Spanish preposition “Por”
Like a balancing scale, “por” is the great equalizer. You can often feel the equality on either side of por. We trade things because they are perceived to be of equal value. When we say how long something lasts, we are equating the action with a certain amount of time. When we substitute one person or thing for another, we consider the two to have equal value or capabilities, at least temporarily.
Lugar (place): Paseamos por el parque de los bosques de Palermo. (We go for a walk to Palermo’s park)
Causa (Cause) : ¡Brindemos por el cumpleaños de Mara! (Let’s cheer for Mara’s Birthday)
Motivo (Reason): Lo estoy haciendo solo por vos/ti. (I am doing it only for you)
Tiempo indeterminado (indefinitely time): Por la mañana, siempre estoy apurada. (I am always in a rush on the mornings)
Precio (Price): El anillo de mi abuela lo vendí por 50 dólares. (I sold my Grandma’s ring for 50 dollars)
Medio (Way of transportation): Le envié el paquete a mi papa por correo. (I sent the package to my dad by mail)
Modo (Way to do things): Por la fuerza no lo vas a lograr. (By force your are not going to achieve anything)
Distribución (Distribution): Solo les voy a dar dos caramelos por persona (I am going to give only two candies per person)
Velocidad (speed): 2 km por hora (2 km per hour)
Periodicidad (Periodicity): Voy al gimnasio una vez por semana (I go to the gym, twice a week)
Duration of time
To tell how long something lasts, use por. In this context, “por” translates as “for’
Cada noche duermo por ocho horas. Every night I sleep for eight hours.
El ve la tele por once horas. He watches TV for eleven hours.
Puedes escucharme por un rato? Can you listen to me for a while?
Ella viaja por dos días. She travels for two days.
Periods of time in the 24-hour day
When por” is used before la mañana, la tarde, la noche, or el día, it indicates an unspecified amount of time and implies that whatever is taking place lasts for quite a while (rather than for either a very short or specified amount of time). In this context, por translates as “for:’“at:’“during, in, or throughout.
Miramos la tele por un rato. (We watch TV for a while)
Estudio por la noche. (I study at night)
Tomo el sol por Ia tarde (I sunbathe during the afternoon)
Pescamos por la mañana (We fish in the morning)
Ellos fuman por el día ( They smoke throughout the day)
An equal exchange or substitution
Always keep in mind the image of “por” as a balancing scale. No one would pay a thousand dollars for a cup of coffee because there is absolutely nothing approaching equality there; however, a few dollars for a nice cappuccino seems fair to most. Think of money as a substitution: Is the object desired a fair substitution for the money in your hand? It’s the same with people and things: A substitute teacher, in a sense, replaces the regular teacher, and when you trade baseball cards or baseball players, they must be (or at least be perceived to be) of equal value.
This is why you always use “por” when giving thanks for something: The expression of gratitude balances the giver and receiver of the gift. In this context, por nearly always translates as for; in a substitution, por can also translate as on behalf of or in place of.
Pago tres dólares por Ia revista. (I pay three dollars for the magazine)
Gracias por el regalo. (Thank you for the gift)
El habla por ella esta noche. (He speaks on behalf of her tonight)
Substituyo manteca por mantequila. (I substitute lard in place of butter
Motivation or reason for doing something
Por before an infinitive generally translates as “because of” or “due to” and clues the listener or reader as to why something is done.
In this context, por can precede a noun to indicate why something is happening.
Estoy desfigurada, pero más fuerte por la experiencia. ( I’m disfigured, but stronger for the experience)
Por divorciarse, ella experiencia la libertad por primera vez en su vida.( By getting divorced, she experiences freedom for the first time in her life)
Reconstruimos el hipódromo por el tornado. (We’re reconstructing the hippodrome because of the tornado)
Por el huracán Katrina, muchas personas tienen que mudarse. (Due to Hurricane Katrina, many people 1 to move)
Movement of all kinds
Por is used before the name of any type of vehicle to indicate a means of transportation. It also indicates movement or a temporary stop (as opposed to one’s final destination). In this context, por usually translates as “by:’ but sometimes as “at:’“in,” or “around:’
Voy a Acapulco por avión. (I’m going to Acapulco by airplane)
Va por el banco antes del cine. (He’s stopping at (by) the bank before the movie)
Ya no envIo cartas por correo. (I don’t send letters in the mail anymore.)
Nos paseamos por el parque. (We stroll around the park.)
Emotions and other intangibles for someone or something
When you have something tangible, such as a doll, for someone, you use para, because this indicates the item’s final destination. But por has a peculiar relationship with destination, and it is a delightful one.
Think of it this way: If you give something tangible away, you’re left with nothing—your hand is empty. But you cannot give away emotions and feelings: You can only move them around. No matter how much love (or hatred, or respect, or churlishness) you send to someone, you are still filled with that feeling. In fact, it is a paradox of feelings that the more you give away, the more you retain. Thus, because you can’t ever completely and finally deliver feelings or emotions, you use por as you move them around in your world.
In this context (as with para), por nearly always translates as “for:’
para Tengo juguetes para mis hijas. I have toys for my daughters.
por Tengo amor por mis hijas. I have love for my daughters.