Understanding the Differences Between "por" and "para" in Spanish

These two little prepositions can be easy to mix up! I find them especially confusing when I am putting together a sentence on the spot and don't have enough time to think it through. They can be confusing for language learners because these words are used in so many different situations (like the way we use the word "for" in English). If you Google search "por vs. para" you are bound to come up with a ton of articles trying to explain these words because they are commonly confused. In a funny way it made me feel better to know I wasn't alone. So thanks for that, internet!

To help us understand these prepositions better, I put together a printable guide explaining how these words are used and some common expressions for each of them.

Download it here for free!

I am hanging these as little posters in our learning room (more for me than the kids) to serve as helpful reminders and a way to internalize this information. No more mixing these two up for me (I'm hoping at least!).

The way these two words are used reminds me of something important. Language is imperfect and beautiful. It's not always black and white, right and wrong. Below is a traditional rhyme that can be sung using either "por" or "para" in the lyrics.


Sol solecito

caliéntame un poquito

por hoy por mañana

por toda la semana

¡Lunes! ¡Martes! ¡Miércoles! ¡Jueves! ¡Viernes! ¡Sábado! y ¡Domingo!


Sol solecito

caliéntame un poquito

para hoy para mañana

para toda la semana

¡Lunes! ¡Martes! ¡Miércoles! ¡Jueves! ¡Viernes! ¡Sábado! y ¡Domingo!

Initially, I thought one rhyme must be incorrectly using por/para. Here's the thing: a native speaker from Mexico learned this rhyme written the first way and feels "por" is correct, while a native speaker living in Spain, sings it with "para" and wouldn't use "por" in this case. Because these are friends I trust equally, I can only conclude that they both must be right! A third version I learned was from the Spanish immersion school my sister used to attend and it was slightly different from both of these (and actually not as correct it turns out).

Another note: "solecito" can be replaced with "solito" in this rhyme and it is equally correct to sing it that way too!

Needless to say, this rhyme can stir up a bit of trouble. Not that it takes away from how much we love it! This is one of the easiest little rhymes to learn and memorize. It has caught on so quickly with my whole family. My kids and I chant it back and forth to each other randomly now, at the dinner table, in the car, or even when we are out on a hike. What a fun way to practice the days of the week too! (We are singing it with "para" at my house, but you can choose to sing it however you would like!)

All the versions and conflicting information I have come across is a bit tricky to navigate, but it also reminds me of why I wrote Beautiful Mundo in the first place!

If you have any thoughts on these rhymes, or the uses of por and para, I would love to hear from you! Email me at hola@beautifulmundo.com and I will happily read your feedback and thoughts.

The author and voice behind Beautiful Mundo.

You can learn more about my story over here.

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