Expressing the Idea of 'In Order To'

Subordinators of Purpose

Spanish ruins for grammar lesson
Fueron a las ruinas con el fin de aprender más. (They went to the ruins in order to learn more.). Xavi/Creative Commons.

When stating an action that is being or will be taken, it is often necessary to state what its goal or purpose is. In English, we often do this with the phrase "in order to." Other phrases commonly used for the same purpose are "so that" or, in more formal contexts, "with the aim of."

A phrase such as "in order to" is what is known to grammarians as a subordinator of purpose. In Spanish, the most common subordinator of purpose is the conjunction para or the phrase para que, as in the following examples:

  • Come para vivir, no vive para comer. (Eat in order to live, do not live in order to eat.)
  • Para perder peso, tiene que reducir la cantidad de calorías en su dieta. (In order to lose weight, you have to reduce the number of calories in your diet.)
  • Haga click en la foto para conocer los últimos trabajos de este artista. (Click on the picture in order to learn more about the final works of this artist.)
  • Voy a hacer una lista para que no olvides mis cosas. (I'm going to make a list so that you don't forget my things.)
  • Para que comprenda lo que quiero decir, primero permítame advertirle. (In order to understand what I want to say, first let me tell you.)
  • También se le debe ofrecer agua para que beba. You can also offer him water in order for him to drink.

Although I have used "in order to" in the above translations, other English subordinators of purpose could also be used: Eat so that you live, don't live so that you eat.

I am going to make a list with the aim that you don't forget my things. You can also offer him water with the purpose of having him drink.

Note that, as in the above examples, para que is followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood, while para standing alone is followed by an infinitive. Also you may notice that when the "para + infinitive" construction is used, the person performing both actions is the same, while when "para que + subjunctive" is used, the persons are different.

See the difference in these simple examples:

  • Trabajo para comer. (I work so that I eat.)
  • Trabajo para que comas. (I work so that you eat.)

This rule isn't always strictly followed. It is possible under some circumstances to use para by itself when there is a shift of doer, or (more often) to use para que when there's not. But the method given here is the most common and also the easiest for foreigners to use if they wish to keep from making grammatical blunders.

Here are some examples of other Spanish subordinators of purpose (in boldface):

  • Salieron a cazar por el día. (They left in order to hunt for the day. Note, that as in this example, that when a is used as a subordinator of purpose, it is followed by an infinitive. A is used as such a subordinator primarily with verbs that indicate motion from one place to another.)
  • Llegan a comer mariscos. (They came in order to eat seafood.)
  • Llame al oficina a fin de hablar confidencialmente con un asesor. (Call the office in order to speak confidentially with an advisor.)
  • A fin de que su aplicación sea útil, las correlaciones encontradas deben ser tan poco obvias que parezcan ilógicas. (In order for your application to be useful, the correlations found ought to be so inobvious that they seem illogical.)
  • Fueron a las ruinas con el fin de aprender más. (They went to the ruins in order to learn more.)
  • Con el fin de que el turismo pueda ser una actividad sostenible, es fundamental que se adopten códigos de conducta. (In order for tourism to be a sustainable activity, it is vital that codes of conduct be adopted.)
  • Con objeto de controlar la producción agraria, se prevén sistemas de cuotas. (In order to control farm production, quota systems are being planned.)
  • Con objeto de que los grupos sean lo más homogéneos posibles, rogamos que no participen los desempleados. (So that the groups are as homogenous as possible, we ask that unemployed persons not participate.)

As you might have guessed, the differences between a fin de and a fin de que, and between con objeto de and con objeto de que, are similar to the differences between para and para que.

Phrases such as con el fin de and con objeto de are more common in Spanish and less stuffy-sounding than English equivalents such as "with the purpose of."