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Por, Para: Forever Complications

The title of this week's new music video is the common phrase Para Siempre, meaning "forever." Take a look at how the phrase is used in the lyrics:

 

Puedo esperar para siempre

I can wait forever

Caption 5, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Puede durar para siempre

Can last forever

Caption 7, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Quiero vivir para siempre

I want to live forever

Caption 13, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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Tiene que ser para siempre

It has to be forever

Caption 15, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Para here means "for." Para + an expression of time will indicate a point in time for which something is intended--or, a deadline. In the examples above, our singer is intending something to go on forever. Here are two less poetic examples of para in action:

 

Tengo tarea para mañana.
I have homework for tomorrow.


Tengo que terminar este informe para la semana que viene.
I have to finish this report for next week.

 

But astute listeners will catch that there's another way to say "for" in Spanish, also used in this song. Look at this line of our featured song:

 

O por toda una eternidad -Si me lo pides

Or for all eternity -If you ask me

Caption 4, Zurdok - Para Siempre

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You see, por + an expression of time usually indicates the duration of something. For example:

 

Él trabajó por tres horas.

He worked for three hours.

 

Por la semana que viene, vamos a tener clases en el edificio porque acá hay una reunión.

(Just) for next week, we are having classes in the old building because there is a meeting here.

 

The difference is subtle when we're talking about the intention "forever" (para siempre) vs. the duration "forever" (por siempre). It's no wonder por and para take a lot of practice to get right for non-native Spanish speakers. But here's a hint to help you along: The phrase 'para siempre' is much more common than 'por siempre' in romantic song lyrics and on Valentine's cards. And even native Spanish speakers debate the por / para divide.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

So, if you want to tell someone that "it has to be forever"--and you want to sound like a native Spanish speaker in the process-- remember this catchy tune to remind you to say "tiene que ser para siempre."

(Final note: We've touched on por and para before, specifically looking at what happens when each is paired with the infinitive of a verb.)
 
Grammar

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Untertitel 15, 13, 7, 5, 4
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