Taking the confusion out of “por” and “para” 1

This two prepositions “por” and “para” are frequently mixed up because they are often used for the English word “for”.

They key to understand which preposition has to be used is to think about the meaning you want to convey. In this post I’m going to show you the major uses of these two prepositions:

Purpose- Estudio español para hablar bien con mis amigos españoles.
- I study Spanish in order to speak properly with my Spanish friends.
Cause / Reason- Llegué tarde por el tráfico.
- I arrived late because of the trafic.
Time limit- Quiero el informe en mi oficina para el jueves.
- I want the report in my office by Thursday.
Length of time / Duration of an action (= durante)- Estuvimos encerrados por cinco horas.
- We were locked for five hours.
Destination / Movement towards a place (= hacia)- Voy para el teatro.
- I go to the theatre.
Movement through / by a place- Paseamos por las calles de Paris.
- We walked by the streets of Paris.
Addressee- Este regalo es para ti.
- This present is for you.
Agent- Esta carta fue escrita por Mary.
- This letter was written by Mary.
Comparison- Está muy alto para su edad.
- He is very tall for his age.
Substitution- Estaba enfermo por lo que vine a trabajar por él.
- He was ill so I came to work in his place.

* The preposition “por” in this case is often omitted: Ej: Estuvimos encerrados 5 horas.

Besides this uses there are few more uses and phrases to have into consideration. Here I will indicate a few.


  • Rate or unit of measure:

Elena gana muy bien, casi 60€ por hora. (Elena has a very good salary, almost 60€ per hour).

  • Means of transportation:

Viene por avión. (He comes by plane).

  • Supporting or in favor of:

Trabajo por los Derechos Humanos. (I work for Human Rights).


  • Perspective or opinion:

Para mi, el arte es muy importante. (The art is very important to me).


  • Por si acaso = In case
  • Por eso = Because of that, so
  • Por fin = Finally, at last
  • Por ahora = For now
  • Por lo menos = At least
  • Por cierto = By the way
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One thought on “Taking the confusion out of “por” and “para”

  • Kabir

    Gracias por este artículo; me gusta. Pero tengo una pequeña duda: en el ejemplo ilustrativo para explicar “substitution”, debe haber sido “vine” en lugar de “viene”, ¿no? Supongo que es un error tipográfico.