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I've heard por and para both being used to indicate recipients:

Mi amor es por ti

Este regalo es para ti

In what situations regarding recipients are por and para usually used?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In Spain, at least, por is never used to refer to recipients, it's always para.

He hecho este pastel para ti.

Mi amor es para él.

Todo el dinero que tiene es para sus hijos.

por is used to refer to the reason you have to do something. For example:

Lo hice por él, se lo merecía.

Él is the reason you chose to do something, he deserved something and you did it. Él is not the recipient of the action, is the reason for doing it. As you can notice, is not the same as if you say

Lo hice para él

where él is the recipient of something you did.

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1  
What about "el amor que siento por ti" (being "for" in english as well) –  SysDragon Jun 6 at 11:17

Para is a preposition that indicates the sense or utility of a thing or action.

"Él juega para divertirse (he plays for fun)"

or

"la plancha sirve para alisar la ropa (the iron serves to smoothing clothes)"

Por is a preposition that precedes a cause of an action mentioned previously (verb)."lo hice por ti" explains that the cause of an action is a determined known person. Based on personal experience. Any comment that improve this explanation would be very helpful. <3

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Para will never be the equivalent to From

I made guacamole from avocados.

The translation isn't

Hice guacamole para aguacates

but rather

Hice guacamole por aguacates

Por usually implies a statement of time and space.

For example:

I drove through Atlanta.

Manejé por Atlanta

If you were to use para instead, it would sound .. thus.

I drove for Atlanta

As if Atlanta were sponsoring the drive of the subject of that sentence. It could be added onto and it could be mean, towards, to, etc...

Manejé por Atlanta desde Londrés

I drove to Atlanta from London.

  • OR

I drove from London to Atlanta

Manejé desde Londrés por Atlanta.

I made a cake for you.

Hice un pastel para tí


Para carries a meaning of in order to.... or for as in a recipient.

Cociné para comer.

or for as in... the recipient.

Cociné para Rodrigo.

I made a cake for Julie

Hice un pastel para Julie


to mistake por for para in the above sentence would leave you saying

Cociné por Rodrigo

I cooked through Rodrigo

When you should be using it thus.

Cociné por las instrucciones de Rodrigo

I cooked by Rodrigo's instructions.

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Some of these uses of por sound exceedingly strange to me (I'm from the US, but I've lived in Mexico City for just under ten years). In particular, hacer guacamole por aguacates sounds totally off. –  Michael Wolf Jun 7 at 1:34
    
They are bizarre examples, I know. But it's always the strangest examples that stick in a person's mind. The difference between por and para is very difficult to explain, so why not be bizarre about it... –  dockeryz Jun 7 at 13:48
    
"Bizarre" was a polite way of saying "wrong." If you google for "guacamole por aguacate" you get two irrelevant results and if you google for "guacamole por aguacuates" you get zero. I just downvoted this answer. It is wrong. –  Michael Wolf Jun 7 at 17:22
    
Oh no! Don't do that; it might hurt my feelings. Could you provide some "correct" examples and I'll edit my post accordingly, giving you some credit? –  dockeryz Jun 7 at 18:10

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