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Pa: A Shortcut for "Para"

Outside a Spanish classroom, say, on the streets or on the radio, it's very common to hear pa in place of para (for, towards, to a destination, etc.), as we hear in the captions below:


pa todas las funciones, pa todos los públicos. 

for every show, for every audience.

Caption 40, Circo Berlín Fran - Part 1

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Él va pa Chicago.

He goes to Chicago.

Caption 32, Cerro de Ancón Entrenamiento

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Interviewing young Taimur in a middle class neighborhood in Coro, Venezuela, a whole series of the word pa is heard to drive home this point, but this time in the form of contractions with other Spanish words as well. In the captions below, we see that Vine p'acá is the shortened form of Vine para acá and means "I came here," whereas Voy p'allá (Voy para allá) means "I'll go there." In both cases, pa indicates the destination. 


y como yo no soy de este país, me vine p'acá.

and since I'm not from this country, I came here.

Caption 11, Taimur Taimur habla

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Ya yo voy p'allá y me voy pa mi país otra vez.

I'm going there soon, and I'm going to my country again.

Caption 23, Taimur Taimur habla

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Looking for more examples? In the intro to Shakira's ubiquitous song La Tortura (Torture), one can hear that pa ti is the fast way to say "for you," and if you search for p'acá, p'allá or pa'l on the internet, you'll be inundated with letras (lyrics) from the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean down to the tip of Chile and even Spain! Let's hear a couple of song excerpts:


Todo este dinero que yo tengo es pa' ti

All this money that I have is for you

Caption 9, Karamelo Santo Vivo en una isla

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Echa pa' un lado que traigo dinamita

Move aside 'cause I'm bringing dynamite

Caption 2, Javier García EPK - Part 2

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Note that, while you might run across pa written as pa' (with an apostrophe) as it was penned in the official versions of the song lyrics above, this is incorrect since pa on its own is an apocope, or shortened word form, unlike the previous contractions that combine two or more words. You might also find it written with an accent as , but this is also incorrect since, according to the Spanish accent rules, with the exception of the diacritical accent, monosyllabic words should never have a written accent.


In conclusion, keep in mind that the Spanish word pa and its related contractions are used in informal or artistic writing and speech and should generally not be employed in formal situations. With this in mind, we hope you have enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments.

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