What is the difference between Por y Para, and when do use each

The difference between “por and para” after the difference between ser and estar, is one of the biggest problems that the students face when they study Spanish

The difference between these two words is large, but even so – Spanish students tend to mix them up time and time again.  In most cases “por and para” means “for”, which obviously is a very common word in both languages, but they can also take on meanings that extend beyond this, all which I will detail below.

For example:

  • Gracias por venir. – Thanks for coming.
  • Los chocolates son para los niños. – The chocolates are for kids.

Arrgh!  Confusing, right?


As we saw in the Spanish phrases – we changed the word “for”, but it’s the same in English.  Spanish is different depending on the idea or the context of the sentence (you will hear that a lot – context!) and this is the difference between “por and para”.  The key is to think what you want to say or the meaning of what you want to convey.

But to understand what the differences between “por and para” we will study them separately.


Expresses value, substitution, and when you change one thing for another.

  • Compré esta blusa por Q100.00 – I bought this blouse for Q.100
  • Ella dio su suéter por una chumpa. – She gave her sweater for a jacket.

Means along, through, by (around) after a verb of motion.

  • Salieron por la puerta de atrás. – They left through the back door.
  • Caminé por el río. – I walked along the river.
  • Pasamos por allí ayer. – We came by there yesterday.

After movement verbs, it means “in search of” with the verbs: ir, venir, enviar, pasar, mandar.

  • La señora va por el pan. – The lady goes in search of the bread.
  • Mis amigas pasan por mí a las ocho de la noche. – My friends will pick me up at eight in the evening.

Express how long is an action or the duration of an action. (time)

  • Estudiamos por una hora cada día. – We study for an hour each day.
  • Nosotros viajamos por un mes. – We travel for a month.

Is used in the passive voice. In Spanish to form the passive voice we use the following formula: the verb ser + a past participle + por (by).

  • El edificio fue construido por ellos. – The building was built by them.
  • La casa fue diseñada por el arquitecto. – The house was designed by the architect.

Is used to multiply numbers.

  • Tres por cuatro son doce – (3 x 4 = 12).
  • Cinco por cinco son veinticinco – (5 x 5 = 25).

Express the reason, the reason or the why of something. (because of)

  • ¿Por qué castigó la maestra al niño? – Why did the teacher punish the child?
  • Por gritar en la clase. / Porque gritó en la clase.For shouting in class. / Because he shouted in class.

Expresses replacement. When someone does something rather than the other person (instead of)

  • Mañana yo iré al doctor y María trabajará por mí. – Tomorrow I will go to the doctor and Mary work instead of me.
  • Yo hare la comida por mi mamá. – I will make food for my mom. (instead of the other way around)

Expressions with “por”:

Por favor – please

Por ciento – percent

Por cuanto – since

Por ejemplo – for example

Por esta vez – this time

Por si acaso – just in case

Por supuesto – of course

Por allá – over there

Por cierto – by the way

Por dónde – by where

Por eso – therefore

Por lo menos – at least

Por todas partes – everywhere

Por lo tanto – therefore

Por a quí – for around here

Por lo visto – apparently

Por dentro – inside

Por lo general – generally

Por fuera – outside

Por + infinitive – for, because of

Estar por – to be in favor of


Expresses the purpose or goal of doing something

  • Viajamos para visitar países nuevos. – We travel (in order) to visit new countries.
  • Yo fui a Canadá para conocer a mi jefe. – I went to Canada to meet my boss.
  • Él estudia para abogado. – He studies to be a lawyer.

Express destination, address or direction.

  • Ellos van a salir para España. – They will leave to Spain.
  • Ellos trajeron las flores para su mamá. – They brought flowers for her mom.

Express specific time, indicate a time or date in the future.

  • Quiero el vestido para mañana. – I want the dress for tomorrow.
  • Ellos vinieron para Navidad. – They came for Christmas.

Means for or considering that, when comparing a person, object, or situation with others of its kind.

  • Para ser un niño, se porta bien.For (being) a child, he behaves himself.
  • Ella es alta para su edad. – She is tall considering her age.

Express the use of things and attitude of people.

  • La cama es para dormir. – The bed is for sleeping.
  • Mi amiga es buena para matemáticas. – My friend is good at math.

Express opinion, synonym of “según” (according to)

  • Para mí, esta escuela es muy buena.For me, this school is very good.
  • Para usted, el español es muy difícil.For you, Spanish is very difficult.

Expressions with “para”

Para siempre – forever

Sin qué ni para qué – without reason

¿Para qué? – what for?

Para eso – for that

No ser para tanto – not to be that important

Para nada – not at all

Estar para – to be about

Para + infinitive – in order to

There you have it – hope this helps once again!

photo credit: Malingering via photopin

9 comments on “What is the difference between Por y Para, and when do use each

  1. So helpful, thank you very much indeed!! Always confusing, and still will be, I think it’s one of those things, like many when learning Spanish, that will just come with time and trial and error!


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  5. En Espana no se utiliza “por” para denotar la duracion de una accion. Se usa “durante”. Tampoco creo que se utilize “por” en otros paises hispanos-hablantes para denotar la duracion de algo. A partir de eso, muy buena informacion.

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