Hello Duolingo-folk, 9+ years after I wrote this! Let me know if you need further clarification in the comments below!
Time to cement the very important difference between the similarly spelt “pro” and “por”. They could easily be confused, because in some situations they are both translated as “for” in English.
Think of them like this:
- pro = because of, on account of, for the sake of
- por = for, in order to, meant for
- Mi skribis la leteron pro vi = I wrote the letter for you (for your sake, on your account).
- Mi skribis la leteron por vi = I wrote the letter for you (meant for you).
Pro expresses the cause,motive or reason for an action, feeling or state. In the format: <action/feeling/state> pro <reason/cause>. So:
- Mi timas la mondon pro la meloj = I fear the world because of the badgers.
Pro can also be used before “tio, ke”. Literally “because of/on account of that thing, that…” Which is almost exactly equal to “ĉar” = “because”:
- Meloj estas kruelaj pro tio, ke ili manĝas homoj = Badgers are cruel on account of the fact (thing) that (because) they eat people.
“Por” can show what something is meant for:
- Mi aĉetis melon por vi = I bought a badger for you.
Or very similarly, what an action/feeling is in aid of:
- Mi faris ĝin por mia sano = I did it for my health.
It works similarly before a verb infinitive (word ending with “i”), and like English, then becomes “in order to”:
- Mi kuris por eskapi la melojn = I ran in order to escape the badgers.
Similarly to “meant for” is also shows what an action/feeling/thing affects:
- Meloj estas agrablaj por la okuloj = Badgers are pleasing for the eyes.
“Por” can also show agreement for (in favour of) something, meaning the opposite of “kontraŭ” (against).
- Mi estas por la propono = I am for (in favour of) the proposal.
In a similar way it can show a subjective viewpoint as in this example from the PMEG page on “por”:
- Por patrino ne ekzistas infano malbela = For (from the viewpoint of) a mother, there doesn’t exist an ugly child
It can also be used before “ke”. “Por ke” = “in order that / so that”. This requires you to use the imperative (a “u” ending). I’ll leave this for a future post. Here’s an example:
- Mi oferos min al la meloj, por ke vi povu (imperative) ilin eskapi = I will sacrifice myself to the badgers, so that you can escape them.
“Por” is also used in expressions of time:
- Por momento = For a moment
And also shows what you are paying for:
- Mi pagis por du meloj = I paid for two badgers.
It’s meaning kind of overlaps with “pro” when paying for things, or providing things (which is like paying with something other than money). This is especially the case with gratitude.
Because “pro” could be used as in this example from PMEG:
- Kion vi postulas pro la poto? = What are you demanding (in terms of price) for (on account of the) the jug?
But the most overlap is here:
- vi dankos min por tio = you will thank me for that
- vi dankos min pro tio = you will thank me for that
The reason they can be both used to mean about the same thing, is because “pro” is saying “thanks on account of that” i.e. showing motive for the thanks. Whereas “por” is used in the sense of paying thanks for that (and we know that “por” can be used in paying expressions). I kinda prefer “pro” 🙂
(I took inspiration from all over the place for this post. There’s a bit on por and pro in “Being Colloquial in Esperanto“, and in the PMEG (por,pro), and in Kellerman’s Complete Grammar of Esperanto!)