When it comes to mastering the uses of POR and PARA in Spanish, there is a very simple, yet powerful approach that can help you in 95 to 98% of the cases and even more.
Rather than teaching all the uses of POR and PARA as all teachers do, I prefer to narrow down my teaching. Does that mean I am teaching “less” than I should? I don´t think so.
After all, my experience has clearly shown me that students are presented with so many rules, patterns and uses that they are not able to use them well in most cases. What do I do? I cut to the chase as I am going to show you.
When do we use PARA?
1. To express PURPOSE: Any time that in English you can use “in order to,” in Spanish you must use PARA.
I work to make money (or.. in order to make money)
Trabajo PARA ganar dinero.
2. To show who the recipient of an action is:
I bought these flowers for you.
Compré estas flores PARA tí.
3. To show destination:
I am going to Spain.
Voy PARA España.
4. When I want to say BY or FOR a SPECIFIC TIME.
I need your answer by Monday.
Necesito tu respuesta PARA el lunes.
These are all the instances when PARA is used. When do you use POR? In all the other cases. Just that! Any time you want to say something and doubt whether to say por or para, just go through this checklist mentally: a) IN ORDER TO b) RECIPIENT c) DESTINATION D) SPECIFIC TIME.
If what you want to express fits any of these possibilities, then the word to use is PARA. If it doesn´t, use POR.
Simple enough, right? I challenge you to try to find and do as many exercises on the Internet as possible and see for yourself how useful and accurate this approach is!
Julio Foppoli is a teacher of English as a Second Language and a teacher of Spanish as a Second Language. He is the creator and owner of http://www.esaudio.net/Spanish/online_classes.html, an online educational website with a technological edge, specialized in the teaching of Spanish as second language via audio-conference to native speakers of English from all over the world.