Para vs Por

Um Presente para Você

When we translate English to Portuguese and vice-versa, sometimes the prepositions “para” and “por” will have distinct translations. Usually it works like this:

1) Basic Use:

Para = To
Por = For

a) Eu vou para o supermercado. = I’m going to the supermarket.
Here “para” is used to indicate a destination.
b) Eu vou ficar aqui por 2 dias. = I will stay here for 2 days.
Here “por” is used to indicate duration.

But that is not entirely true. In some cases “para” becomes “for”!

2) Common cases when “para” becomes “for”:

a) Eu preciso comprar vinho para o jantar = I need to buy wine for dinner.
b) Escolas são para aprender. = Schools are for learning.
In these two cases para means “for the purpose of”.
c) 1. Este presente é para você / 2. Este presente é para o seu amigo.
= 1. This gift is for you. (as showing the intention of offering something)
2. This gift is to your friend (as just showing something, not offering)
In English there is a difference between using “for” and “to”: “for” implies the intention of offering something. However, in Portuguese “para” is used in the two examples above. Only in a few cases “intention” is expressed with the preposition “por”, usually when the sentence means “for someone’s sake”, such as: “Eu vivo por você = I live for you (for your sake)”. There is a well-known Brazilian song called Por Você (which, by the way, is great for practising the conditional tense).

Other misleading translations come from idiomatic cases.

3) Portuguese idiomatic cases:

a) Por aqui. = Around here. / By this way.
b) Por último. = Finally.
c) Por fim. = Ultimately. / Lastly.
d) Por engano = By mistake.

4) English idiomatic cases:

a) I’m going for a walk. = Eu vou passear. (Literal: I’m going to take a stroll)
b) I’m going for a beer. = Eu vou beber uma cerveja. (Literal: I’m going to drink a beer)

5) Other translations for “para”:

a) Eu preciso disso para segunda-feira. = I need this by Monday.
b) Eu estou para sair. = I am about to leave.

In case you were wondering about the book title (image) in the beginning of this post, here is the translation:
Image Translation: Um presente para você, porque uma pessoa que lê vale por duas.
= A present for you, because a person who reads is worth two.
In this case “por” is omitted in English.

If you are learning Portuguese, I believe the best way of memorizing these rules is repeating the same sentences over and over. You can practise using all the examples found in this article:

1. Eu vou para o supermercado.
2. Eu vou ficar aqui por 2 dias.
3. Eu preciso comprar vinho para o jantar.
4. Escolas são para aprender.
5. Este presente é para você.
6. Este presente é para o seu amigo.
7. Por aqui.
8. Por último.
9. Por fim.
10. Por engano.
11. Eu preciso disso para segunda-feira.
12. Eu estou para sair.

If you want to learn more about the use of “para” (indicating a destination), see this post:
Saying “To” in Portuguese (Ao, Para o, Pro, No)?

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