For is one of the most multifaceted English prepositions. Maybe you don’t realize it, but you definitely use it all the time. The Cambridge dictionary accounts for around fifteen different meanings for this word; which, as you can imagine, makes it kind of difficult to translate into other languages.
The thing with functional words like this is that these words can’t be simply translated to one single word. While it isn’t totally straightforward, we’ll break down all of the different uses of for in Spanish with plenty of examples so you’ll know exactly which “for” to use!
For in Spanish at a Glance
Before starting to translate, we should systematize a bit what we already know about the preposition for. A shortlist with the different meanings of for will make it easier for us when we try to find their Spanish counterpart; in a way, we’ll know what we’re looking for. Of course, there are many different uses and specific meanings associated with for, but here we have the main ones, followed by a short example:
For in Spanish
Example Sentence (Eng)
Example Sentence (Sp)
Intended to be given to
There’s a message for you.
Hay un mensaje para ti
Having the purpose of
These boots are made for walking
Estas botas están hechas para caminar
Because of or as a result of something
He’s famous for his amazing voice.
Él es famoso por su increíble voz.
Amount of time or distance
We walked for three miles.
We stay there for a couple of days
Caminamos por tres millas
Nos quedamos allí durante un par de días
Occasion or at the time of
Did you buy her something for her birthday?
¿Le compraste un regalo para su cumpleaños?
In support of
A favor de
I’m for gender equality.
Estoy a favor de la igualdad de género
In order to help someone
What can I do for you?
¿Qué puedo hacer por ti?
In relation to someone or something
This book is good, but it’s not for me.
Este libro es bueno, pero no es para mí.
Getting in exchange
I bought it for $10.
Lo compré por $10.
Representing a company, country, etc
She plays for the Sweden national team.
Ella juega para la selección de Suecia.
In the direction of
She got on a plane for Madrid.
Ella se embarcó en un avión para Madrid.
All the Ways to Say For in Spanish
Intended to be given to: Para
When using for to talk about something you might give to someone, whether it be a gift or a message, you would use para.
- Hay un mensaje para ti.
- Compré un regalo para mi madre
- Ella dejó una generosa propina para el camarero
- There’s a message for you.
- I bought a present for my mother
- She left a generous tip for the waiter
Having the purpose of: Para
Para is used when you want to signify the purpose or the use of something.
- Estas botas están hechas para caminar.
- Estamos recolectando dinero para la Cruz Roja
- These boots are made for walking.
- We’re collecting money for the Red Cross.
Because of or as a result of something: Por
When we talk about the reason or the result of something, we use por.
- Él es famoso por su increíble voz.
- Ella recibió un premio por su investigación
- Él fue preso por robo
- He’s famous for his amazing voice.
- She received a prize for her research
- He went to jail for robbery
Amount of time or distance: Por, Durante
Both por and durante are used to mean “for” in Spanish, when talking about time or distance. Let’s take a look at some example sentences for por.
- Estuvo callado por dos horas
- Caminamos por tres millas.
- He was quiet for two hours
- We walked for three miles
The other way to say for in Spanish when speaking about time is durante. In Spanish, durante has a meaning strongly associated with time. Durante also means “during”.
- Ella durmió durante todo el viaje.
- Nos quedamos allí durante un par de días.
- She slept for the whole trip.
- We stayed there for a couple of days.
Occasion of or at the time of: Para
If you’ve done something for an occasion, an event or a point in time, you’d use para.
- ¿Le compraste un regalo para su cumpleaños?
- Arreglamos una cita para la semana próxima,
- Ya tengo planes para Año Nuevo.
- Did you buy her something for her birthday?
- We arranged a date for next week
- I already have plans for New Years.
In support of or in agreement with: A favor de
When talking about being in favor or in agreement with something, the phrase a favor de is appropriate. It translates directly to “in favor of” in English.
Estoy a favor de la igualdad de género
I’m for gender equality
In order to help someone: Por
Por is used when talking about doing something for someone, or helping someone.
- ¿Qué puedo hacer por ti?
- Lo hice por mis hijos
- What can I do for you?
- I did it for my children
Getting in exchange: Por
If you are using “for” in Spanish when talking about exchanging goods or services, you would use por. It is used commonly when talking about buying something.
- Lo compré por $10.
- Le doy una golosina por cada examen que aprueba
- I bought it for $10.
- I give her candy for each exam she passes
Representing a company, country, etc: Para
Use para when referring to someone representing a company, a country, a group, etc…
- Ella juega para la selección de Suecia.
- Él trabaja para Corporate Inc.
- She plays for the Sweden national team.
- He works for Corporate Inc.
In the direction of: Para
If referring to the direction of something, particularly if you’re going somewhere, para is used.
- Ella se embarcó en un avión para Madrid.
- Él sigió los carteles para la estación
- She got on a plane for Madrid.
- He followed the signs for the station
Alternatively, you could also use the Spanish preposition hacia, which means “toward”.
As you can see, the answer to how to say for in Spanish is not an easy one. Luckily, you usually only have to decide between para and por. If you find this a little challenging, you are not alone. With enough practice, you’ll start to understand the differences and over time, figuring out which “for” to use will feel natural.