“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.

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Use of the word Por

fuerza

 

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 words.  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.

Another use is for the purpose of – Este ejercicio es para aumentar (increase) el vocabulario.   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.  (Using para here is never correct, but it’s a common mistake we see frequently here in the office when people write us.)

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:             By (times), per:  Dos por cuatro son ocho.  Voy a la clase dos veces por semana.  Prefiero viajar por tren.  Necesito hablar por teléfono con mi amigo.  El libro fue escrito por Carlos Fuentes.              Through (along), throughout, during   Caminamos por el parque.  Voy a hacerlo por la mañana (an unspecified time).

For the sake of, in favor of, on behalf of     Lo hice por el amor.  Voté por el mejor candidato.

Contrast the following: Compré el regalo para ti.  (It’s going outward to you as a recipient.)  Compré el regalo por ti.  (I bought it on your behalf or for your sake.)

Trabajo para la compania, y trabajo por mi familia.  I work for the company, and I work for the sake of my family.

For a period of time – Leí el libro por dos horas anoche.  But here be careful.  Para is used for a time deadline or specific time in the future.  Necesito el taxi para el lunes.  Te amo para siempre.

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.