'Para,' When Followed by Infinitive, Often Means 'In Order To'

Lesson 24 in the 'Real Spanish Grammar' Series

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See how para is used twice in this selection.

First paragraph of a news story: 349 euros. No hay un smartphone similar por ese precio. Para encontrar algo de tal calidad hay que pagar 300 euros más. Es el nuevo smartphone de Google, que fabrica la surcoreana LG, y que, para ahorrar costes en intermediarios, solo se vende en la tienda de internet Google Play y sin planes de operadoras de por medio. Se llama Nexus 5.

Source: Spanish newspaper El País, dateline Nov. 1, 2013.

Suggested translation: 349 euros. There is not one similar smartphone for that price. To find something of such quality it is necessary to pay 300 euros more. It's the brand-new Google smartphone, manufactured by South Korean LG. To save on middleman costs, it is sold only at the Google Play Internet store and not through phone carriers' plans. It is called the Nexus 5.

Key grammatical issue: The preposition para is usually used to indicate purpose. When followed by an infinitive, as it is here both times, para often means "in order to."

However, in English, "in order," when it precedes the "to" form of the verb, can almost always be omitted without any change in meaning. In this selection, "para encontrar" could have been translated as "in order to find," and "para ahorrar" could have been translated as "in order to save." This translation, in the interests of brevity, left out both cases of "in order" because it is implied in English.

When translating to Spanish, however, the para is not optional. To say "I eat to live," for example, you would use "Como para vivir." "Como vivir" simply would make no sense.

Here are brief examples of this phenomenon:

  • Tomó una pastilla para dormirse. He took a pill (in order) to fall asleep.
  • Necesito un tenedor para comer. I need a fork (in order) to eat.
  • Para estudiar vamos a la biblioteca. (In order) to study, we are going to the library.
  • Estamos listos para salir. We are ready (in order) to leave.

In some contexts, although not here, "para + infinitive" can better be translated as "for + '-ing' verb form." For example, "Es un libro para leer" could be translated as "It is a book for reading."

Other notes on vocabulary and grammar:

  • Smartphone was italicized in the original, indicating that it is viewed as a foreign or unusual word rather than standard Spanish. Such a device is also known as a teléfono inteligente, although smartphone (pronounced much as in English) is quite common.
  • Hay is the typical way of saying "there is" or "there are." However, the phrase hay que usually means "it is necessary to" or "it is necessary that." Hay is a form of the verb haber.
  • The preposition por is usually used when saying that something is sold for a certain price.
  • Ese is a demonstrative adjective usually meaning "that."
  • Tal followed by a noun is a common way of saying "such" or "this kind of."
  • "Que fabrica la surcoreana LG" is an example of an inverted word order. Fabrica, a conjugated form of fabricar (to manufacture), is the verb for subject LG. The translation used "manufactured by the South Korean LG" rather than the literal "which the South Korean LG manufactures" because the former sounded more natural.
  • The long sentence beginning with "Es el nuevo" has been divided into two sentences in the translation because a single sentence in English here would have been cumbersome.
  • Nuevo means "new." By placing it before the noun, smartphone, the writer gave nuevo extra emphasis, which "brand-new" also does.
  • In traditional Spanish, solo would have been spelled with an orthographic accent: sólo. Under modern rules, however, the accent is optional.
  • Se vende is an example of a reflexive verb.
  • Internet can be written correctly in Spanish with or without the initial letter capitalized.
  • Sin is the preposition for "without."
  • De por medio is a phrase that usually means "in between." The emphasis here, which does not come across as strongly in the translation, is that the phone carriers' charges, if the phones were sold by them, would come in between Google and the customer, thus increasing the costs.
  • Although dictionaries don't list operadora as having a different meaning than operador except when it applies to a female operator (that is, a female who operates something), it appears to be fairly common to refer to a telephone company using the feminine noun operadora rather than the masculine form used for many other types of businesses. The longer term operador de telefonía is also sometimes used.
  • Llamarse is usually used when telling what something or someone is named.
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Erichsen, Gerald. "'Para,' When Followed by Infinitive, Often Means 'In Order To'." ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/para-when-followed-by-infinitive-3079298. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, May 8). 'Para,' When Followed by Infinitive, Often Means 'In Order To'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/para-when-followed-by-infinitive-3079298 Erichsen, Gerald. "'Para,' When Followed by Infinitive, Often Means 'In Order To'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/para-when-followed-by-infinitive-3079298 (accessed November 18, 2017).