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The Difference Between POR and PARA in Spanish

The Spanish prepositions por and para have different meanings, but they are often confused. In this article, you will learn some of the most frequent uses of these prepositions.

Spanish prepositions por and para

Reason v. Purpose


One of the most common uses of the prepositions por and para is to explain our reason for doing something.


A very simple example to understand the difference between these two prepositions is to answer the typical question "Why are you learning Spanish?" Probably the first thing that comes to mind is to answer with "Because..." ("Because I like languages," for example). However, whenever we are interested in learning someone's reason for something, the answer may involve using por and para.


For example, "¿Por qué quieres aprender español?" "Para viajar," "Por la cultura," "Para hacer amigos de otros países," "Por mi trabajo," "Por diversión," "Para estudiar en el extranjero," ("Why do you want to learn Spanish?" "To travel," "For culture," "To make friends from other countries," "For my job," "For fun," "To study abroad"), etc. As you will note, the reasons for studying Spanish are quite varied, but the most important thing is that they are expressed in two different ways:


Spanish prepositions por and para

We use por when we are talking about the reason or cause for a given action or situation. For example,

  • Llegué tarde por el tráfico - I got there late due to the traffic

  • China es famosa por su comida - China is famous for its food


We use para when we are referring to the purpose or goal of a given action. For example,

  • Trabajo para ganar dinero - I work in order to earn money

  • Ella estudia para ser doctora - She is studying to become a doctor


Uses of POR


Cause or reason

  • Brindemos por tu cumpleaños - Let's drink a toast to your birthday

  • Tomo clases de baile por diversión - She is taking dance classes for fun


Period of time

  • Estudié en Australia por diez meses - I studied in Australia for ten months

  • Jugamos futbol por dos horas - We played football for two hours


Approximate location

  • Ayer pasé por tu casa - I came by your house yesterday

  • En un mes estaré por la playa - I will be at the beach in one month


Means

  • Mándame el informe por correo electrónico - Send me the report by email

  • Hablamos por teléfono - We spoke on the telephone


Part of the day

  • Mi novia y yo salimos a correr por las mañanas - My girlfriend and I go running in the morning

  • Estudio español por las noches - I study Spanish in the evening


Speed

  • La velocidad máxima permitida es 110 kilómetros por hora - The maximum speed limit is 110 kilometers an hour