Differences between ‘‘por’‘ and ‘‘para’‘
Differences between ‘’por’’ and ‘’para’’ , these prepositions are one of the most difficult things to get right for a foreigner, the truth it’s my pals, that they are indeed hard to distinguish. But don’t feel bad about it, if you ask a native speaker what’s the difference between those two, they won’t even know what to answer, so in this post I’ll give it a shot.
Roughly translated, the two correspond to the English ‘’for’’ and that is what mainly causes confusions.
The most common and important difference is that ‘’por’’ is used to explain the cause or reason of something and ‘’para’’ is generally used to explain an aim, objective or purpose:
‘’Vine a Argentina por mi familia’’ – I came to Argentina because of my family.
‘’Las inundaciones crecen por la falta de arboles’’ – The floods become frequent because of the lack of trees.
‘’No salieron de su casa por el temor que le tienen a los ladrones’’ – They didn’t leave their house because of their fear towards bandits.
‘’Compré este regalo para ti’’ – I bought this present for you.
‘’Cerraron la ventana para que no entre viento’’ – They closed the window so the wind couldn’t in.
‘’Traje esta heladerita para guardar las cervezas ‘’ – I brought this fridge to save the beers here.
Do you see now? The main difference is quite clear I think, meanwhile, in each three sentences of the beginning, ‘’por’’ is used to explain the REASON of the events (the reason I visited Argentina is my family, the reason floods are growing in number is the lack of trees, the reason they don’t go out of their house is the fear towards thieves), and ‘’para’’ is used to explain the OBJECTIVE of your action (I bought this present with the aim of giving it to you, they closed the window with the aim of not allowing wind to keep coming in, I brought this little fridge with the aim of keeping beers cool).
You can’t obviously mix cause with aim, because you’ll get a semantic and interpretative mess:
*Las inundaciones crecen
para la falta de arboles – Notice how important it is to consider the subject with ‘’para’’. You see, sintactically speaking,
‘’para’’ in this function introduces
an INDIRECT OBJECT, this can be represented as ‘’x did y for z’’, so there is
someone who does something PARA someone, in these situations the indirect
Now let’s see the other functions, separate, starting with por:
Amount of time:
You can use ‘’por’’ to express the amount of seconds, minutes, hours, days and other time units which took you to do the action (or will take, or usually takes you):
-‘’Voy como estudiante de intercambio a Alemania por tres años’’ – I’m going to Germany as an exchange student for three years.
-‘’Trabajé en Rumania por tres años’’ – I worked in Romania for three years.
-‘’Vengo aquí todos los veranos por vacaciones’’ – I came here every summer for vacations. (This one has the two values: the reason of coming and the period of time, your vacations)
As locative, you may use ‘’por’’ to talk about a place or an object and you are not 100% sure about their location, the doubt it’s inside the semantics of this function:
-‘’No encuentro mis lentes, estaban por aquí’’ (I can’t find my glasses, they were around here)
-‘’Creo que la casa estaba por este barrio’’ (I think that the house was around this neighborhood)
-‘’Sandrá está caminando por la arbolada’’ (Sandra is walking through the woods)
-‘’El hospital queda por Mitre’’ (The hospital is around Mitre st.)
As you see, in each example ‘’por’’ express location, in the first example, we are searching our glasses (in our room, idk) and we know that they are there, but we don’t know where specifically, they are just somewhere in our room. In the second example, we know the house is in that neighborhood, but where precisely? In the corner of the street? Or in the middle of it? We don’t know…
In the third example we know that Sandra is doing that: walk, and we know she’s walking through the woods, she told us that before leaving, but in which part of the woods? Deep in the woods? Right at the edge? Through the road? We don’t have telepathic powers, so we don’t know precisely. The same happens with the last example, which is more frequent in the argentinian variety of Spanish, we know there is x hospital by the Mitre street, that’s the important thing, I don’t need to tell you if the hospital lies next to a market or to a gay club, it’s just there in Mitre street.
-‘’Te cambio este reloj por tu perro’’ (I’ll trade with you this watch for your dog)
-‘’Cambió a sus amigas por su novio’’ (She changed her friends for his boyfriend)
Not too much to say about this function, is mostly used in trading contexts, as the first example depicts. The ‘’por’’ always is placed between the things that are getting traded (x por x).
-‘’Viajaré a Alemania por avión, no por barco’’ (I’ll travel to Germany by plane, not by ship)
-‘’Mándame los resultados por Facebook’’ (Send me the results via facebook)
‘’Por’’ is also used to express the media, via or way you travel or do some actions.
-‘’Vendo un kilo de naranjas por 30 pesos’’ (I’m selling a kilo of oranges at 30 bucks)
“Vendo este auto por 2000 euros’’ (I’m selling this car at 2000 euros)
Actually, in matters of prices and selling, the preposition used to introduce the price may be either ‘’por’’, or it can also be ‘’a’’ (Te vendo este auto a 2000 euros).
-‘’Una vez por turno, puedes robar una carta’’ (Once per turn, you can draw a card)
-‘’La pizza cuesta 50 pesos por persona’’ (The pizza costs 50 bucks a person)
-‘’Es un caramelo por niño’’ (It is a candy for each kid)
‘’Por’’ introduces in these cases the measure of distribution, in the second example you are stating that 50 pesos shall be paid by each person eating it.
According to Wikipedia, the voice ‘’(…)describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice.’’
According to that paragraph, if we have a sentence like ‘’La policía persiguió a Pepe’’ (The police chased Pepe), we will find out it is in the active voice, since we clearly see an agent, a doer of the action, which is the police.
The passive voice of this verb would modify it’s relationship with the parts of the sentence, thus, the object (Pepe) would become the subject… but not as an agent. You see, this is the particular thing with the voice change, the passive voice, at least in Spanish and English, doesn’t only imply a syntactical change, but also semantical: The subject isn’t an agent anymore, but a PACIENT. This is, the subject, instead of doing the action, will be AFECTED by it:
-‘’Pepe (subject) fue perseguido por la policía’’ (Agentive complement)
-Pepe was chased by the police.
‘’Por’’, in the passive voice, introduces a compliment, known as ‘’Agentive compliment’’ or ‘’Complemento agente’’, which, as the name points out, introduces the doer of the action.
Soon to do an action.
This is not too important, because it’s informal and it can also be replaced by ‘’a punto de’’. It must be always used combined with the auxiliary ‘’estar’’.
-‘’Estoy por limpiar la mesa / Estoy a punto de limpiar la mesa’’ (I’m about to clean the table)
-‘’La anaconda está por matarme / La anaconda está a punto de matarme’’ (The anaconda is about to kill me)
Para – Objective.
Now we’ll describe ‘’Para’’ and its functions, the most important use of ‘’para’’ has to do with the objective of an action, not the reason that causes the action, but rather, the reason you are aiming to reach with your action, basically, your goal. This first function may be easily translated to English as ‘’in order to’’, in German and Dutch, ‘’um (…) zu’’ and ‘’om (…) te’’ respectively.
-‘’Voy a ir a Suecia para estudiar sueco’’ (I’m going to Sweden in order to study Swedish)
-‘’Ryckhard usaba su espada para matar dragones’’ (Ryckhard used his sword to kill dragons)
-‘’Compré torta para comer esta tarde’’ (I bought cake in order to eat it this evening)
There is a function that is pretty similar to these one, it differs because it involves movement, I call it ‘’destiny’’ because there is a receiver of a thing you are transporting:
‘’Llevo esta caja de bombones para mi novia’’ (I’m taking this chocolate box to my girlfriend’s)
‘’Esta nota es para el correo’’ (This note is for the mail)
‘’Traigo este regalo para Nico’’ (I bring this gift for Nico)
See how the each sentence has a verb that implies movement? (To take, to bring) Except for the second one, in which the verb is hidden. These sentence describe a movement towards someone who is a receiver (an indirect object), represented in the sentence by ‘’para (…)’’ that will get that x thing (the direct object) that you are carrying.
End of a term.
‘’Para’’ has a temporal function too, it is used to establish a limit or end to a given period of time, we are obviously talking about a term established for an essay, a document, a homework, or some task that we are asked to do… or we ask someone else to do. For example, your teacher gives you some homework, and it has to be done for tomorrow (para mañana)
-‘’Necesito que hagan esta tarea para mañana (I need you to do this homework for tomorrow)
-‘’Quiero que me traigas el informe para mañana’’ (I want you to bring me the report for tomorrow)
In this case, ‘’para’’ express the direction towards x place your going to, it would be like the Dutch ‘’naartoe’’. Also, expressing direction using ‘’para’’ is pretty informal, in more formal contexts, ‘’a’’ is used.
-‘’En quince minutos, salgo para tu casa’’ (In fifteen minutes, I’m going to your house)
-‘’Me voy para Alemania’’ (I’m going to Germany)
In this case, ‘’para’’ introduces someone who has an opinion, most of the times, this clause stays away from the rest of the sentence, you’ll see many times at the beginning of the sentence, but it also may be placed in other positions, ALWAYS, between comas (not at the beginning, obviously)
-‘’Para Pepe, el partido de Argentina estaba arreglado ‘’(Acording to Pepe, Argentina’s match was fixed)
-‘’Para mí, estás hablando pura mierda’’ (To me, you are just speaking pure bullcrap)
-‘’Los bordes eran, para María, muy filosos’’ (The edges were, acording to Maria, to Sharp)
You see how the two first sentences have that ‘’para’’ clause at the beginning and in the third one, in the middle of the sentence, totally isolated from the rest of the sentence in each example.
The temporal function of para is to point out an exact moment in time, it can be used to refer either past or future events, but almost never to refer to present events.
-‘’Para navidad, fuimos de mi abuelo’’ (On Christmas, we visited my grandpa)
-‘’Se crearán 900 [novecientas] escuelas para el año que viene’’ (900 schools will be created for the next year)
-‘’Mis amigos vienen para mi cumpleaños’’ (My friends are coming for my birthday)
Okay people, I think these are the most important ones, there may be a couple not so relevant that are missing, but I may talk about them in other post, the most important ones are here… I hope it helped because I noticed there are many people that struggle with these two prepositions that clearly are sons of a huge and naughty bitch.
‘ntill the next post, greetings qts! Hasta la próximaaaaaaaaaaaaaa