Today’s post is all about when to use por vs para with practice examples that will give you a better insight on this topic.
Ever since I started teaching, this question has come up over and over again. “When should I use por and when should I use para?!” Indeed, it is not easy to know it, because there is no one direct translation into English. Rather, there are many. In fact, por can be translated into English as ‘for’, ‘by’, ‘through’, ‘via’, while para can be translated into ‘in order to’, ‘for’, ‘into’ and ‘to’ depending on what one wants to say in Portuguese. If you feel confused, don’t panic: I will explain it to you now, and you no longer will have to feel lost about this subject, hopefully. =)
In general, you can use por to speak about a cause or a reason, and to indicate a place through which you or someone else passed by. Let’s see it in more detail in which situations you should use this preposition:
1. To indicate the place or the path through which someone or something passed or went by.
“A Maria foi por esta Avenida” – Maria went through this avenue.
2. With frequency.
“A Mafalda vai ao ginásio duas vezes por semana” – Mafalda goes to the gym twice a week.
3. To explain the way by which something was done.
“Ele bebeu pelo copo” – He drunk through the glass.
4. When you exchange something by something else.
“Eu troquei esta camisola por aquela” – I exchanged this sweater for that one.
5. When you say for how long something happened.
“Ele estacionou ali por trinta minutos” – He parked there for thirty minutes.
6. Indicating the cause for something.
“Ele comeu por obrigação” – He ate because he was obliged (for simple obligation).
7. When you divide or multiply something.
“A Maria dividiu 50 por 2″ – Maria divided 50 by 2.
8. When you are using the passive agent.
“O bolo foi feito pelo João” – The cake was made by João.
Note that sometimes you find pelo in some of the above sentences, instead of the simple version por. This happens when you have to add the article o to the preposition por. Take a look:
Por + o = Pelo Por + os = Pelos
Por + a = Pela Por + as = Pelas
Do you get it?
So, for example, if you want to say:
a) A bolacha foi comida _________ Maria.
Knowing that Maria is feminine, and you need to add the article a. How would you do that?
What about the following?
b) O pão foi comido _______ Tomás.
Try to solve these two exercises and I will reveal the answers towards the end of this article 😉
Para can be used in general to indicate the direction or the purpose for doing something. Let us take a closer look at the situations when para is used:
1. To indicate the purpose of something
“Este saco é para as compras” – This bag is meant for shopping.
2. To indicate the recipient of something
“Esta carta é para ti” – This letter is for you.
3. To indicate the destination of something
“Este avião vai para Moçambique” – This plane goes to Mozambique (Wanna know more about Mozambique?)
4. To indicate your personal opinion
“Para mim, isto não está bom” – To me/ In my opinion, this is not good.
5. To indicate a determined time
“Tenho férias marcadas para Agosto” – I have my holidays scheduled for August.
Just like with por, para can be used differently. We can say “Amanhã vou prá praia”. We do something like:
Para + o = Pró Para + os = Prós
Para + a = Prá Para + as = Prás
However, unlike por, with which we can and should use the contracted forms “pelo, pela, pelos, pelas” like we have seen above, with para we can only use these contracted forms in oral communication, in everyday life.
Just an addition: “Obrigado/a por” means thank you for! Many people have been asking me this. This is kind of an expression and you always use por.
Ok, should we try to do some exercises now? What would you use in the following cases?
Por ou Para?
c) Este bolo é __________ ti.
d) Vou viajar __________ o Porto.
e) O avião vai __________ Caracas.
f) O autocarro passa _______ avenida.
g) Eu quero trocar as calças ________ camisa.
h) Eu fiquei lá ________ 30 minutos.
i) O trabalho foi feito ______ todos.
j) Eu como _______ este prato.
k) Ela dividiu 100 ______ 7.
l) Este quarto é _______ 2 pessoas.
m) _______mim, é muito pequeno.
n) Tenho consulta marcada _______ as dez da manhã.
What do you think? Can you solve the exercises? Give it a try and look a bit further to see the results.
Solutions for the exercises above:
a) A bolacha foi comida __pela_______ Maria.
b) O pão foi comido ___pelo____ Tomás
c) Este bolo é ___para_______ ti.
d) Vou viajar ___para_______ o Porto.
e) O avião vai _____para_____ Caracas.
f) O autocarro passa ___pela____ avenida.
g) Eu quero trocar as calças ____pela____ camisa.
h) Eu fiquei lá ___por_____ 30 minutos.
i) O trabalho foi feito ___por___ todos.
j) Eu como ___por____ este prato.
k) Ela dividiu 100 __por____ 7.
l) Este quarto é __para_____ 2 pessoas.
m) __Para_____mim, é muito pequeno.
n) Tenho consulta marcada __para_____ as dez da manhã.
If you got the answers right, well done!
If not, try to go through the rules again and do it once more 😉 If you have any questions about these exercises or anything else related to this topic, please feel free to contact me by leaving me a message. I will try to answer as fast as I can.
Thank you and beijinhos,
12 thoughts on “When to use por vs para with practice examples”
You said, para is used to indicate the direction or the purpose for doing something. So, if I say ” I work for money,” it should be “Eu trabalho para dinheiro.” But the correct say of saying is “Eu trabalho por dinheiro” if I am not mistaken. Or am I misunderstanding something? Thank you
Olá, Andor 🙂
Thank you for your comment.
Yes, you are right! This might be one of those exceptions that abound in Portuguese (and I guess in many other languages).
If you say “Este livro é para eu ler” (This book is for me to read), this is also a purpose, but you use “para”, as well as in many other cases. So, I guess the example you gave is truly an exception to the rule (I am sure there will be more).
I hope this helps.
I am wondering why the article comes before a name in Portuguese? For example from above, “A bolacha foi comida por+a = pela Maria. Direct translation: The cake was eaten by the Maria.
I noticed if a name is at the beginning of a sentence the masculine or feminine article “o” or “a” is also spoken.
In English it is not this way, and I don’t think Spanish either. Can you explain why this is used in Portuguese?
Thank you for this helpful blog post!
That’s a great question 🙂
I am speaking about this in lecture 7 (and about articles in general in lecture 3) in my free course here:
Feel free to sign-up and check it out 🙂
Thanks Mia for this article. You helped me with my homework….but i still got some wrong.🤭. I will be back.
Olá Sonia. I am glad I could help you 🙂
Nice article! I live in Spain, and learning Spanish, and I must say the rules are very similar, although it looks like Portuguese is a bit more complicated. Here we have only Por and Para, and it took me 3 years to understand when to use which one of them!!! 😀
We don’t have all the
Por + o = Pelo Por + os = Pelos
Por + a = Pela Por + as = Pelas
I speak already 4 languages. Russian and Hebrew are my mother tongue languages, and I speak also English and Spanish. I think My next one will be definitely Portuguese!!
Thank you for your comment =) Uau, you know a lot of languages! Well done =)
Portuguese is a somewhat demanding but interesting language and I hope you do decide to learn it. Since you already know Spanish, I think it will be easier for you to learn Portuguese, as both are Romance languages. At least with grammar you will have a head-start. But you are right, in Spanish you do not have all the Por + o = Pelo Por + os = Pelos; Por + a = Pela Por + as = Pelas. What can I say? We like to complicate hehe.
Anyways, I do hope you come back to my website as I will be adding content and more materials! Let your Portuguese journey begin =)
I have always been interested in the portuguese language and custom. I would be very interested in the cusine that you guy’s eat. I love to cook and research on different culture’s. Please more link’s to follow I see you are still preparing and adding more content and it look’s very eye catching every page. Thank you.
Thank you very much for your comment.
Nice to hear that you are interested in the Portuguese language. Yes, I am thinking of writing an article about typical Portuguese food.
In fact, we eat quite good here I think 🙂 I would be happy if you come back to my page, hopefully with a new article about Portuguese cuisine, soon 😉
Interesting post. I speak several languages but I don’t speak Portuguese, either Spanish.
Every language is interesting and has own grammar, syntax. and beaut.
Nice post, good job!
Thank you very much for your comment. Well, it is never too late to learn a new language. Just give it a try, a new language can offer you so many new opportunities.
You are definitely right, every language is interesting on its own. If you are interested in Portuguese, please come back to my website as I am adding more content and material 🙂
Thanks again for the kind feedback.