Although para is usually translated as "for," it may be best to think of it as a preposition used to show purpose, as the selection below shows.
Excerpt from news article: Facebook está desarrollando una aplicación para smartphones para detectar la ubicación exacta de los amigos en esta red social en el marco de su estrategia para aumentar su uso en los dispositivos móviles.
Source: La Vanguardia of Barcelona, Spain. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2013.
Suggested translation: Facebook is developing a smartphone application for detecting the exact location of friends on the social network as part of its strategy to increase its use on mobile devices.
Para can nearly always be translated as "for," although you may want to translate it in other ways or not at all, as is the case twice in the suggested translation. However you translate it, para indicates the why of what precedes. Thus, the purpose of the application is to be on smartphones, the purpose of the application is to detect or track locations, and the purpose of the strategy is to increase use of the social network. Other possible translations of the para phrases here include "application for smartphones," "in order to detect" and "in order to increase."
Other notes on vocabulary and grammar:
- The main verb of the sentence, "está desarrollando," is in the present progressive tense. Although it would have been possible to use simply desarrolla here, the use of the progressive tense emphasizes that the work is ongoing.
- The use of los in "los amigos" and "los dispositivos" is discussed in an earlier lesson in this series on definite articles.
- "Esta red social" could have been translated literally as "this social network." However, esta was translated as "the" in keeping with ordinary English usage, which seems to use demonstrative adjectives less than Spanish does.