Spanish expressions: “Estar a punto de…”, “estar por…”

spanish expressions estar a punto de estar por

“Estar a punto de” and “estar por” are very common expressions in the Spanish language. We can use “estar a punto de” and “estar por” in formal contexts with people of authority. We know that Spanish can have many expressions that do not work for the same thing, no matter how similar they are. So, if we want to find an equal in English for “estar a punto de”, we can say that it would be: “to be about to + infinitive”. And, for the phrase “estar por”, it would be: “to be + infinitive”.

Adding these two phrases to your Spanish vocabulary will help you talk about things that are about to happen in a matter of minutes or seconds. Even, they help you talk about things you think will happen but you aren’t sure or they just won’t. If you want to know more about “estar a punto de” and “estar por”, keep reading.

How to use ‘estar a punto de’

You could use “estar a punto de” when you mean that you are very close to executing an action. Although, if we separate this expression by words, we could say that “estar” is a verb, while “a punto de” is a phrase or “locution”. This phrase goes before an infinitive that expresses the proximity of an action.

However, it does not mean that the action we are talking about will indeed take place. To explain it better, we can use “estar a punto de”, either to say that we are close to executing an action, or we can use it just as an expression. When we use “estar a punto de” as an expression, we refer to when we are about to do something that we probably won’t get done.

Let’s see a few examples to provide you with a better picture.

Pero su vida entera podría estar a punto de cambiar.

But her entire life could be about to change.

Santiago debe estar a punto de pedirle matrimonio a su novia.

Santiago must be about to propose to his girlfriend.

El concierto parecía estar a punto de colapsar en cualquier momento.

The concert seemed to be about to collapse at any moment.

The example above was an expression since the concert did not collapse.

Sometimes, we talk about “estar a punto de” in the past tense. Changing only the verb “estar” (“to be”) in the past tense, which would be “estuve” (“I was”) in the singular form. And on the other side, we have “estuvimos” (“we were”) in the plural form.

Here are some examples below,

Estuvimos a punto de irnos de viaje el fin de semana, pero mi papá se enfermó.

We were about to go on a trip for the weekend, but my dad got sick.

Estuve a punto de reprobar el examen, pero el profesor me dio otra oportunidad.

I was about to fail the exam, but the teacher gave me another chance.

As you may see, in all cases, we use a verb in the infinitive form after the expression “estuve/estuvimos a punto de”. Also, we use “pero” to express opposition or to explain the reason why the main event wasn’t finished.

How to use ‘estar por’

We use “estar por” when the action or certain events have to happen almost immediately. Another meaning may be that we are waiting to do something. Also, that another person is about to do something, or that we are in favor of something. We also use “estar por” when we want to say that objects, things, animals, or people are somewhere.

Here are some examples to provide you with a better idea.

Ya estaba por irme, pero luego recordé que había dejado el celular arriba.

I was about to leave, but then I remembered that I had left my cell phone upstairs.

Esos koalas tienen que estar por aquí en alguna parte.

Those koalas have to be around here somewhere.

Estoy por comer, tienes que esperar un tiempo.

I’m about to eat, you have to wait a while

You can use “estar por” together with words like “aquí”. It’s even pretty common. Yet, generally speaking, we use “estar por” together with verbs in the infinitive form when we want to express that we are about to do something. In the first example, we use “irme” because it’s the combination of ir + the direct-object pronoun me.

‘Estar a punto de’ vs ‘estar por’

When we use “estar a punto de” and “estar por” in Spanish, we can say that they have similar meanings, although not the same. When we talk about “estar a punto de”, we express that an action is about to happen immediately. But, it may also not end up happening for some reason.

When we talk about “estar por”, we also refer to when an action is about to take place. But, unlike “estar a punto de”, we sometimes use the expression “estar por” when we are in favor of something. And, we can use it with verbs or nouns.

Let’s see the example below.

Estoy por la libertad de expresión.

I am for freedom of expression.

As you can see, we use the formula estar por + noun. Also, you must keep in mind that, with “estar por”, there’s almost no room to leave the task undone.

Another difference between “estar a punto de” and “estar por” is that we can use “estar por” as a reference to something being in a place. Besides, we can say that “estar por” has more variations in its uses than “estar a punto de”. However, we can use both when we refer to the moment of acting.

Below you will see some examples of “estar por” and “estar a punto de” to get a clearer idea of their differences.

Tu padre no va a estar por un tiempo.

Your father won’t be around for a while.

Están por revisar esos documentos.

They’re about to review those documents.

Estaba a punto de salir cuando me llamó.

I was about to leave when he called me.

Se ve que está a punto de llorar.

It looks like she is about to cry.

‘Estamos por terminar’

In summary, it is important to know that we can change the verb by singular, plural, past, present, or future in both cases. It all depends on what we want to express in the sentence. “Estar a punto de” and “estar por” are expressions that we can use in our day-to-day lives. And not only that, but we can also give them different meanings.

We just have to remember how to structure the infinitive with “estar a punto de” and “estar por”, and we will be ready to start using them when speaking Spanish.

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