In short – both these expressions are synonyms of the English word ‘forever’, but you might notice a preference for ‘para siempre’ in everyday conversation and a tendency for ‘por siempre’ to pop up in literature and written Spanish generally.
And what’s the real difference between them?
Well, let’s find out!
‘Por siempre’ and ‘para siempre’ can BOTH be used in the following way –
As a synonym of ‘forever’ –
Serás recordado por siempre / para siempre. = You’ll be remembered forever.
‘Para siempre’ is far more common in everyday speech, and you’ll often find it used like the expression ‘for good’ –
Le dio la espalda a las drogas para siempre. = He turned his back on drugs for good.
‘Por siempre’ vs ‘para siempre’
‘Siempre’ literally translates to ‘always’ in English but whack the prepositions ‘por’ or ‘para’ in front of it and you get the Spanish equivalent of ‘forever’.
And how do we choose between them?
Well, ‘por’ AND ‘para’ both translate to ‘for’ in English (amongst other things), but they’re rarely used interchangeably (i.e., they both have their own unique uses … uh-oh!).
Luckily, when paired with ‘siempre’ they ARE in fact interchangeable.
Yep, we just dodged a bullet … at least for the time being!
That being said my advice is that you always plump for ‘para siempre’ if in doubt!
Why? Well, even though the well-respected Royal Academy of the Spanish Language states that BOTH are entirely valid, the reality is that ‘para siempre’ is much more common in everyday speech –
Alfonso – ¿Por qué tu hermano está vendiendo su trompeta?
Camila – Dice que va a dejar la música para siempre.
Alfonso – Why is your brother selling his trumpet?
Camila – He says he’s gonna quit music forever.
¡Quisiera que las vacaciones duraran para siempre!*
I wish the holidays would last forever!
*Erika’s top tip – ‘que’ in this sentence is acting as a conjunction (i.e., a word that links other words and phrases); DON´T get it confused with that pesky ‘lo que’!
A great example of this is the way in which ‘para siempre’ can be used as a synonym of ‘for good’ whilst ‘por siempre’ is almost never used in this sense!
Después del accidente, los Hernández abandonaron la casa familiar para siempre.
After the accident, the Hernandez family left the family home for good.
There’s nothing *technically* wrong with using ‘por siempre’ in the above sentence, it’s just not commonly used in this context
‘Por siempre’ is found mostly in Spanish literature, poetic phrases, songs or religious prayers, as it tends to be associated with ‘eternally’ or ‘everlasting’.
Vivirá por siempre en nuestros corazones.
He shall live eternally in our hearts.
¡Alabada sea por siempre!
Praised be for all eternity!
But this is by no means a steadfast rule, since you’ll likely also come across examples of ‘para siempre’ in literature as well –
Y vivieron felices para siempre.
And they lived happily ever after.
So … the best way to truly master these phrases is by familiarizing yourself with them both in spoken Spanish AND written texts.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you use ‘para siempre’ as your go-to phrase.
Mariana – ¿Cuánto tiempo estarás en la ciudad?
Jaime – ¡Para siempre! Planeo mudarme enseguida.
Mariana – How long will you be in town?
Jaime – Forever! I plan to move here right away.
Lalo – Si tuvieras una lámpara mágica, ¿qué le pedirías al genio?
Karen – ¡Tacos gratis para siempre!
Lalo – If you had a magic lamp, what would you ask the genie?
Karen – Free tacos forever!
Expressions with ‘por siempre’ / ‘para siempre’
Por siempre y para siempre
Wait, you can use BOTH expressions in one sentence?!
‘Por siempre y para siempre’ is very similar to the English expression ‘forever and ever’.
¡Te amaré por siempre y para siempre!
I will love you forever and ever!
Por siempre jamás
The most common translation of ‘jamás’ is ‘never’, but it’s important not to forget that it means ‘ever’ as well!
So even though you might be thinking that ‘por siempre jamás’ is a total contradiction (i.e., ‘forever never’), it’s actually just another way of saying ‘forever and ever’ (albeit with an even more dramatic ring to it!).
Su nombre permanecerá como parte de la historia de la humanidad por siempre jamás*.
His name will remain etched into human history forever and ever.
*Erika’s note – scratching your head over the difference between ‘jamás’ and ‘nunca’? Well, be sure to check out our full breakdown of the two (you won’t regret it)!
Es para siempre
This is one of those instances in which ‘para siempre’ eclipses ‘por siempre’ in everyday speech. ‘Es para siempre’ literally translates to ‘(it) is forever’, but it actually means ‘(it) lasts forever’ or ‘(it) is eternal’.
You’ll rarely find it expressed as ‘es por siempre’ (even if there’s nothing strictly wrong with it!).
Nada es para siempre.
Nothing lasts forever.
La juventud no es para siempre.
Youth is not eternal.
So, are you ready to use ‘por siempre’ and ‘para siempre’?
I think you’re good to go … just remember to use ‘para siempre’ if in doubt. As you gain confidence with your Spanish, you’ll be able to integrate ‘por siempre’ on occasion.
Maybe you’ll even be inspired to use it in a poetic way!
Wanna level up your Spanish grammar? Why not head on over to our article on the verb ‘gustar’ next …