El Aula – Por and Para: Two Important Spanish Prepositions


Por and Para.

If ever there were two Spanish prepositions that cause Spanish students frustration, then you can count on them being POR and PARA.

So, what exactly is the issue with these two words?

Is it that they both can mean FOR in English? Maybe it is.

Thanks for… which one is it?

Perhaps it´s because they not only can mean FOR but have other, multiple meanings.

Especially POR.

As a student myself, I recall feeling a tremendous frustration whenever I studied these prepositions. The main trouble was having to wade through the endless lists of rules and regulations that surrounded POR and PARA . Then, only to find that after I had read them, that I felt even more confused.

Have you had the same experience?

It’s likely that you have.


The Solution.

With everyone’s sanity in mind, I decided to create a short video lesson for El Aula that peels back the layers of rules and regulations on Por and Para to the very basics.

So basic are the new rules that you will learn that you will only need to remember TWO SYMBOLS to be able to get Por and Para right 90% of the time. Now, that’s a pretty good hit rate.

I recall trying to learn lists of rules and I still seemed to miss MORE than half of the time, which, given the fact that I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right or wrong was a pretty rubbish result.


No te preocupes.

Don’t worry! Take these two symbols to heart and most of your Por and Para problems will disappear forever.

Of course, I’m not saying that with my system you will always get it right, but nine out of ten isn’t bad at all.


Thanks for…

One addition to the video is saying thank you in Spanish.

Always, and you can take this to the bank, you will use POR when you say “Thank you“.

Gracias por el regalo. = Thanks for the present.

Gracias por haber pensado en mí. = Thanks for having thought about me.


The Reason?

The reason you use POR is precisely for that reason. POR is used when you want to give a REASON for your own or another’s action.

Thank you FOR (and this is why I am thanking you) the present.

 Working for…

Finally, when you want to say that you are working for a specific company you are going to use…PARA.

Why? Once you have watched the video you’ll understand this better, but the best way to think about it is that the company you work for RECEIVES your work and efforts. They get it, and so it’s PARA.

Buena suerte con todo esto. Remember, the simpler the better.


hasta pronto.

Gordon 🙂

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El Aula – Spanish Pronouns – Getting the Order Right

stairs scale el aula pronounsSpanish Pronouns.

Once you enter into the world of Spanish pronouns, your Spanish will never be the same again. What we aim to do with this blog and video is to make sure that it’s for the better and not for the worst.

The idea of Spanish pronouns is to make your sentence CLEAR and EFFICIENT.

Unfortunately, because of the apparent complexity, often they do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.

What to Expect.

There are two things to realise when you begin to use Spanish pronouns. The first is that you can expect your spoken Spanish to slow down dramatically. This is completely normal and it should be welcomed. If you skim the learning process you will only find yourself totally confusing your listener as you mix and match (incorrectly) the entire range pronouns at your disposal.

The second thing to be aware of is that, no matter how much you might fight against it,  you simply CANNOT avoid them. Direct and Indirect pronouns are everywhere. in the Spanish language.

The Good News.

The good news is that Spanish pronouns are not so difficult to use as you might imagine. Firstly, however, before you can really get full benefit from this video you must understand what the Indirect and Direct Spanish pronouns are. To do that, we already have some podcasts on this subject.

If you need to bring yourself up to speed or refresh your thinking check out these two podcasts:

Double Pronouns

Direct and Indirect

The Big Issue.

The biggest issue that people have when trying to incorporate Spanish pronouns into their spoken Spanish is getting the order right, as well as getting the person right.

In this video I give you a foolproof and step by step system that will always produce the correct sentence. All you need to do is to learn the system and apply it.

What puts many people off, however, is that like any learning, it’s a slow and clumsy process at first. (Remember learning to drive and how you were at the beginning.) The other issue is that whilst you are mechanically going through your internal questions and getting the order right, your listener is stifling a yawn and losing the will to live. lol.

The fact is, it will always be like this until you have practised it enough to get a flow going. Just make sure you only talk to kind, understanding people. 🙂

So, watch the video as many times as you need to get it right. Take notes, write test sentences, practice with your study group, do as much as you can to really get the structure into your head and your Spanish can do nothing else but vastly improve.

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El Aula – Ser and Estar Getting them right (1 of 3)

persons scale ser estar el aula

Ser and Estar.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that as students of the Spanish language, we choose the wrong one, VERY OFTEN. lol. One of the reasons that we have problems with these two verbs is that, normally, in our own language we have only one.

Also, errors occur when we don’t understand how the two verbs work and what they really mean.

The idea of this video blog is to help you understand how these verbs work and in what situations you would choose one against the other.

Once we have addressed the SER and ESTAR conundrum, we´ll move on to look at the Preterite and Imperfect tenses. The reason for this is that we have found that many students get the rules mixed up between SER and ESTAR and PRETERITE and IMPERFECT. As you can imagine, this can make what was already a tricky situation into a distaster!

The last video in the series will the one in which we pull together everything and look at the WAS words that have caused us all so many issues and frustration.

Why are there two verbs TO BE?

So many times I’m asked that question and my answer tends to be the same every time.

I have no idea…they just do.

This is not the answer that the students expect, but, in my opinion, it’s the only one that has any validity. Why? Because sometimes asking why doesn’t help you at all. Some things just are, an my suggestion is that when faced with strange situations like  SER and ESTAR, it’s best just to accept it and get on understanding HOW to deal with it.

When to choose SER

Ser is a verb that principally deals with the expected, the normal, our shared beliefs or what we perceive as permanent things.

In the video I cover a range of situations in which SER is used along with a way to think about it that might help you make the right choice in the future.

Think about this:

What colour is grass?

I imagine that the first answer that came to mind is “green”.

This is what we call a shared belief. It’s what we expect.  AND THIS IS “SER

However, that doesn’t get away from the fact that grass can often be others colours, right?

If it gets no sun, it can be yellow. If it is dying it can be brown. However, this is not normal. It’s not the colour that we expect grass to be.

When something does not fit into our shared expectation, or even our individual expectation WE USE ESTAR.


So, for example:

La hierba ES verde. (SER, what we expect)

La hierba ESTÁ marrón. (ESTAR, outside of the normal.)

La hierba ESTÁ amarillo. (ESTAR, outside of the normal.)

Using this system along with all the others that you already have will help to plug the gaps in the areas in which the other rules either don’t apply or are not as clear.

Remember: Native Spanish speakers don’t need to know these rules, nor think about them. They know them naturally, from having spent years hearing every possible combination there is.

As students of the language, we don’t have that luxury.

So, listen in and watch on and together “podemos lograrlo”.

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El Aula – Spanish Preterite and Imperfect When to Use Them (2 of 3)

date scale aula pret imperfHow do I know when to use the Spanish Preterite and Imperfect?

This is probably one of the most asked questions by every student of the Spanish language that is faced with the daunting task of talking in the past.

One of the hurdles that everyone has to overcome, no matter which part of Spanish grammar they are studying, is that usually these kind of questions have no short answer.

Normally, we are loaded down by a whole host of rules and regulations that we have to consider before we can even get a word out of our mouths.

Native speakers have it easy.

Native Spanish speakers do not have this problem. In fact, they are blissfully ignorant of all of the rules we have to learn to enable us to get it right. That’s because they have learnt by ear, which is how we learnt our own maternal language.

We, sadly, don’t have that luxury and are obliged to mechanically work through the rights and wrongs without the benefit of being able to say: It just sounds right. or That sounds terrible.

What I have aimed to do in this podcast is to distil all of these rules into a simplistic way of thinking that, if used correctly, will allow you to get it right at least 8 times out of 10.

Just like all learning, the more you study and listen to native speakers talk, the easier it will be to simply go with your intuition when it comes to choosing the between the Spanish preterite and imperfect.

Time and effort sorts everything out for you. However, in the mean time, by watching this video or listening to this podcast a good few times, it will give you the foundation you need to steer you in the right direction and will allow you to build on a solid understanding.

How do I clear up my confusions?

I’ve always found that when I am confused about a particular grammar point, I make mistake after mistake without ever understanding why or knowing if I have it right or not.

The answer, for me, has always been to ask, read up on it, use the Internet, go on a chat room and ask someone, ask my teacher or anything else that might help me clear the confusion up.

This is one of the great benefits of one to one classes. We have seen so many of our students really begin to surge forward once they begin one to one classes with us on Skype.

Be careful who you ask!

If you are able to, we suggest that you find a teacher to help you. Be careful not to ask people who have no idea of their own grammar rules (this is the majority…so beware). I did this a lot and it caused me even more confusion.

We hope this podcast helps you in your learning journey.

Gordon 🙂

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El Aula – The 4 ways to say WAS in Spanish (3 of 3)

was4 scaleSaying WAS in Spanish.

One of the greatest challenges for any student of the Spanish language is getting to grips with the Preterite and Imperfect combined with SER and ESTAR.

This issue comes to a head when we are faced with deciding which of the four options we need to use when we say WAS in Spanish.

Of course, there are many other options, too, but for this Spanish video podcast we will be focussing on the WAS.

The Options.

So, when we want to say WAS in Spanish we have these options:

FUE (Preterite) or ERA (Imperfect)

ESTUVO (Preterite) or ESTABA (Imperfect)

To understand which one to choose, we firstly have to have a handle on SER and ESTAR and then on the PRETERITE and the IMPERFECT.

Therefore, if you haven’t already seen the first two video podcasts that I’ve made, please go back and watch them. However, if you are already “un crack”, please go straight into this podcast.

A process of elimination.

Unlike native speakers, we have the laborious job of wading through a set of rules before we can make a reasonable guess on the four options.

Let’s see, however, if we can cut these rules down to the very basics.

Let’s take the following sentence as an example:

The man was here.

Let’s run through a list of questions that will quickly help you identify the verb and the tense.


1, Is this a state that will change?        Yes =ESTAR          No =SER

2, Is this referring to a location?       Yes = ESTAR    No = SER (Except organised events which is the opposite.)

3, Is this what you expect?            Yes = SER          No = ESTAR


1, Can you measure this (Time, frequency?)      Yes = PRETERITE  No = IMPERFECT

2, Are you talking about a repetitive uncountable event?          Yes = IMPERFECT  NO = PRETERITE


So, what do you think?

The man was here.

The answer to question one on the verb is YES.  This is a state that will change. The man will not always be here. Thus we will use is likely to be ESTAR.

It is also referring to a location.

Thus the verb is likely to be ESTAR.

Is this what you expect? This is a fairly irrelevant question, so we can ignore it.

Based on getting ESTAR twice from our questions, we can safely assume that it’s ESTAR.

The answer to question one on the tense is…unless more information is given then NO we CANNOT measure it.

So, it’s likely that we will use the IMPERFECT.

However, we are not talking about an uncountable event. He was here this morning. Once.

The issue is that the sentence is vague.

If this was your sentence then you can easily know if it should be Preterite or Imperfect by checking measurement.

Do you know how long he was here?

If you know that, then you would probably use the PRETERITE.

If you had no real idea and you simply knew that he had been around, then you would probably use the IMPERFECT.

So, you could say:

El hombre ESTUVO aquí esta mañana.

or El hombre ESTABA aquí esta mañana.

BOTH SENTENCES are correct.

All that is happening is that they are saying something slightly different.

Using ESTABA is very vague. You really don’t have the details.

Using ESTUVO is much more exacting and you know more clearly about his visit.

Note: If you use ESTABA, it’s possible that you aren’t even sure if he’s still around. But, if you use ESTUVO you know for a fact that he has gone! It’s over, finished.

So, listen in to the video podcast and let’s start to put some flesh on to the bones of this subject.



Gordon 🙂

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