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?

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 1
    What about "el amor que siento por ti" (being "for" in english as well)
    – SysDragon
    Jun 6, 2014 at 11:17

When it comes to recipients, you should distinguish between normal and favor recipients:

Normal recipient (para) vs. Favor recipient (por)

Here is the most famous normal recipient example–ordering stuff:

Camarero.— ¿Les traigo algo de beber?

(Waiter: "(Do you want me to) bring you something to drink?")

Valeria.— Yo quiero un tinto de verano.

(Valeria: "I want a non-touristy sangria")

Esteban.— Para mí también.

(Esteban: "For me as well")

Esteban will be the recipient of the tinto, but he could have also cowardly asked Valeria to order for him, thereby becoming a favor recipient:

Esteban.— Me apetece un tinto de verano, pero me da vergüenza pedírselo al camarero.

(Esteban: "I (feel like getting) a non-touristy sangria, but it gives me embarrassment (to) ask it to the waiter")

Valeria.— Mira que eres tímido. Ya lo pido yo por ti.

(Valeria: "(It's shocking) how shy you are. (Don't worry) I'll order it for you")

I'm stretching the concept of a favor to comfortably fit two different things: doing something in someone's place and doing something for someone's sake. Here is a better example of the latter:

Llevo toda la vida sacrificándome por mis hijos y ahora los muy malditos me han escondido los cigarrillos.

(I've spent my entire life sacrificing myself for my children and now those (damn bastards) have hidden away my cigarettes)

If the sacrificing had been done para mis hijos, the general meaning would remain the same, but the listener would have to come up with the implicit verb, which might not be obvious in this context.


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

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


"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


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.

  • 2
    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. Jun 7, 2014 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, 2014 at 13:48
  • 1
    "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. Jun 7, 2014 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, 2014 at 18:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.