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I have seen "forever" translated as both por siempre and para siempre. What is the difference? Are there contexts where you must use one or the other?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

In Spain, para siempre is the most common form in everyday speech. The form por siempre is understood but used only in written or literary/poetic contexts.

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+1 In Argentina it's also like this. – Ghanima Mar 1 '12 at 2:44

I found an interesting article about the use of por and para. Is in Spanish and you can found it here.

Quoting the use of por and para when you talk about time:

También encontramos las dos preposiciones para señalar el tiempo en el que transcurre o va a transcurrir una acción:

  • El artículo tiene que estar listo para el jueves.
  • Siempre vuelve a casa por Navidad.

Cuando utilizamos la preposición para nos referimos a un tiempo exacto, mientras que la utilización de la preposición por indica un tiempo aproximado.

En el primer caso el artículo no debe exceder el jueves, que es la fecha límite. Mientras que en el segundo la persona llega a casa en la época de Navidad, pero no se especifica el día determinado en el que llega.

En resumen:

Por indica tiempo aproximado / Para indica tiempo exacto

So according to the last line you use por for approximate time and para for exact time. We are mortals right? So Forever usually means until I die.

Interestingly enough, people don´t normally know when they're going to die so the definition of forever as an approximate time or exact time is not so precise.

In my opinion you should use por or para according to your religious / philosophical / whatever believes.

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