"Por qué" and "para qué" are often used in questions in Spanish. And they both tend to be translated as "why" in English. However, there is a subtle difference between them.
Por qué vs. Para qué
- Para qué doesn't really exactly mean "why". It can be more accurately translated as "for what" or “what for?”. So it is commonly used to ask for the purpose, objective, goal, or attention of something.
¿Para qué ganó la elección? - For what purpose did she win the election?
- Por qué is used to address the cause of something. Use it when you want to know the reason or motivation for the action.
¿Por qué has venido? - Why have you come?
¿Por qué te vas? - Why are you leaving?
As mentioned in por vs para lesson, "para" often means "for" in the sense of "in order to" while "por” means "because of” or “by”. So “por qué” can be literally translated as "because of what" or "what caused this to occur?" And "para qué" literally means "in order to what."
It is possible to subtitute por qué for para qué. However, the point of emphasis in the sentence may change when por qué is substituted for para qué.
¿Por qué es eso? - Why is that?
¿Para qué es eso? - What's that for?
¿Por qué murió el soldado? - What caused the soldier to die?
¿Para qué murió el soldado? - For what purpose did the soldier die?
Por qué/Por que/Porqué/Porque
Use of Por qué, por que, porqué, and porque
- "Por qué" means "why" and is used to ask for a reason while "porque" means "because". "Porque" is used to explain the cause of something.
¿Por qué te vas? Porque ya es muy tarde. - Why are you leaving? Because it is too late already.
- Por que, two words without an accent mark, is the least commonly used. It is equivalent to "for which" and is often used as a prepositional phrase.
Este es el motivo por que no llamé - This is the reason for which I didn't call
- Porqué is a noun and is often preceded by a possessive adjective. It means "reason" or "cause."
No entiendo el porqué de tu decisión - I do not understand the reason behind your decision
Él tiene un porqué para actuar así - He has a reason to act like this
And since it's a noun, it also has the plural form.
Ella comentó los porqués de su comportamiento - She explained the reasons of his behavior.
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