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How to use POR and PARA in Spanish

Differences between por and para in Spanish. This is one of the nightmares for our students on This is not surprising, because they start studying these differences at the basic levels and they continue until the end of times.

The most common meaning of these prepositions are the cause and the purpose. “Por” introduces the reason, the cause for the main verb (Estudié Medicina por mi padre. So, my father was the reason for me to study Medicine). On the other hand, “para” introduces a goal, a purpose (Estudié Medicina para mi padre. Maybe my father is ill and I studied in order to heal him).

Por versus para in Spanish. Deciding which preposition to use in a given context depends on what you are trying to say. Perhaps the most direct path to understanding how to interpret and use these prepositions in Spanish effectively is through examining a list of the separate functions of each preposition. Let’s take a look!

Differences between por and para: when do we use POR in Spanish?

Por is one of the most useful and common prepositions in Spanish, but it can also be one of the most confusing. That’s because it’s sometimes translated as “for”. As you know, at SpanishviaSkype we love to give you a hand with Spanish grammar, so keep reading!

POR indicates the cause or reason for something.

For example: (Él) Está enfadado por el desorden de la habitación.

The cause for his irritation is the mess in the room.

The action looks at the past.

Now, let’s see in which situations we use the preposition POR in Spanish:

Cause/Reason/Motive / Source

For example: No he venido por el mal tiempo.

Specific place

For example: Lo agarró por el brazo.

(It refers to the specific part in which the action takes place).

For example: Ana anduvo por la habitación (It refers to the space in which Ana walked through).



Indeterminate location

In the space

For example: ¿Hay una farmacia por aquí? (Somewhere close to where we are).

In the time

For example: Mi hermano se casó por Navidad (around the 25th of December).

For example: No me gusta estar sola en casa por la mañana/tarde/noche.

IMPORTANT: Exceptions:

For example: Mi hijo vuelve de la discoteca de día/noche/madrugada.

For example: Tengo una comida de trabajo a las dos de la tarde.

Through / By

For example: Lo tiró por (a través de) la ventana.

For example: Voy a Sevilla por (a través de) Madrid.


For example: Voy a clase dos veces por semana.

Instrument / Way

For example: Mi hijo habló con ella por teléfono.

Change, exchange or replacement of a person or a thing

For example: Hoy Eva ha dado la clase por Laura, que está enferma.

For example: He cambiado el anillo que me regalaste por una pulsera.

Price of things

For example: Compré el libro por 20 euros.


For example: Fui a su casa por tercera vez.


For example: Tres por cuatro son doce.

Proportional quantity

For example: Esa moto alcanza trescientos kilómetros por hora.

Por + hacer = action that is not finished

For example: Nos quedan dos exámenes por hacer.

Let’s see the preposition Para!

Differences between por and para: when do we use PARA in Spanish?

PARA indicates the purpose or goal of something.

For example: Está ahorrando dinero para las vacaciones.

The action of saving money is for the purpose of vacations.

The action looks at the future.

Now, let’s see in which situations we use the preposition PARA in Spanish:

Purpose given to something

For example: Calienta el agua para el té.

For example: Le voy a dar estas recetas para la fiebre.

Direction / Address / Destiny

For example: Voy para Barcelona.


The preposition “a” expresses the specific address (Voy a la calle Goya).

The preposition “para” is less specific (Voy por la zona de Chueca).


For example: María ha traído un regalo para ti.


For example: Skype se utiliza para hacer videollamadas a través de Internet.

A certain time / due date

For example: Nos han puesto un examen para mañana.


It’s not necessary to use prepositions to talk about how long a situation lasts. You just need to express the time (two months):

For example: Estuve dos meses en Alemania.

An approximate time

For example: Me mudaré de casa para mayo.

Opinion or point of view of the speaker

For example: Para mí, el español es un idioma muy musical.

No estar para (when you are not in the mood of doing something)

For example: No estoy para fiestas.

As you can see, in general, the preposition PARA in Spanish is characterized as being future-oriented, or the goal. On the other hand, the preposition POR in Spanish can be understood as more backward looking, or as describing the source.

If you want to know more about por vs para in Spanish take a look at this post!

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