"Por" and "para" . When to use each.

I understand why sometimes my students say that Spanish is full of tiny little words, just like “por” and “para”. Understanding the use of them take some patience, yes, but we couldn’t live without them!
So let’s burn our brain just a bit because there’s a way to master these little bastards.

I have plenty of examples and a quick task for you to test yourself at the end of the post as well as a practical infographic so let’s get into it :)

When to use para :

1- To express the purpose why you do something.
Ex 1: Tengo que salir para comprar pan – I have to go out to buy bread.
Ex 2: Las gafas son para protegerte del sol – Glasses are to protect you from the sun.
Ex 3: Tomo té para desayunar – I have tea for breakfast.

2- To say who is the recipient.
Ex: Este regalo es para mi madre – This present is for my mother.

3- Deadline.
Ex: Los deberes son para el martes – Homework is for Tuesday / Homewor’s deadline is Tuesday.

4- Destination on transport.
Ex: El tren va para Soria – The train goes to Soria.

5- Considering that…
Ex: Hablas muy bien español para ser extranjero – You speak Spanish very well for a foreigner.

When to use por :

1- Express reason.
Ex 1: La guía canceló el viaje por el viento – The guide cancelled the trip because of the wind.
Ex 2: Hoy no trabajo por la huelga – Today I don’t work because of the strike.

A variation of this one is when you express when something happens around a celebration.
Ex1: Vuelvo a casa por Navidad - I come back home for Christmas
Ex2: Voy a visitar a mi madre por su cumpleaños – I’m going to visit my mother for her birthday.

2- The way you do something or the tool you use.
Ex 1: Me contó la historia por teléfono – She/he told me the story through/on the phone.
Ex 2: Me gusta comprar por internet – I like buying through/on internet.
Ex 3: Vamos al ayuntamiento por la calle Toledo – We go to the town hall through Toledo street.
Ex4: ¿Por dónde tengo que ir para llegar a tu casa? – Where do I have to go through to arrive to your house?*

3- Part of the day.
Ex: Voy al trabajo por la mañana – I go to work in the morning.
Por la mañana / por la tarde / por la noche – in the morning / in the afternoon / at night.

4- Price.
Ex: Compraste este abrigo por 20 euros – You bought this coat for 20 euros.

5- Passive (to express who did the action using the passive voice).
Ex 1: El cuadro fue pintado por Van Gogh – The painting was painted by Van Gogh.
Ex 2: Estos edificios están diseñados por profesionales – These buildings are designed by professionals.

Bonus one (yay!)
Sometimes you can use "por" to express "around".
Ex 1: No vimos el palacio por dentro - We didn't see the palace around inside.
Ex 2: Voy a dar un paseo por la ciudad - I'm going to have a walk around the city.

There you go! Only five main points for each of them. Take your time to read through them again and do the following activity to test your skills. Remember, there’s nothing you can’t do with practice ;)

And right after, I attached an infographic so you can recap easily!

Complete with por or para.

  • Siempre vienes aquí ____ la tarde (You always come here in the afternoon).
  • Deberías buscar ____ fuera ( You should look around outside)
  • Prefiero mandarte mi CV ____ correo (I prefer to send you my CV through email)
  • Quiero una entrada ____ el cine (I want a ticket for the cinema).
  • Todo está mojado ____ la lluvia (Everything is wet because of the rain).
  • Tengo un regalo ______mi padre (I have a present for my dad).
  • Voy _ esta calle____ llegar antes (I go through this street to arrive earlier) .
  • Puedes comprar un cepillo ____ dos euros (You can buy a brush for two euros).
  • Los exámenes son corregidos ____ la profesora (The tests are corrected by the teacher).
  • Te voy a visitar ______ tu cumpleaños (I’m going to visit you for your birthday)
  • No puedo hacer ejercicio _____mi enfermedad (I can’t do exercise because of my disease)

Solutions:
por/por/por/para/por/para/por,para/por/por/por/por