How to Express Purpose and Reasons in Spanish

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March 17, 2021

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¡Buenos días! The purpose of/reason for this article is to teach you how to express purpose and reason in Spanish!

Purpose and Reason in Spanish

When we’re speaking Spanish, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a super subtle difference between purpose and reason.

  • When we talk about purpose, we tend to be looking toward an end goal. We often use ‘para’ for purpose.
  • When we talk about reason, we tend to be looking back at an origin or explanation for something. We often use ‘por’ for reason.

Check out our article on the differences between por’ and ’para’ (which can both be translated as ‘for’). That article and this one complement each other to aid understanding.

Expressing purpose

  • As we said above, the purpose of something is the point/goal/objective of it. Here’s some useful vocab:
el propósitopurpose, intention
el objetivoobjective, aim, goal
la finalidadpurpose, (final) objective
tener como finalidadto have as its purpose
la metagoal, target

These words have similar meanings, and are almost interchangeable—like in English, the trick is to use the one that sounds most natural in a specific context. Practice makes perfect when figuring out what’s natural!

Use these words either before or after the verb ‘ser’ (‘to be’). This helps you say that the purpose of X is Y.
¿Cuál es el propósito de esta reunión?What is the purpose of this meeting?
El objetivo de congregarnos esta mañana es ordenar las tareas del día. ¡Tenemos mucho trabajo hoy!The aim of us meeting this morning is to lay out the day’s tasks. We have a lot of work today!
La finalidad del artículo que escribe Marcus es explicar la política mexicana del siglo 15.The objective of the article that Marcus is writing is to explain Mexican politics of the 15th century.
Un profesor del cole debe tener como finalidad enriquecer las mentes jóvenes.A school teacher should have the enrichment of young minds as his/her objective.
Mi meta es ser el mejor boxeador de la región.My goal is to be the best boxer in the region.
  • One of the most straightforward ways of expressing purpose is to say ‘in order to’ + infinitive. Here are the three main variations of this phrase in Spanish:
para + infinitivein order to + infinitive
a + infinitiveto + infinitive
a fin de + infinitivewith the purpose of …-ing

Let’s have a look at these in context:

Vengo para recoger mis cosas. No quiero hablar contigo.I’ve come (in order) to collect my things. I don’t want to talk to you.
También vengo a darte tus cosas.I’ve also come to give you your stuff.
Susie fue a la casa de su ex a fin de recoger sus cosas, pero acabó acostándose allí.Susie went to her ex’s house with the purpose of collecting her things, but she ended up staying the night.
  • Now, let’s advance that slightly. What happens if we add the word ‘que’ after ‘para,’ ‘a,’ or ‘a fin de’? Well, the meaning is almost exactly the same, but we have to use the subjunctive! (If you’re not comfortable with the subjunctive yet, then stick to the infinitive versions above.)
para que + subjunctivein order that …
a que + subjunctivein order that …
a fin de que + subjunctivewith the purpose that/of …

Here’s what we get if we slightly adjust the examples about Susie:

Vengo para que me devuelves mis cosas lo antes posible.I’ve come in order that you return my things asap.
También vengo a que cojas tus cosas. No quiero quedarme con la ropa tuya.I’ve come in order that you take your things/for you to take your things. I don’t want to keep your clothes.
Susie fue a la casa de su ex a fin de que recogiera sus cosas lo antes posible, sin hablarle. Falló.Susie went to her ex’s house, with the purpose of/with the intention of picking up her things asap, without speaking to him. She failed.

Expressing reason

Reason Porque

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  • Reason is more explanation-oriented than goal-oriented. One of our main words for expressing reasons is the classic ‘porque.’ Here are some synonyms of it, too, so you can mix things up:
porquebecause
ya quebecause, since
puesto quebecause, since
debido a + sustantivobecause of + noun, due to + noun

Here’s how they’re used in context:

Me fui de compras porque me sentía triste.I went shopping because I was feeling sad.
Confío en ti, ya que siempre has estado en mi vida.I trust you, since you’ve always been in my life.
¡Voy a arreglar la casa puesto que el alcalde viene a visitar esta tarde!I’m going to tidy the house seeing as the mayor is coming to visit this afternoon!
Voy a llegar tarde al trabajo debido a todos estos atascos.I’m going to arrive late to work because of all these traffic jams.
  • Similar to what we saw earlier, there’s a list of almost interchangeable nouns for expressing reason. Use them either before or after the verb ‘ser’ (‘to be’). This helps you say that the reason for X is Y.
la razónreason
el motivomotive
la causacause, excuse
el porqué*reason, rationale

*Bonus tip: take a look at the table below to ensure you don’t let that last one confuse you. In this case, it’s a noun, the reason. It doesn’t mean ‘why?’ or ‘because.’ Watch out for the spelling differences.

¿Por qué?Why?
Question phrase, formed from two separate words, with an accent.
¿Por qué no estuviste en la oficina ayer?Why weren’t you in the office yesterday?
porquebecause
All one word, no accent.
No vine porque tengo problemas personales.I didn’t come because I have personal problems.
porquéreason
Noun, all one word, with accent.
Explícame el porqué de tu decisión.Explain to me the reason for/rationale behind your decision.

Okay, back to our motives, reasons, and causes:

La razón por la que quiero ser presidente es que me importa la gente.The reason for which I want to be president is that I care about the people.
El ladrón tenía un motivo.The thief had a motive.
En mi clase de geografía, vamos a hablar de las causas y consecuencias de las inundaciones.In my geography class, we’re going to talk about the causes and consequences of flooding.
No había causa ninguna para gritarme.There was absolutely no reason/excuse for you to shout at me.
A él, no le interesan los porqués.He’s not interested in the whys and wherefores.

Quiz

Quiz

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Time to test out your understanding! For each question, choose the translation that you think is most appropriate.

Purpose

  1. Explain the aim of the project to me.

  a. Explíqueme la finalidad del proyecto.

  b. Explíqueme la razón por el proyecto.

  c. Explíqueme el costo del proyecto.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

A

  2. Rupert went to Peru to learn Spanish.

  a. Rupert fue a Perú porque aprender español.

  b. Rupert fue a Perú debido a aprender español.

  c. Rupert fue a Perú a aprender español.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

C

Reason

  1. Be careful. She seems nice but she has an ulterior motive.

  a. Ten cuidado. Parece agradable pero tiene un por que ulterior.

  b. Ten cuidado. Parece agradable pero tiene un motivo ulterior.

  c. Ten cuidado. Parece agradable pero tiene un ya que ulterior.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

B

  2. Kain and I don’t speak, due to the nature of our breakup.

  a. Kain y yo no hablamos, porque la naturaleza de nuestra separación.

  b. Kain y yo no hablamos, ya que la naturaleza de nuestra separación.

  c. Kain y yo no hablamos, debido a la naturaleza de nuestra separación.

Click to reveal the correct answer:

C

Bonus Question

  1. What was the reason for the judge’s decision?

  a. ¿Cuál fue el por qué de la decisión del juez?

  b. ¿Cuál fue el porqué de la decisión del juez?

  c. ¿Cuál fue el porque de la decisión del juez?

Click to reveal the correct answer:

B

¡Muy bien!

Today we’ve covered the differences between purpose and reason, and seen some ways of expressing both. Don’t worry too much about differentiating between the two. Just try practicing the vocab that we’ve covered in this article, and you’ll soon be justifying things all over the place!

About the author 

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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