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Para que: Saying "So That" in Spanish

Today's lesson will focus on the oft-used conjunction para que, which means "so that" or "in order for" in Spanish. 

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Examples of para que in Spanish Sentences

Beginning with a few sentences that contain the Spanish conjunction para que, see if you can identify elements that they all have in common.

 

y ahora colocaré esta mezcla en la refrigeradora, para que se enfríe un poco,

and now, I'll put this mixture in the refrigerator so that it cools down a bit,

Captions 33-34, Ana Carolina Ponche navideño

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¿Pueden dejar de llorar para que empecemos la competencia?

Can you stop crying so that we can start the competition?

Caption 53, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 5

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y los invito a que pongan en práctica todas estas reglas para que puedan usar correctamente estas preposiciones.

and I invite you to put all these rules into practice so that you can use these prepositions correctly.

Captions 70-71, Carlos explica Las preposiciones 'por' y 'para' - Part 3

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Para que Parameters

Did you come up with any commonalities? Let's lay down a couple of ground rules for using para que in Spanish.

 

1. Para que should only be used when there is a change of subject.  

In other words, one thing is done by one entity so that another entity "can" do something else.  

 

Using the English translations, in the first example, "I" (the first subject) will put the mixture in the fridge so that "it" (the second subject) is able to cool down. In the second, "you guys" (the first subject) should stop crying so that "we" (the second subject) can commence the competition, and in the third, "I" (the first subject) am doing the inviting in order for you "you guys" (the second subject) to use the prepositions right.

 

* Note that in these Spanish sentences, the subjects are implied by their verb conjugations rather than explicitly stated (for example, as invito is the first person singular of the verb invitar (to invite), we know the subject is "I").

 

2. Para que is always followed by a subjunctive tense.

If we think of this in terms of our W.E.I.R.D.O. formula for when to use the subjunctive in Spanish, it makes sense since just because something "could" happen based on an initial action, we aren't sure if it will. You will note that two of three translations include the word "can," although this is not always the case, and there are often many ways to translate a Spanish that includes para que into English. 

 

Although all of the examples we have seen thus far have included verbs in the present subjunctive tense, you might come across examples in other subjunctive tenses, such as the imperfect subjunctive when the action takes place in the past. Let's take a look at some examples: 

 

Les dimos los juguetes, los bolígrafos, uno para cada uno para que pudieran escribir.

We gave them the toys, the pens, one for each one so that they could write.

Captions 8-9, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 4

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Lo que hice fue preparar todos los burros, para que estuviesen acostumbrados a recibir a visitas,

What I did was to prepare all the donkeys so they were used to getting visitors,

Captions 35-36, Amaya Apertura del refugio

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Alternative translations for this second example might be "so that they would be used to getting visitors" or "so that they could get used to getting visitors."

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Expressing "So That" With No Subject Change

Although you might hear it done occasionally in spoken Spanish, remember that you should not use para que to connect clauses when there is no change of subject. For example, what if you wanted to say, "I'm going to call the restaurant as soon as possible so that I can get a table"? You shouldn't say Yo voy a llamar el restaurante lo antes posible para que (yo) pueda conseguir una mesa" but instead use para + the infinitive as follows:

 

Yo voy a llamar el restaurante lo antes posible para poder conseguir una mesa.

I'm going to call the restaurant as soon as possible so I can get a table (literally "to be able to get a table"). 

 

Let's see some more examples:

 

mis toallitas desmaquillantes, y mi espejo, donde me miro todas las mañanas para saber que estoy bien.

my makeup remover towelettes, and my mirror, where I look at myself every morning in order to know I look OK.

Captions 55-56, Amaya "Mi camper van"

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An alternative translation could be "so that I know I look OK."

 

Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria para poder realizar la firma de todos los documentos originales.

We should always go personally to the banking entity in order to be able to do the signing of all the original documents.

Captions 13-14, Raquel Abrir una cuenta bancaria

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Another way to say this in English could be "so we can sign all of the original documents." In any case, because there is no change in subject in either of these examples (in the first one, it's yo/I and in the second one, it's nosotros/we), the formula para plus the infinitive was used in lieu of para que

 

¿Para qué?

To conclude, remember that when para qué is used in question or implied question form, it has an accent and means "why?" or "what for?" Let's see some examples:

 

¿Y para qué lo necesito?

And what do I need it for?

Caption 6, Clase Aula Azul Planes para el futuro - Part 1

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¿Para qué fuiste al cine?

Why [for what purpose] did you go to the movies?

Caption 53, Carlos explica Las preposiciones 'por' y 'para' - Part 1

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Keep in mind that although para qué can also be translated as "why" in some contexts, it has a slightly different meaning than por qué (which also means "why") in that it focuses on goal or purpose rather than strictly reason. For more on this subtle distinction, check out this video on the Spanish prepositions por vs. para.

 

That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has made the expression para que more clear para que la puedan usar bien (so that you can use it correctly) and sound like a native speaker. And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

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