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Spanish language Por vs Para - Spanish Prepositions

The Spanish prepositions por and para tend to be difficult for Spanish students, because they can - but don't always - both mean for. Por is considerably more common, so in theory, you might be able to get away with  just memorizing the uses for para and then using por for everything else. In reality, it's good to learn the rules, so here they are.

This lesson is divided into two sections. In the first, the uses of por and para are compared and contrasted. In the second, the uses of por which don't have a complementary para usage are explained.
 

Por vs Para

Por

Para

  
Location/Movement: General vs Specific
General location or movement:
by (way of), through, via, around, near
Specific destination:
to, toward
Hay mucha gente por aquí. There are a lot of people here. Van para el colegio. They're going to(ward) school.
Voy a Madrid por Bilbao. I'm going to Madrid via Bilbao. Voy en tren para Madrid. I'm going by train to Madrid.
Sal por esta puerta. Go out through this door.
Está por el norte. It's to the north.
  
Time: Duration/Point in time vs Deadline
Duration, inexact point in time:
for, in, around
Deadline, time by which:
by, before, for
Estudié por 3 horas. I studied for three hours. Lo haré para mañana. I'll do it by tomorrow.
por la mañana
por la tarde
por la noche
in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
Termínelo para el lunes. Finish it before Monday.
Te veré por Navidad. I'll see you around Christmastime.
  
Reasons: Cause vs Purpose
Cause, Motive:
out of, for (the sake of), because (of), due to, in support of
Purpose, Benefit:
for, in order to
Lo hizo por necesidad. He did it out of necessity. Estudio para abogado. I'm studying to be a lawyer.
Lo hizo por tí. He did it for your sake. El libro es para tí. The book is for you.
No me quedé por el calor. I didn't stay because of the heat. No me quedé para comer. I didn't stay to eat.
Lo hago por gusto. I do it because I like to. Lo hago para ganar dinero. I do it to earn money.
Votó por el partido socialista. He voted for the Socialist party. Es un mercado para touristas. It's a shop for tourists.
Gracias por el regalo. Thank you for the gift. una taza para café coffee cup
  
Relationship: Exchange vs Comparison
Exchange/Payment/Substitution
(in exchange/payment) for, on behalf of
Comparison/Contrast/Differences
for
Me dió 2 lápices por mi pluma. He gave me 2 pencils for my pen. Para niño, escucha bien. For a child, he listens well.
Pagué mucho por los libros. I paid a lot for the books. Para generosos, los marroquís. For generous people, there's no one like Moroccans.
Escribí la carta por Lupe. I wrote the letter for (on behalf of) Lupe. ¿Quién es Ud. para hablarme así? Who are you to talk to me like that?
  
Viewpoints: Say so vs Opinion
Say so, Attitudes
according to, from
Opinion
in one's opinion, for
por lo que dice... from what he says... para mí... in my opinion...
por los sondeos... according to the polls... para él... in his opinion, for him...
  

Additional uses of por
  
Means/Agent: By, on, with
Le hablé por teléfono. I talked to him by/on the phone.
Lo hizo por su propia mano. He did it with his own hand.
Viajé por tren. I went by train.
Por trabajar todos los días, gané mucho dinero. By working every day, I earned a lot of money.
Fue decidido por el presidente. (passive voice) It was decided by the president.
  
Math: Multiplication and Division
2 por 3 son 6 2 times 3 is 6
6 dividido por 2 son 3 6 divided by 2 is 3
Dividí la clase por la mitad. I divided the class in half.
  
Appearance, Consideration: As
Me tienen por experto. They see me as an expert.
tener a alguien por amigo,
tenerlo a uno por amigo
to consider someone a friend
  
Frequency, Proportion: Per
Paga 10 Euros por hora. He pays 10 Euros per hour.
tres veces por semana three times per week
por ciento percent
  
Something which is yet to be completed: Por + Infinitive
Los platos están por fregar. The dishes are yet to be done.

  

Expressions with Por + Para     Verbs followed by por

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