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Por vs Para in Spanish: Key Differences, and When to Use Them

Do you need help with Spanish prepositions? Are you confused about why there are two words for “for”? You’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll look at when to use por vs para in Spanish. We’ll look at the different meanings of each preposition. We’ll also provide plenty of examples to ensure everything is clear.

Por vs Para: an intro to Spanish prepositions

Prepositions are those little words that help connect two parts of a sentence. You are probably familiar with most English prepositions, even if you don’t exactly know what they are. Some examples in English are: for, in, at, and on. Some examples in Spanish include de (which expresses possession), en (which can be in, at, or on depending on the context), and entre (between).

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  • Vivo en Montevideo. (I live in Montevideo.)
  • Trabajo mucho durante la semana. (I work a lot during the week.)

We have previously published an article covering all Spanish prepositions (23 total). However, we feel por vs para deserves a closer look.

Por vs Para: why are they for?

Por and para often translate to “for” in English. However, there is a lot more to them. Each has various uses and translates differently depending on the context.

Let’s look at a sentence where only the preposition changes to give you an idea.

  • Compré esta casa para Julia.
  • Compré esta casa por Julia.

Both of these sentences could be translated as “I bought this house for Julia.” However, they have slightly different meanings. The sentence with para means the house is for Julia. However, por implies that Julia is the reason the person bought the house or that they are buying the house on behalf of Julia.

We know what you’re thinking! This sounds quite confusing. But don’t panic! We’ll review the main uses of por vs para and then explore the specific uses of each preposition.

Por vs Para: main uses

These two words have many different uses, but there are three areas where they overlap. We’ll look at these uses of por vs para below.


Both por and para can be used to talk about location. In this case, por takes the meaning of “around” or “along,” while para takes the meaning of “towards.”

Let’s look at some por vs para examples:

  • ¿Vamos por la costa? (Shall we go along the coast?)
  • ¿Vamos para la costa? (Shall we go towards the coast?)
  • Este autobús va por Parque de la Costa. (This bus gos via Parque de la Costa.)
  • Este autobús va para Parque de la Costa. (This bus goes to Parque de la Costa.)

Time: duration vs deadline

When it comes to time, por indicates a particular timespan or duration, while para denotes a deadline.

Here are some examples:

  • Vamos a la playa por la mañana. (We’ll go to the beach in/during the morning.)
  • Lo necesito para el martes. (I need it by/for Tuesday.)

Cause and effect

The final common meaning of por and para is cause and effect. We can use por to indicate we are doing something because of someone (cause). Meanwhile, para means you are doing something for someone’s benefit (effect).

We saw this in the intro, but let’s focus on a different example:

  • Lo hice por ti. (I did it because of you.)
  • Lo hice para ti. (I did it for you/for your benefit.)

Por vs Para: uses of por

Not that we got the most confusing uses of por vs para out of the way, let’s take a look at each preposition in turn. We’ll start with por.

Depending on the context, por can mean for, by, because of, over, to, through, per, or instead of. We’ll explain this in more detail below.


We use por in Spanish when talking about a length of time.

For example:

  • ¡Trabajé por doce horas seguidas! (I worked 12 hours straight!)

Time of day

Sometimes, por can refer to what time of day you do a specific activity. It would be the equivalent of “in.”

For example:

  • Me baño por la mañana. (I shower in the morning.)


We can also use por when giving people an (approximate) location or traveling through somewhere. In this case, it translates into “by” or “around.”

For example:

  • Mañana paso por tu casa. (I’ll go by your house tomorrow.)
  • Nos vemos por el centro. (I’ll see you around downtown.)


Another context in which we use por is for exchanges.

For example:

  • Quiero cambiar mi auto por uno nuevo. (I want to change my car for a new one.)


Finally, we also use por to give reasons for doing something. In this case, it translates into “because of”.

For example:

  • Viajo a China por trabajo. (I travel to China because of/for work.)

You can see this use in action in Juanes’ song Es por ti (It’s because of you).

Por vs Para: uses of para

Now it’s time to take a closer look at para. Depending on the context, this preposition can mean for, by, to, in order to, or according to.


While we use por to indicate why we do something, if you want to express purpose, you’ll need to use para. In this case, para translates roughly into “in order to” or “so that.”

For example:

  • Estudio idiomas para hablar con más personas. (I study in order to speak with more people.)

Final goal

You also use para when discussing your final goal and why you do a specific activity. Here, para takes on the meaning of “so” or “so that”.

For example:

  • Estudio español para poder viajar por América latina. (I study Spanish so I can travel around Latin America.)


Moreover, you should use para when talking about reaching or traveling to a specific place or destination. In this case, its meaning is that of the preposition “to” in English.

For example:

  • Vamos para la playa. (Let’s go to the beach.)


If you want to talk about a deadline or a time in the future, you’ll use para. In this case, para means “by” or “for.”

For example:

  • Necesito este informe para mañana. (I need this report by/for tomorrow.)


Finally, we also use para to specify the recipient of something.

For example:

  • Estos libros son para Sofía. (These books are for Sofía.)

Julieta Venegas’ song Eres para mí (You are for me) will show you how to use para in this context.

Bonus track: extra por vs para expressions

There are also some common expressions with por and para that are useful to know. We’ll go over them below.

Por favor

We are sure you are familiar with this expression. Por favor means “please.” It’s just the polite way to go!

Por aquí

This phrase means “around here”. It’s used when you know more or less where something or somewhere is, but don’t have an exact location. Let’s see an example:

  • Se qué el restaurante está por aquí. (I know the restaurant is around here somewhere.)
  • Dejé el teléfono por aquí, pero no lo encuentro. (I left my phone around here somewhere, but I can’t find it.)

Por teléfono

We use por to discuss the means of communication we are using. Por teléfono means “on the phone.” However, you can also say por internet (through the internet) or por correo electrónico (by email).

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

  • Hablé con Mauricio por teléfono anoche. (I talked with Mauricio over the phone last night.)
  • Ana me contactó por correo electrónico. (Ana got in touch with me through email.)

Por cierto

You might recognize cierto as meaning “true.” However, this phrase actually means “by the way.”

For example:

  • Por cierto, no tenemos más leche. (By the way, we’ve run out of milk.)

Para mí

This phrase literally translates as “for me.” However, its meaning is better explained by the expression “in my opinion” or “I think.” We’ll see an example below.

  • Para mí, estás equivocado. (I think you’re wrong.)

Tal para cual

This fun expression means two people are meant for each other, or two of a kind. Check out the example below.

  • Carlos y María son tan desorganizados. ¡Son tal para cual! (Carlos and María are so disorganized. They’re two of a kind!)

Para variar

Para variar could be translated as “for a change.” It is also often used sarcastically. Let’s try it in the following sentence!

  • Pablo llegó tarde, para variar. (Pablo is late for a change.)

Por vs Para: final thoughts

We hope this article on por vs para has helped you understand how to use the two little words.

We know there are too many uses and they are hard to memorize. That is why we recommend not to obsess over it. It’ll take a lot of practice, but you’ll soon master por vs para and not even realize it!

And if you want some extra resources, here are a lot of tips to excel at Spanish grammar.

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Learning when to use por vs para might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, it comes naturally with practice.

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with the prepositions por and para.

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