When to Use Para vs Por in Spanish

Let’s find out when to use para vs por in Spanish. Study basic grammar rules with online lessons. Read about how and when to use some important words and phrases.

 When to Use Para vs Por in Spanish

What is the difference between Por and Para in Spanish?

Note: Por and “para have a variety of meanings and they are often confused because they can each be translated as “for”


Gracias por el regalo – Thanks for the gift

Este regalo es para mi abuela- This gift is for my grandmother


 has many uses, and so it is the more problematic of the two.

Rule: to express gratitude or apology

e.g.: Gracias por la ayuda.

(Thanks for the help.)


Rule: for multiplication and division
e.g.: tres por tres son nueve.
(three times three equals nine.)

Rule: for velocity, frequency, and proportion
e.g.: Voy al cine dos veces por semana.
(I go to the theater two times per week.)

Rule: meaning “through,” “along,” “by” or “in the area of”
e.g.: Andamos por el centro.
(We walk through the mall.)

Rule: when talking about exchange, including sales
e.g.: Él me dió esto por eso.
(He gave me this for that.)


Rule: to mean “on behalf of,” or “in favor of,”
e.g.: Yo voté por ella.
(I voted for her.)

Rule: to express a length of time
e.g.: Yo estuve allí por tres horas.
(I was there for three hours.)

In Spanish Por Vs Para

Rule: to express an undetermined, or general time, meaning “during”
e.g.: Se puede ir por el día.
(You can go during the day.)

Rule: for means of communication or transportation
e.g.: Prefiero hablar por mi  teléfono celular
(I prefer to talk on my cell phone.)

Rule: in cases of mistaken identity, or meaning “to be seen as”
e.g.: Me conocen por rápido.
(They know me for fast.)

Rule: to show the reason for an errand (with ir, venir, pasar, mandar, volver, and preguntar)
e.g.: Paso por ti a las siete.
(I’ll come by for you at seven o’clock.)

Rule: when followed by an infinitive, to express an action that remains to be completed, use por +
e.g.: La canción  está por terminar.
(The song is about to end.)

Rule: to express cause or reason
e.g.: El mujer perdió por falta de práctica.
(The woman lost for lack of practice).

Rule: “estar por” means to be in the mood, or inclined to do something
e.g.: Estoy por terminar
(I’m about to finish.)

Rule: in passive constructions
e.g.: El poema fue escrito por Carlos

(The poem was written by Carlos.)

What’s the difference between Para vs Por in Spanish?.

Note: Por also appears in many idiomatic expressions:

por adelantado – in advance
por ahora – for now
por allí – around there; that way
por amor de Dios – for the love of God
por aquí – around here; this way
por casualidad – by chance
por ciento – percent
por cierto – certainly
por completo – completely
por dentro – inside
por desgracia – unfortunately
por ejemplo – for example
por eso – therefore
por favor – please
por fin – finally
por lo general – generally
por lo visto – apparently
por medio de – by means of
por lo menos – at least
por lo tanto – consequently
por mi parte – as for me
por ningún lado – nowhere
por otra parte – on the other hand

palabra por palabra – word for word
por primera vez – for the first time
por separado – separately
por supuesto – of course
por suerte – fortunately
por todas partes – everywhere
por todos lados – on all sides
por ultimo  finally


Note: Para — in contrast, has relatively fewer uses.

Rule: to indicate destination
e.g.: El hombre se fue para su casa
(The man went home)

Rule: To show the use or purpose of a thing
e.g.: Los ojos son para ver.
(The eyes are to see.)

Rule: to mean “in order to” or “for the purpose of”
e.g.: Para hacer una pizza, necesitas harina.
(To make a pizza, you need flour)

Rule: to indicate a recipient
e.g.: Esta carta es para ti.
(This letter is for you.)

Rule: to express a deadline or specific time
e.g.: Necesito el pastel  para el Domingo.
(I need the cake for Sunday.)

Rule: to express a contrast from what is expected
e.g.: Para ser un anciano, se comunica muy bien.
(To be an elder, he communicates very well.)


Rule: “estar para” to express an action that will soon be completed
e.g.: La profesora está para enseñarles
(The teacher is there to teach them.)

Study the two examples:


Ana compró el regalo para Jorge.
Anna bought the gift for Jorge.
(She bought the gift to surprise him)

Ana compró el regalo por Jorge.
Anna bought the gift for Jorge.
(She bought it because he could not, or because Jorge advice her to get the gift)

Note: “Por” and “para” can also be used in questions. “¿Por qué?” means “Why?” (for what reason) while “¿Para qué?” means “Why?” (for what purpose).


¿Por qué hablas tanto? – For what reason do you talk so much?

¿Para qué quieres más dinero? – For what purpose do you want more money?

 Read more about the Spanish grammar

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