What is the difference between "Judy canta para Emily" and "Judy canta por Emily"? Don't they both mean "to" in this situation?

  • 1
    sing to her (para) and sing for her [as a substitute performer, por]
    – Lambie
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


"Judy sings to Emily" would be translated as

  • Judy canta para Emily
  • Judy le canta a Emily.

"Judy canta por Emily" would mean that "Judy sings for Emily", in the sense that Emily is the reason for Judy's singing. For example, Judy sings because Emily asked for it, or because her singing will bring money that she will spend on Emily.

"Judy canta por Emily" can also mean "Judy sings in Emily's place", for example if Emily is sick.

Generally, "por" indicates a reason and "para" indicates a goal or an intended recipient. Sometimes the difference is indeed subtle.



  • Judy canta para Emily, Judy canta para ti, Judy canta para el público... "Judy canta para ganar dinero. En definitiva, significa que Judy canta para que otra u otras personas la escuchen. "Judy canta para (que) Emily (la escuche)" o en el último ejemplo, por una razón que es ganar dinero.

  • "Judy canta por Emily". Esto puede entenderse de varios modos distintos.

  1. Como alude wimi, "Judy canta por Emily", en el sentido de que Emily en su caso le pidió por favor que cantara. "Judy canta por Emily" (Judy canta en el festival porque Emily se lo pidió).

  2. "Judy canta por Emily", Judy canta en el lugar de Emily. (Judy canta en su lugar porque Emily tuvo un accidente)

  3. "Judy canta por Emily". Este es el caso menos estudiado. Imaginemos que Emily es una cantante profesional famosa, como Julio Iglesias o una cantante de flamenco, incluso que Emily es el nombre de un tipo especial de canto o melodía. En estos casos, también se utiliza "por". Por ejemplo, se dice "Judy canta por Julio Iglesias", "Judy canta por Farina", "Judy canta por Rosalia"..., esta indicando que Judy canta al modo o la manera que lo hace Julio Iglesias, Farina o Rosalía. Así "Judy canta por Emily" sería como decir que "Judy canta imitando la forma del canto de Emily". Igualmente, en un determinado tipo de música como es el flamenco, alguien puede cantar por fandangos, bulerías, seguidillas... indicando que es una manera o tipo especial de cante que posee una estructura que lo identifica.


  • Judy canta para Emily, Judy canta para ti, Judy canta para el público... "Judy canta para ganar dinero. (Judy sings for you, Judy sings for the audience... "Judy sings to make money). In short, it means that Judy sings for that other people or people listen to it "Judy canta para (que) Emily (la escuche)" ("Judy sings for (that) Emily (hears)") or in the last example, for a reason that is to earn money.

  • "Judy canta por Emily". This can be understood in several different ways.

  1. As wimi alludes, "Judy canta por Emily", in the sense that Emily in her case asked her to please sing. "Judy canta por Emily" (Judy sings at the festival because Emily asked her to).

  2. "Judy canta por Emily", Judy sings in Emily's place. (Judy sings for her because Emily had an accident).

  3. "Judy canta por Emily." This is the least studied case. Let's imagine that Emily is a famous professional singer, like Julio Iglesias or a flamenco singer, even if Emily is the name of a special type of song or melody. In these cases, "por" (by), is also used. For example, it is said "Judy canta por Julio Iglesias", "Judy canta por Farina", "Judy canta por Rosalia"..., this indicates that Judy sings in the way or manner that Julio Iglesias, Farina or Rosalía do. So Judy canta por Emily ("Judy sings by Emily") would be like saying that "Judy sings in imitation of Emily's way of singing". Similarly, in a certain type of music such as flamenco, someone can sing por fandangos, bulerías, seguidillas... indicating that it is a special way or type of song that has a structure that identifies it.

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