“For” in Spanish Depends Upon What It’s For! 

It sounds so simple. You once see that para is the equivalent of the English for. So you start using it as an exact translation every time you want to say for. Sorry…it just doesn’t work that way. I’ve many times had to squelch the teacher in me and not correct someone who is saying Gracias para todo (it should be Gracias por todo) or when in a restaurant someone orders and says por mí (it should be para mí).  Para and por cannot simply be thought of as the English “for”, as they are both very rich in meaning. To use them successfully you must think beyond the surface word of for and think of the meaning. Para is the easier, more limited one. Think of it as handing something to someone, as destination of an object. Este regalo es para ti.

Other uses are:

1. For the purpose of or in order to

2. Directed to (here’s the dinner order – las enchiladas para mí, por favor).

3. In the direction of when talking about a place. Voy para México este fin de semana.

4. Meaning by when it’s a time in the future. Necesito las camisas para el viernes.

In a very broad sense you can think of por as being more inward and para with an arrow pointing outward. A really frequent thing to say is Gracias por todo. In this sense, it means in exchange for. Other uses with this exchange idea are in buying things. ¿Cuánto por el libro? Pagué 10 dólares por el regalo.      Think of por as having these extended meanings: Movement along, through, around, by or about: Caminé por toda la ciudad. Háblame por teléfono. Time or duration when something occurs. Estudié por 2 horas. Cause (not the purpose) of an action: La compañía fracasó por la economía. Per: Diez por ciento. 10%  Supporting or in favor of: Voté por él como presidente. For the sake of: Se sacrificó por el honor. Agent of an action meaning by. Fué escrito por Shakespeare.

Means of transportation: Me gusta viajar por tren.

There are many idioms with por: por cierto – certainly, por primera vez – for the first time, por todas partes – everywhere, por fin – at last, por eso – therefore, por lo general – generally, as a rule, por dentro – inside, palabra por palabra – word for word, por supuesto – of course, por casualidad – by chance, por mi parte – as for me, por lo menos – at least, por allí– around there, that way, por adelantado – in advance

And don’t forget to distinguish between Por qué, meaning why and Para qué, meaning for what purpose.


Author: language_link

Language Link is a leader in Spanish language immersion programs in countries throughout Latin America and Spain. Learn the language, live the culture! Travel to our school locations and experience the language and culture around the clock. From international executives to students of all ages, allow Language Link to assist you in making the right choice for learning Spanish through an in-country immersion program. We will help you plan your study trip from a one week stay up to six months. Our 25+ years of experience have placed thousands of delighted Spanish language students, and our knowledgeable staff will help you take the guess work out of finding the program best suited for you. Language Link gives you a safe and reliable way to arrange your Spanish study adventure. Through us you have the security of a professionally recognized U.S. contact.

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