar, and esperar.

 
Practice exercise 1

Practice exercise 2

 

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