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3.12: Lección- Por y para

  • Page ID
    • Erica Brown, Alejandra Escudero, María Cristina Montoya, & Elizabeth Small
    • SUNY Oneonta via OER SUNY

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    • Understand the difference between por and para and select the appropriate preposition for the context
    • Use prepositional pronouns with por and para

    “Por” and “Para” are two little words that cause more trouble for learners of Spanish than the length of the words would seem to predict. This is because prepositions in general are very idiomatic—that is to say that each language uses prepositions differently, and there’s not always a clear rule for predicting which one to use. For example, in the case of “por” and “para”, they can both be translated into English as “for”, but they’re not interchangeable, and in other situations they’re translated with completely different prepositions, like “by”, “through”, and “in order to”.

    Rather than a rule which would have a ridiculous number of exceptions, you’re better off remembering which situations call for which word:


    1. Duration of time (for)
      • e.g. Play AudioLlamamos una ambulancia y solo esperamos por cinco minutos cuando llega. (We call an ambulance and only wait for five minutes before it comes.)
    2. Exchange (for, in place of, in exchange for)
      • e.g. Play AudioElla tiene alergia a la penicilina, entonces la cambiamos por vancomycin. (She’s allergic to penicillin, so we exchanged it for vancomycin.)
      • e.g. Play AudioPor $50 más, puedes ver Netflix en tu habitación del hospital. (For $50 more, you can watch Netflix in your hospital room.)
    3. Motivation (for, for the sake of)
      • e.g. Play AudioCamino en vez de manejar un coche, por mi salud y por el medioambiente. (I walk instead of driving a car, for the sake of my health and the environment.)
    4. Mode of travel or communication (by, through)
      • e.g. Play AudioLa mujer embarazada llega al hospital por taxi, no por ambulancia. (The pregnant woman comes to the hospital by taxi, not ambulance.)
      • e.g. Play AudioLa mujer entra por la puerta de urgencias y va por ese pasillo directamente a la sala de partos. (The woman enters through the emergency room door, and goes along that hallway directly to the maternity ward.)
    El market de colombia de colores y sabores, para sus amigos, para sus amores, se les tiene, el récuerdo, el detalle, el regalo
    How is “para” being used here?


    1. Deadlines (by, for)
      • e.g. Play AudioVoy a llamar la farmacia y van a tener tus pastillas para las tres de la tarde. (I’ll call the pharmacy, and they will have your pills by three p.m.)
    2. Recipient, beneficiary (for)
      • e.g. Play AudioLa receta es para mi madre, que tiene hipertensión. (The prescription is for my mom, who has high blood pressure.)
    3. Purpose, goal (in order to, to)
      • e.g. Play AudioPara tener buena salud, necesitas comer bien y hacer ejercicio regularmente. (To have good health, you need to eat well and exercise regularly.)
    4. Destination of travel (for, to)
      • e.g. Play AudioLa ambulancia sale para la escena del accidente un minuto después de la llamada a 911. (The ambulance leaves for the scene of the accident one minute after the call to 911.)

    Ejemplos que contrastan “por” y “para”

    ¡No son intercambiables! (They are not interchangeable!)

    1. Play AudioDebo escribir esa tarea por dos horas. -versus- Play AudioDebo escribir esa tarea para el lunes. When talking about time, “por” means a specific amount or duration of time. “Para” is used for deadlines.
    2. Play AudioEl autobús va para el aeropuerto. -versus- Play AudioEl autobús va por el centro del pueblo. When talking about movement, “para” means “to” and is used for a direction or destination. “Por” means “through” and is used for the route.
    3. Play AudioYo trabajo para Juan. -versus- Play AudioYo trabajo por Juan. When talking about work, “para” is used to identify your supervisor, the person you work “for”. “Por” in this kind of sentence can mean either “in place of”, i.e. you’re substituting for Juan at work, or it can mean “for the sake of” if he’s your motivation for working.

    Expresiones idiomáticas

    1. Play AudioPor ahora (for now, for the time being)
      • Play AudioEso es suficiente por ahora. (That’s enough for now.)
    2. Play AudioPor completo (completely)
      • Play AudioOlvidé por completo que las estaciones en la Argentina están al revés de las estaciones en el Hemisferio Norte, y no empaqué ropa abrigada para julio. (I completely forgot that the seasons in Argentina are the opposite of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, and I didn’t pack warm clothes for July.)
    3. Play AudioPor ejemplo (for example)
      • Play AudioMuchas palabras tienen la misma traducción al inglés sin tener significados iguales, por ejemplo “por” y “para”. (Many words have the same translation into English without having the same meanings, for example “por” and “para”.)
    4. Play AudioPor eso (That’s why)
      • Play AudioTengo mucho trabajo por eso no puedo salir esta noche. (I have a lot of work, that’s why I can’t go out tonight.)
    5. Play AudioPor favor (please)
      • Play Audio¿Puede usted explicar ese anuncio público, por favor? No lo comprendo. (Could you please explain that public announcement? I don’t understand it.)
    6. Play AudioPor fin (at last, finally)
      • Play AudioDespués de quince horas de viaje, por fin llegamos a Buenos Aires. (After 15 hours of travel, we finally arrive in Buenos Aires.)
    7. Play AudioPor lo menos (at least)
      • Play AudioNecesitas dejar por lo menos dos horas extras para pasar por la seguridad del aeropuerto. (You need to leave at least two extra hours to pass through airport security.)
    8. Play AudioPor si acaso (just in case)
      • Play AudioTraigo comida en mi mochila, por si acaso tengo hambre en el viaje. (I carry food in my backpack, in case I get hungry on the way.)
    9. Play AudioPor supuesto (of course)
      • Play AudioPor supuesto puedo ayudarte con tu tarea. (Of course I can help you with your homework.)
    10. Play AudioPara empezar (to begin with, for starters)
      • Play Audio¿Quieres viajar al extranjero? Para empezar, necesitas un pasaporte. (You want to travel overseas? To begin with, you need a passport.)
    11. Play AudioPara nada (not at all)
      • Play AudioNo me gusta viajar en barcos para nada. (I don’t like traveling on boats at all.)
    12. Play AudioEstar para (+ infinitive) (to be about to, to be ready to)
      • Play AudioEl avión está para salir (The plane is about to depart).

    Pronombres preposicionales

    Spanish has a set of pronouns to use after prepositions when you don’t want to keep repeating someone’s name or the noun that you’re talking about. The prepositional pronouns are almost all the same as the subject pronouns, except for the first and second-person singular forms. Watch out for accent marks, spelling counts!

    forma pronombre ejemplo
    1a persona singular mí* Play Audio¿El regalo es para ?
    2a persona singular ti* Play AudioSí, es para ti.
    3a persona singular él
    Play AudioEsta tarjeta de embarcación es para usted, esta tarjeta es para él, y la última tarjeta es para ella.
    1a persona plural nosotros
    Play AudioNuestra mamá sacrifica muchísimo por nosotros.
    2a persona plural (sólo usada en España) vosotros
    Play AudioVosotros no podéis hacer el viaje a España, entonces nosotros vamos por vosotros.
    3a persona plural ellos
    Play Audio¿Pueden ustedes dar estos regalos a mis sobrinos y mis sobrinas? Estos regalos son para ellos, estos regalos son para ellas, y claro, aquí están unos regalos para ustedes.

    ¡OJO! The first and second persons singular make a contraction with the preposition “con” (and only that one!): “conmigo” and “contigo”.

    The following video explains the differences between "por" and "para" in Spanish. It was created by Fresno City College Faculty.



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    This page titled 3.12: Lección- Por y para is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Erica Brown, Alejandra Escudero, María Cristina Montoya, & Elizabeth Small (OER SUNY) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform.