Easy Learning Spanish

a, de, en, para and por - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish

1   a

TipWhen a is followed by el, the two words merge to become al.
  • a can mean to with places and destinations.
Voy a Madrid.I’m going to Madrid.
Voy al cine.I’m going to the cinema.
Tipde is also used with a to mean from … to …
de la mañana a la nochefrom morning to night
de 10 a 12from 10 to 12
  • a can mean to with indirect objects.
Se lo dio a María.He gave it to María.
  • a can mean to after ir when talking about what someone is going to do.
Voy a verlo mañana.I’m going to see him tomorrow.
  • a can mean at with times.
a las cincoat five o’clock
a las dos y cuartoat quarter past two
a medianocheat midnight
  • a can mean at with prices and rates.
a dos euros el kilo(at) two euros a kilo
a 100 km por horaat 100 km per hour
  • a can mean at with ages.
a los 18 añosat the age of 18
  • a can mean at with places, but generally only after verbs suggesting movement.
Te voy a buscar a la estación.I’ll meet you at the station.
cuando llegó al aeropuertowhen he arrived at the airport
TipYou can’t use a to mean at when talking about a building, area, or village where someone is. Use en instead.
Está en casa.He’s at home.
  • a can mean onto.
Se cayó al suelo.He fell onto the floor.
  • a can mean into.
pegar una foto al áIbumto stick a photo into the album
  • a is also used to talk about distance.
a 8 km de aquí(at a distance of) 8 km from here
  • a is also used after certain adjectives and verbs.
parecido a estosimilar to this
  • a can mean from after certain verbs.
Se lo compré a mi hermano.I bought it from my brother.
Les robaba dinero a sus compañeros de clase.He was stealing money from his classmates.
  • a is used in set phrases.
a final/finales/fines de mesat the end of the month
a vecesat times
a menudooften
a la puertaat the door
a manoby hand
a caballoon horseback
a pieon foot
a tiempoon time
al solin the sun
a la sombrain the shade
Grammar Extra!a is often used to talk about the manner in which something is done.
a la inglesain the English manner
a paso lentoslowly
poco a pocolittle by little
The Spanish equivalent of the English construction on with a verb ending in -ing is al followed by the infinitive.
al levantarseon getting up
al abrir la puertaon opening the door

2   Personal a

  • When the direct object of a verb is a specific person or pet animal, a is placed immediately before it.
Querían mucho a sus hijos.They loved their children dearly.
Cuido a mi hermana pequeña.I look after my little sister.
  • Note that personal a is NOT used after the verb tener.
Tienen dos hijos.They have two children.

3   de

TipWhen de is followed by el, the two words merge to become del.
  • de can mean from.
Soy de Londres.I’m from London.
un médico de Valenciaa doctor from Valencia
Tipde is also used with a to mean from … to …
de la mañana a la nochefrom morning to night
de 10 a 12from 10 to 12
  • de can mean of.
el presidente de Franciathe president of France
dos litros de lechetwo litres of milk
  • de shows who or what something belongs to.
el sombrero de mi padremy father’s hat
(literally: the hat of my father)
la oficina del presidentethe president’s office
(literally: the office of the president)
  • de can indicate what something is made of, what it contains or what it is used for.
un vestido de sedaa silk dress
una caja de cerillasa box of matches
una taza de a cup of tea or
a teacup
una silla de cocinaa kitchen chair
un traje de bañoa swimming costume
  • de is used in comparisons when a number is mentioned.
Había más/menos de 100 personas.There were more/fewer than 100 people.
  • Note that you do not use que with más or menos when there is a number involved.
  • de can mean in after superlatives (the most…, the biggest, the least…).
la ciudad más/menos contaminada del mundothe most/least polluted city in the world
  • de is used after certain adjectives and verbs.
contento de verpleased to see
Es fácil/difícil de entender.It’s easy/difficult to understand.
Es capaz de olvidarlo.He’s quite capable of forgetting it.
Grammar Extra!de is often used in descriptions.
la mujer del sombrero verdethe woman in the green hat
un chico de ojos azulesa boy with blue eyes

4   en

  • en can mean in with places.
en el campoin the country
en Londresin London
en la camain bed
con un libro en la manowith a book in his hand
  • en can mean at.
en casaat home
en el colegioat school
en el aeropuertoat the airport
en la parada de autobúsat the bus stop
en Navidadat Christmas
  • en can mean in with months, years and seasons and when saying how long something takes or took.
en marzoin March
en 2005in 2005
Nació en invierno.He was born in winter.
Lo hice en dos días.I did it in two days.
  • Note the following time phrase which does not use in in English.
en este momentoat this moment
TipThere are two ways of talking about a length of time in Spanish which translate the same in English, but have very different meanings.
Lo haré dentro de una semana. I’ll do it in a week.
Lo haré en una semana. I’ll do it in a week.
Though both can be translated in the same way, the first sentence means that you’ll do it in a week’s time; the second means that it will take you a week to do it.
  • en can mean in with languages and in set phrases.
Está escrito en español.It’s written in Spanish.
en voz bajain a low voice
  • en can mean on.
sentado en una sillasitting on a chair
en la planta bajaon the ground floor
Hay dos cuadros en la pared.There are two pictures on the wall.
  • en can mean by with most methods of transport.
en cocheby car
en aviónby plane
en trenby train
  • en can mean into.
No entremos en la casa.Let’s not go into the house.
Metió la mano en su bolso.She put her hand into her handbag.
  • en is also used after certain adjectives and verbs.
Es muy buena/mala en geografía.She is very good/bad at geography.
Fueron los primeros/úItimos/únicos en llegar.They were the first/last/only ones to arrive.

5   para

  • para can mean for with a person, destination or purpose.
Para mí un zumo de naranja.An orange juice for me.
Salen para Cádiz.They are leaving for Cádiz.
¿Para qué lo quieres?What do you want it for?
  • Note that you cannot end a sentence in Spanish with a preposition as you can in English.
  • para can mean for with time.
Es para mañana.It’s for tomorrow.
una habitación para dos nochesa room for two nights
  • para is also used with an infinitive with the meaning of (in order) to.
Lo hace para ganar dinero.He does it to earn money.
Lo hice para ayudarte.I did it to help you.
Tippara mí can be used to mean in my opinion.
Para mí, es estupendo.In my opinion, it’s great.

6   por

  • por can mean for when it means for the benefit of or because of.
Lo hice por mis padres.I did it for my parents.
Lo hago por ellos.l’m doing it for them.
por la misma razónfor the same reason
  • por can mean for when it means in exchange for.
¿Cuánto me darán por este libro?How much will they give me for this book?
Te lo cambio por éste.I’ll swap you it for this one.
  • por can mean by in passive constructions.
descubierto por unos niñosdiscovered by some children
odiado por sus enemigoshated by his enemies
  • por can mean by with means of transport when talking about freight.
por barcoby boat
por trenby train
por aviónby airmail
por correo aéreoby airmail
  • por can mean along.
Vaya por ese camino.Go along that path.
  • por can mean through.
por el túnelthrough the tunnel
  • por can mean around.
pasear por el campoto walk around the countryside
  • por is used to talk vaguely about where something or someone is.
Tiene que estar por aquí.It’s got to be around here somewhere.
Lo busqué por todas partes.l looked for him everywhere.
  • por is used to talk about time.
por la mañanain the morning
por la tardein the afternoon/evening
por la nocheat night
  • por is used to talk about rates.
90 km por hora90 km an hour
un cinco por cientofive per cent
Ganaron por 3 a 0.They won by 3 to 0.
  • por is used in certain phrases which talk about the reason for something.
¿por qué?why?, for what reason?
por todo esobecause of all that
por lo que he oídojudging by what l’ve heard
  • por is used to talk about how something is done.
llamar por teléfonoto telephone
Lo oí por la radio.I heard it on the radio.
Grammar Extra!por is often combined with other Spanish prepositions and words, usually to show movement.
Saltó por encima de la mesa.She jumped over the table.
Nadamos por debajo del puente.We swam under the bridge.
Pasaron por delante de Correos.They went past the post office.
Key points
  • a, de, en, para and por are very frequently used prepositions which you will need to study carefully.
  • Each of them has several possible meanings, which depend on the context they are used in.

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