POR vs. PARA in Portuguese

por vs para Portuguese

When do you use POR and when is it best to use PARA to say, FOR? You'll soon learn that Portuguese has different words to express what we would use one word to accomplish. It's part of what makes the language very precise. English is considered vague by comparison!

por vs. para ~ Can't we all just get along?

The por vs. para question always seems to put everyone into a fighting mood. That's because we're so used to saying for without having to think about it. Imagine if we had two different ways to say, for?!

What exactly does POR really mean?
*DO NOT confuse por with the VERB pôr!

The road to happiness is always : simplify. By learning the most, most used instances of these words we can get to fluency faster.


por: Quantity

O alho custa dois por três. » The garlic costs two for three.
Vou esperar por quinze minutos. » I'm going to wait for fifteen minutes.
Eu tomo um por dia. » I take one per day.

por: Reason/Motivation

Por qual motivo você quer aprender português? » For what reason do you want to learn portuguese?
Eu tenho muito amor por você. » I have lots of love for you.

por: Movement through something

Ela está passando por um momento difícil. » She's going through a difficult time.
Nós vamos por o centro. » We're going by downtown.

*When you have por + o or, por + a » these can contract! Like this:

Nós vamos por o centro. » Nós vamos pelo centro. » We're going by downtown.

por: Use it to say "per".

por: it can contract too!

When por is used together with "the" (o, a) it gets CONTRACTED like this:
por + o = pelo
por + a = pela


It's not an obvious contraction. I think it's just because it sounds good: PAY-LO & PAY-LA.
But notice that in most all sentences that use pelo / pela, the meaning is: through the.

Vamos pelo centro da cidade. » Let's go by way of downtown.
Ela jogou tudo pela janela. » She threw everything out the window.

But pelo/pela can also simply translate as "for the" or, "to the" in cases like this:

Isso aqui é pela caipirinha. » This here is for the caipirinha.
O sr pode me deixar entrar pelo amor de Deus?! » Hey mister can you let me enter for the love of God?!


Use para to say, go somewhere.
para: Purpose.

Você precisa treinar para falar bem. » You need to practice (in order) to speak well.
Eu vou trabalhar muito para comprar um carro. » I'm going to work a lot (in order) to buy a car.

para: Direction & Destination.

Eu vou para Salvador. » I'm going to Salvador.
Vamos para o centro da cidade. » let's go downtown.

And if you're really LIGADO com a língua and wonder if you can also contract para + o,a.
But it's (for now) just coloquial, which means that you should only use it in informal, spoken situations. Language evolves, and one day these contractions may be adopted into the official lexicon:
para + o = pro
para + a = pra

Vamos pro centro da cidade. » Let's go downtown.
Você foi pra festa da Anita ontem? » Did you go to Anita's party yesterday?

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Grammar: preposition por

por = by, for, per, in, of, to, with, via, out of, for the sake of AND SO ON.

by: Está por sobrenome? (Is it by last name?)

around: Tem um banco por aqui? (Is there a bank around here?)

around: Tem uma farmácia por perto? (Is there a pharmacy nearby?)

for: Troca por uma bicicleta? (Trade for a bicycle?)

reason: Por causa de um erro. (Due to an error.)

por can contract

When used together with “the” (o, a) it gets CONTRACTED like this:
por + o = pelo
por + a = pela

Vamos pelo centro da cidade. » Let’s go by way of downtown.
Ela jogou tudo pela janela. » She threw everything out the window.

por + o: Pelo visto eu não tenho opção. By the looks of it I don't have a choice.

por + a Obrigada pela dica amiga. Thanks for the tip friend!

Grammar: para

Para has two meanings.

(1) to (a place)

You can use either a, or para to express to. In general, using para implies that you are going to somewhere in order to be there a while. Usually that’s to your home, to work etc. But don’t get hung up on this – time is relative 😉

to ➜ Eu vou para o brasil. (I'm going to Brazil.)

to ➜ Você vai para a praia? (Are you going to the beach?)

(2) in order to

in order to ➜ Eu estou aqui para estudar. (I'm here to study.)

in order to ➜ Trabalho para ganhar dinheiro. (I work to earn money.)

I dare you to try.

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