Understanding Por vs. Para in Spanish and When to Use Them

Por vs. Para Spanish Grammar Lesson and Por and Para teacher lesson guide

If you’ve ever had trouble saying “for” in Spanish, you’re not alone! Although POR and PARA in Spanish may both be translated as for in English, they cannot be used interchangeably in Spanish.


  • ¡APRENDER! Learn the difference in uses between the Spanish prepositions POR and PARA that  both mean “for.” Por and para are not interchangeable, they both have distinct uses.
  • ¡MEMORIZAR! Memorize this acronym PERFECT DREEMS (yes, DREEMS with two EE’s).
  • ¡PRACTICAR! Practice your new knowledge by completing the included practice exercises.
  • ¡APLICARLO! Apply it in real-life situations and in the life application project included.

How to choose between POR or PARA correctly?

The key to understanding por vs. para is to think of the meaning you want to convey. For example:

  • If I use a phrase such as “three for a dollar” in English, the “for” has a different meaning than it does in “this book is for you.”
    • In the first case: “three for a dollar” the “for” indicates an exchange or rate.
    • In the second example: “this book is for you” “for” indicates an intention or direction.
  • Thus the Spanish translations of the two phrases are different: “tres por un dólar” and “este libro es para ti.”

General Uses for POR:

  • Expressing movement along, through, around, by, or about.
    • Anduve por las calles de la ciudad. I walked through the streets of the city.
  • Denoting a time or duration when something occurs.
    • Viajamos por tres semanas. We’re traveling for three weeks.
  • Expressing the cause (not the purpose) of an action.
    • Me caí por la nieve. I fell down because of the snow.
  • Meaning per.
    • Dos por ciento . Two percent.
  • Meaning supporting or in favor of.
    • Trabajamos por los derechos humanos . We work for human rights.
  • Introducing the agent of an action after a passive verb.
    • Fue escrito por Bob Woodward . It was written by Bob Woodward.
  • Indicating means of transportation.
    • Viajaré por avión . I will travel by plane.
  • Used in numerous expressions.
    • Por ejemplo . For example. Por favor. Thank you.

General Uses for PARA:

  • Meaning for the purpose of or in order to.
  • Para bailar la bamba, se necesita una poca de gracia .
    • In order to dance the bamba you need a little grace.
  • With a noun or pronoun as object, meaning for the benefit of or directed to.
    • Es para usted . It’s for you.
  • Meaning to or in the direction of when referring to a specific place.
    • Voy para Europa . I’m heading to Europe.
  • Meaning by or for when referring to a specific time.
    • Necesito el regalo para mañana . I need the gift for tomorrow.
    • Vamos a la casa de mi madre para el fin de semana. We’re going to my mother’s for the weekend.

In order to help you determine the uses based on context GRAB this POR and PARA cheat sheet and learn the acronym PERFECT DREEMS (not a typo;) ) to help you memorize when to which.

Now you give it a try…

Here are some simple examples for you to try this new knowledge. Choose one option between POR or PARA, write down your answers and check if they are right below ?

Estuve leyendo (por / para) tres horas.

Estuve leyendo por tres horas.

A mi mamá le gusta enviar cartas (por / para) correo.

A mi mamá le gusta enviar cartas por correo.

Voy (por / para) tu casa, no quiero hablarlo (por / para) teléfono.

Voy para tu casa, no quiero hablarlo por teléfono.

Compré la cuna (por / para) mi bebé, pero no sé (por / para) cuándo llega.

Compré la cuna para mi bebé, pero no sé para cuándo llega.

Quiero comprar unas cosas (por / para) Internet, son (por / para) mi esposo.

Quiero comprar unas cosas por Internet, son para mi esposo.

Debo terminar este proyecto (por / para) el lunes.  Mi jefe quiere que nos reunamos (por / para) Zoom hoy.

Debo terminar este proyecto para el lunes. Mi jefe quiere que nos reunamos por Zoom hoy.

Other useful expressions with por and para

por ahora    for now
por aquí    around here
por Dios     for God’s sake
por eso    that’s why / for this reason
por ejemplo    for example
por favor          please
por fin  finally
por lo general generally
por supuestoof course
por último finally
estar por    to be about to
para entonces   by that time
para otra vez for another time
para que         so that
para siempreforever
para variarfor a change

Get more POR and PARA practice exercises here!

¡Arriésgate, abre la boca y comete errores!

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