The 24th Word of the Month is: POR / PARA

This word originally appeared in our Spanish word of the month by email

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Introduction

If you ask an English speaking person what they think is the most difficult thing in Spanish, they will normally say SER and ESTAR, the subjunctive, and POR and PARA. We have looked at the first two, so after this word of the month, it should be plain sailing from here. The problem is that POR and PARA can often be translated by the English FOR which is a vast simplification and this can lead to you saying some very strange things if you don't understand the difference.



PARA
Spanish
English
IN ORDER TO
Para can come before an infinitive that explains the purpose of the main verb:
In many cases this would answer the question "What did you do it for?"
eg. I went to the bank in order to take out some money.
In English the "para" would be translated as "to, in order to, so as to, in order not to, so as not to.
Fui al banco para sacar dinero I went to the bank to take out some money.
está ahorrando para comprarse una casa he is saving in order to buy a house.
llamaré para confirmarlo I will call in order to confirm it.
Tienes que abrir el sobre con cuidado para no romper el cheque. You have to open the envelope carefully so as not to damage the cheque.
cerré la puerta para que no nos oigan I closed the door so that they wouldn't hear us.
INTENDED FOR
Para is used for purpose. In these cases "para" would be translated as "for, for the purpose of, intended for"
Compré una mesa para el salón I bought a table for the living room. (intended for)
¿para qué lo quieres? What do you want it for? (for what purpose do you want it)
Un regalo para su novio A present for her boyfriend (intended for)
DESTINATION
Salen para Londres They are leaving for London
empuja para arriba push upwards

FOR LENGTH OF TIME

Necesito una habitación para 6 noches I need a room for 6 nights
para siempre forever

IN TIME PHRASES TO SPECIFY A FUTURE MOMENT IN TIME

lo necesito para mañana I need it by tomorrow
tiene que estar listo para el día 16 it have to be ready by the 15th
La lección para mañana... The class for tomorrow
COMPARISON
Es alto para su edad he is tall for his age
No sudas mucho para una chica muy grande. You don't sweat much for a big lass.
a "piropo" (flattering comment) in the north of England)
TO BE ABOUT TO (note in South American they also use por)

Está para llover

It is about to rain


POR
Spanish
English

BECAUSE OF
In general terms:
"Por" is used to explain the reason or cause of an action.
Whereas "para" is used to explain the purpose of an action.

These examples may clarify this.

POR: Tuvimos que cerrar la ventana por los mosquitos
We had to shut the windows because of the mosquitos
Note: If you translate "por" as "for" in this sentence it really doesn't
make sense.

PARA: Tuvimos que cerrar la ventana para que no entraran los mosquitos
We had to close the windows so that the mosquitos wouldn't come in.
Note: that when we use "para que no" it is normally followed by the subjunctive.

El partido, ha quedado cancelada por la fuerte lluvia The match was cancelled due to the heavy rain.
lo conseguimos por ella

we got it thanks to her. (We got it because of her)

Note: If we said "lo conseguimos para ella"
It would probably mean "we got it for her" (so that she could use it)

Pinochet sigue hospitalizado por problemas cardíacos Pinochet remains in hospital due to heart problems.
Por ganar la competición recibió un premio He got a prize for winning the competition.
No lo digo por mí. I am not saying it for my own sake.
MOVEMENT THROUGH SPACE
Volar por el aire Fly through the air
Pasar por el mercado Go through the market
Pasa por aquí Come this way
Pasa por allí go that way (over there)
miró por la ventana he looked out of the window
EXCHANGE OR IN PLACE OF
Puedes cambiarlo por otro You can change it for another one.
lo dejó por otro she left him for another man
¿cuánto pagaste por la casa? How much did you pay for the house.
PREPOSITIONS AFTER VERBS OF MOVEMENT

los aviones volaban por encima del pueblo

The planes flew over the village

WITH THE PASSIVE (BY)

El puente fue construido por los romanos

The bridge was built by the Romans.

EXPRESSIONS.
There are hundreds of expressions which use por. Even if you are bored by the difficulties between "por" and "para" these expressions will come in very useful.
¡Por Dios! Oh, my God! (For God's sake!)
¡por fin! at last!
por lo menos at least
2 veces por semana 2 times per week
por casualidad by chance
por completo completely
por escrito in writing
por una parte on the one hand
por otra parte on the other hand
por supuesto of course
por lo visto apparently
por mí as far as I am concerned
por malo que sea... however bad it is...
por desgracia... unfortunatetly
1.000 pesetas por barba 1000 pesetas per head
me echaron por el desvío they led me up the garden path
por eso..... for this reason....
aprobó el examen por los pelos he only just passed the exam
por lo que he oido judging by what I've heard
¿por qué lloras? Why are you crying?
Note: por qué (2 words) is "why" but porque (1 word) is because
por si acaso just in case
por lo tanto therefore
por mucho que me ofrecieras, no lo haría I wouldn’t do it, however much you offered
perdón por llegar tarde, me quedé dormido sorry for arriving late, I overslept
por favor please

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