Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Portuguese Language Primer

We may as well admit that most of us were introduced to Portuguese through Astrud Gilberto's "The Girl from Ipanema." That's nothing to be ashamed of, and if hearing the legendary songstress's delicate whispering accompanying various bossa nova and samba tunes isn't enough to convince you that learning some Portuguese is worth doing then nothing will. Yet it's also a great way to interact with locals in Portugal, Brazil, and other interesting parts of the world. One thing you will find is that Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, which makes sense given the proximity of the nations of origin, and anyone who already knows some Spanish will have an easy time picking up Portuguese as many of the basic principles of grammar carry over.

Nothing useful begins without a disclaimer, so here's mine: remember that when it comes to languages nearly every rule has an exception, and I am only including some of those here. My intention is to provide an introductory summary that can serve as a supplement to a phrase book if you're travelling in a Portuguese-speaking country and might perhaps inspire you to study the language more extensively, in which case you should take a language course or find a good textbook. Also note that vocabulary, usage, and pronunciation vary according to region. I will try to point out some of the most significant differences between the language as spoken in Portugal and in Brazil, but be aware that there are numerous others as well as other more local variations.


1. Pronunciation
2. Nouns, singular and plural
3. Definite articles
4. Indefinite articles
5. Personal pronouns
6. Indicative tense verbs
7. Irregular indicative tense verbs
8. "Ser" and "estar," two verbs for "to be"
9. Questions
10. Negatives
11. Reiterative replies
12. Descriptive adjectives
13. Adverbs
14. "Tudo" vs. "todo"
15. "Muito" and "pouco"
16. Direct object pronouns
17. Indirect object pronouns
18. Combining direct and indirect object pronouns
19. Object pronoun position
20. Possessive adjectives
21. Possessive pronouns
22. Demonstrative adjectives
23. Demonstrative pronouns
24. Prepositions
25. Disjunctive pronouns
26. Reflexive pronouns
27. Infinitive verbs
28. Numbers
29. Time expressions
30. Definite and indefinite article pronouns
31. Pronoun review
32. Usage of verb "gostar"
33. Special expressions with "ter" and "estar"
34. Special verb "ficar"
35. Special verb "faltar"
36. Weather expressions
37. Interrogative pronouns
38. Distinguishing "por que," "por quê," "porque," and "por causa de"
39. Comparisons of adjectives
40. Comparisons of adverbs
41. Comparisons of nouns
42. Diminutive and augmentive endings
43. Present continuous verb tense
44. Relative pronouns
45. Preterite verb tense
46. Distinguishing "já," "já não," "ainda," and "ainda não"
47. Imperfect verb tense
48. Future verb tense
49. Special verb "haver"
50. Negative expressions
51. Days and months
52. Imperatives
53. Conditional verb tense
54. Polite commands
55. Past participle
56. Compound perfect verb tenses
57. Subjunctive mood
58. Imperfect subjunctive verb tense
59. Inflected or personal infinitive tense

1. Pronunciation

Though related to Spanish, the pronunciation of Portuguese is not as regular as that of its Iberian sibling language, and it is actually quite challenging creating a simple set of rules. I'm hoping that the below can at least help guide you, but you would do well to listen to a native speaker or use an audio study tool to help clarify. You can assume that any letter not listed below is pronounced very much like its English counterpart.

A, Á, À: Like the "a" in "father" when stressed. Like the "a" in "among" when stressed and before "m" or "n" starting a new syllable. Also like the "a" in "among" when unstressed, at the end of a word, and elsewhere.

Â: Like the "a" in "among."

Ã: Like the "an" in "anchor" with a nasal sound.

ÃE: Like the "ay" in "way" but nasalized when at the end of a word.

AM, AN: Like the "an" in "anchor" with a nasal sound.

ÃO: Like the "ow" in "cow" with a strong nasal sound.

C: Like "s" before "e" or "i." Like the "c" in "car" in other cases.

Ç: Like "s."

CH: Like the "sh" in "shop."

D: Like the English "d" but with the tip of the tongue against the teeth. In Brazil, this letter is pronounced with a "dy" sound when before "i."

E: Like the "e" in "fell" when stressed. Like the "ey" in "they" when unstressed. Like the "i" in "pill" when unstressed before a vowel or at the beginning of a syllable. In Portugal, this letter is clipped or silent when at the end of a word. Also in Portugal, this letter is pronounced like the "a" in "among" when stressed and before "j," "ch," "lh," or "nh."

É: Like the "e" in "fell."

Ê: Like the "ey" in "they."

EM: Like the "ey" in "they" but nasalized.

EN: Like the "ey" in "they" but nasalized.

G: Like the "s" of "leisure" before "e" or "i." Like the "g" of "game" in other cases.

H: Always silent.

I: Like the "i" in "sweet" when stressed. Like the "i" in "pill" when unstressed. Like the "y" in "yet" when before another vowel other than "u."

Í: Like the "ee" in "sweet."

IM, IN: Like the "ee" in "sweet" but nasalized.

J: Like the "s" in "leisure."

L: Usually like the English "l," but when at the end of a syllable this letter is pronounced with the tongue drawn back almost like a "u."

LH: Like the "lli" in "million."

NH: Like the "ni" in "onion" and nasalized.

O: Like the "o" in "jolly" when stressed. Like the "o" in "food" when unstressed, particularly at the end of a word and when alone.

Ó: Like the "o" in "jolly."

Ô: Like the "o" in "sole."

ÕE: Like the "o" in "sole" plus "y" in "yet" and nasalized.

OM, ON: Like the "o" in "sole" but nasalized.

OU: Like the "o" in "sole."

Q: Like the "c" in "car."

R: Generally trilled or like the "ch" in the Scottish pronunciation of "loch" at the beginning and in the middle of a word. In Brazil, this letter is commonly swallowed at the end of a word or syllable.

RR: Generally trilled or like the "ch" in the Scottish pronunciation of "loch."

S: Like the "s" in "sit" at the beginning of a word or after a consonant. In Portugal, like the "sh" in "shop" at the end of a word or before a voiceless consonant (hard "c," hard "g," "f," "p," "qu," and "t"). In Brazil, like the "s" in "sit" at the end of a word or before a voiceless consonant. In Portugal, like the "s" in "leisure" before a voiced consonant ("b," "d," "ge," "gi," "j," "l," "m," "n," "r," "v," "z"). In Brazil, like the English "z" before a voiced consonant. Like the English "z" between vowels

SS: Like the "ss" in "sit."

T: Like the English "t" but with the tip of the tongue against the teeth. In Brazil, this letter is pronounced like "t" with "y" before the letter "i."

U: Like the "oo" in "moon" when stressed. Like the "ou" in "would" when before "l" in the same syllable. Silent when between "g" or "q" and "e" or "i" in most cases. Like the "w" in "wall" when between "g" or "q" and "a" or "o" and "e" or "i" in some cases.

Ú: Like the "oo" in "moon."

UM, UN: Like the "oo" in "moon" but nasalized.

X: Like the "sh" in "shop" at the beginning of a word or syllable and frequently between vowels. Like the English "z" when "ex" comes before a vowel. Like the "x" in "taxi" in some words. Sometimes like the "s" in "sit" between vowels. Not prounounced when followed by a "ce" or "ci." In Portugal, like the "sh" in "shop" before a consonant. In Brazil, like the "s" in "sit" before a consonant.

Z: Like the English "z" at the beginning of a word or between vowels. In Portugal, like the "sh" in "shop" at the end of a word and like the "s" in "leisure" before a voiced consonant. In Brazil, like the English "z" before a voiced consonant.

Syllable stress:
Stress in Portuguese is fairly regular and can be mastered by remembering a few simple rules:
1) Words that end in "a," "e," "o," "s," "em," or "ens" and verbs ending in "am" are stressed on the next to last syllable.
2) Words that end in any other letter are stressed on the last syllable.
3) Exceptions to these rules are indicated with an accent mark (examples: "á," "à," "â") above the vowel. The tilde (as in ã) also indicates stress unless another accent mark is present.

2. Nouns, singular and plural

Nouns seem to be a good place to start. As in the other romance languages, Portuguese has two genders for nouns: masculine and feminine. The terms are mostly arbitrary, so you shouldn't try to figure out why, for example, the word for "salt" ("sal") is masculine and the noun for "pepper" ("pimenta") is feminine.

To determine a noun's gender, you need to look up the word in a dictionary. However, some helpful guidelines apply in most cases:
Nouns that end in "o" are usually masculine.
Nouns that end in a consonant are usually masculine.
Nouns that end in "a," "-gem," "-dade," "-tude," and "ção" are usually feminine.
Nouns that end in "e" can be masculine or feminine.

The next step is to learn how to form plurals from nouns. These rules apply in most cases:
For a noun ending in a vowel, add "-s": livro ("book") → livros ("books").
For a noun ending in a consonant other than "-m" or "-l," add "es": mulher ("woman") → mulheres ("women").
For a noun ending in "-m," drop the "m" and add "ns": homem ("man") → homens ("men").
For a noun ending in "l," drop the "l" and add "is": hotel ("hotel") → hotéis ("hotels"). Note that an accent has been added to maintain the correct stress.
Some nouns that end in "s" do not change at all: ônibus ("bus") → ônibus ("busses").

Nouns ending in "ão" are a little confusing as they form plurals in three different ways, and you basically have to look them up in a dictionary to find out the correct one:
Some add "s": mão ("hand") → mãos ("hands").
Some drop the "ão" and add "ões": estação ("station") → estações ("stations").
Some drop the "ão" and add "ães": pão ("loaf of bread") → pães ("loaves").

3. Definite articles

To put a definite article, or "the," in front of a noun, you need to take into account gender and whether a noun is singular or plural, as in the chart below:

Singular Plural
Masculine o os
Feminine a as

O livro ("the book") → os livros ("the books")
A carta ("the letter") → as cartas ("the letters")

In Portugal, you can use the definite article with the name of a person when you are addressing the person directly. So, for example, if you were to ask João if he is from Portugal, you would add the article and say "o João é de Portugal?" ("João, are you from Portugal?").

4. Indefinite articles

The indefinite article, "a" or "an" in English, is very simple. The plural forms listed in the chart are usually translated into English as "some":

Singular Plural
Masculine um uns
Feminine uma umas

O livro ("the book") → um livro ("a book")
A carta ("the letter") → uma carta ("a letter")
Os copos ("the glasses") → uns copos ("some glasses")
As garrafas ("the bottles") → umas garrafas ("some bottles")

Note that the indefinite article is not used before a profession, affiliation, marital status, or origin: "sou professor" ("Im a teacher").

5. Personal pronouns

Now that we've learned a bit about nouns, we should start to get into pronouns, some of the most basic parts of speech and very useful as they allow us to talk about ourselves and other people. In the table below you will see both a formal way to say "you" and a familiar way. Generally, it is best to use the formal form when first meeting someone, but conventions vary from place to place.

However, note that the familiar forms "tu" and "vós" are rarely used in Brazil, and the formal forms "você" and "vocês" are used in informal contexts. The "vós" form is particularly fading from usage everywhere. Also, in Portugal the "você" form is frequently replaced by the even more polite forms "o senhor" ("sir") or "a senhora" ("madame"), and the "vocês" form by "os senhores" ("sirs") or "as senhoras" ("madames"). These may sound odd, but you can think of a sentence like "o que deseja o senhor?" as translating into "what would the gentleman like?"

First person I eu we nós
Second person you (familiar)
you (formal)
tu (familiar)
você, o senhor, a senhora (formal)
you (familiar)
you (formal)
vós (familiar)
vocês, os senhores, as senhoras (formal)
Third person he
they eles (masculine or mixed)
elas (feminine)

6. Indicative tense verbs

Let's proceed by learning how to make simple declarative sentences. In the indicative tense, most verbs fall into three broad classifications according to their infinitives. In English the infinitive form consists of the verb preceded by "to" as in "to speak" and "to run." In Portuguese the infinitive form consists of a single word ending in "-ar," "-er," or "-ir."

The chart below shows the complete conjugations for three sample verbs, each with one of the three infinitive endings. To conjugate another verb with the same ending, just remove the infinitive ending and replace it with the appropriate conjugation ending. So to conjugate another "-ar" verb like "cantar" ("to sing"), follow the pattern established by "falar" in the chart: "eu canto," "tu cantas," "ele canta," "nós cantamos," "vós cantais," and "eles cantam."

So as not to needlessly clutter these verb tables, I will no longer add the formal pronoun forms "o senhor," "a senhora," "os senhores," and "as senhoras." Just remember that the conjugations are the same as for the formal forms "você" and "vocês."

The indicative tense is used for making simple statements about the present. For example, the phrase "eu falo" can be translated into English as "I speak," "I am speaking," or "I do speak." The personal pronoun is usually omitted if context makes the pronoun obvious. So one would generally say simply "falo" ("I am speaking") instead of "eu falo," but the full form might be used for emphasis or clarification.

The indicative can also be used for the immediate future, as in the sentence "trabalho amanhã" ("I am working tomorrow").

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falo vendo parto
tu falas vendes partes
ele, ela, você fala vende parte
nós falamos vendemos partimos
vós falais vendeis partis
eles, elas, vocês falam vendem partem

We can now combine our pronouns, indicative verb tenses, and nouns with definite or indefinite articles to make complete sentences:
Temos a garrafa ("we have the bottle")
Escrevo uma carta ("I am writing a letter")

7. Irregular indicative tense verbs

Although most verbs can be conjugated using the chart above, many of the most common ones are irregular, which is just one of the pitfalls new learners of a language face. But through frequent usage I'm sure you will quickly get the following irregulars down.

Personal pronoun dar
"to say"
"to do, to make"
"to exist, to have"
eu dou digo faço hei
tu dás dizes fazes hás
ele, ela, você diz faz
nós damos dizemos fazemos havemos
vós dais dizeis fazeis haveis
eles, elas, vocês dão dizem fazem hão

Personal pronoun ir
"to go"
"to read"
"to be able to"
"to want"
eu vou leio posso quero
tu vais lês podes queres
ele, ela, você vai pode quer
nós vamos lemos podemos queremos
vós ides ledes podeis quereis
eles, elas, vocês vão lêem podem querem

Personal pronoun saber
"to know"
"to have"
"to see"
"to come"
eu sei tenho vejo venho
tu sabes tens vês vens
ele, ela, você sabe tem vem
nós sabemos temos vemos vimos
vós sabeis tendes vedes vindes
eles, elas, vocês sabem têm vêem vêm

8. "Ser" and "estar," two verbs for "to be"

The most common verb of all is the verb "to be," so naturally it is irregular. The situation is further complicated by the fact that there are two ways to express "to be" in Portuguese. First let's learn the conjugations:

Personal pronoun ser estar
eu sou estou
tu és estás
ele, ela, você é está
nós somos estamos
vós sois estais
eles, elas, vocês são estão

As for when to use each form, I will try to simplify the guidelines as much as possible as the distinction is sometimes unclear to English speakers.

Think of permanence when you think of the verb "ser," which is used in the following cases:
1) For inherent characteristics of people, places, and things (including occupations and nationality): sou turista ("I am a tourist"), Ronaldhino é Brasileiro ("Ronaldhino is Brazilian").
2) To describe permanent conditions: ele é baixo ("he is short").
3) To express the location of immovable objects: o hotel é na primeira rua ("the hotel is on the first street").

In contrast, think of temporary conditions when you think of the verb "estar," which is used in the following cases:
1) To describe non-inherent characteristics and temporary conditions: Amália está cansada ("Amália is tired").
2) To express the location of a person, place, or movable thing: Renato está na praia ("Renato is at the beach").

The essential difference is between the permanent ("ser") and the temporary ("estar"). So if you're talking about a person, you would say "Marcos é magro" ("Marcos is thin") as body type is more of a permanent state but "Marcos está cansado" ("Marcos is tired") as tiredness is a temporary state. Even though characteristics like occupation and religion may seem changeable, they are considered inherent and take the verb "ser": "Marcos é estudante" ("Marcos is a student") and "Marcos é católico" ("Marcos is Catholic"). Likewise, origin is an essential quality, so one would say "é da Italia" ("he is from Italy"), but to describe where someone is at the moment, use "estar": "está no Porto" ("he is in Porto"). Just be careful to distinguish the location of movable things from immovable things, which take "ser": "o banco é na esquina" ("the bank is at the corner").

9. Questions

At this point, we can make some pretty useful declarative sentences, but what if we want to ask a question instead? In most cases you just need to change the intonation, so that "tem uma reserva" ("you have a reservation") and "tem uma reserva?" ("do you have a reservation?") are identical. However, when a question word is used (like "where?," "how?," "which?," etc.) the order of subject and verb is reversed, so you would say "o hotel é ali" ("the hotel is there") but "onde é o hotel?" ("where is the hotel?").

10. Negatives

The basic way to express a negative sentence in Portuguese is very simple. Just add "não" ("no") before the verb: "não quero um copo de vinho" ("I don't want a glass of wine"). Note the repetition of "não" in this next example, which is very common: "Não, não sou dos Estados Unidos" ("no, I am not from the United States").

11. Reiterative replies

We just learned the Portuguese word for "no". The word for "yes" is "sim." Frequently, when answering a yes or no question a Portuguese speaker will "bounce back" the main verb along with the reply. For example, one might affirmatively answer the question "é longe?" ("is it far?") with "é," "é, sim," or "sim, é," all of which mean "yes, it is." A negative reply could be "não, não é" ("no, it isnt").

12. Descriptive adjectives

We've come a long way by now, but we have much more to discuss before we can really get our footing with Portuguese. In our discussion on "ser" vs. "estar" we encountered the words "baixo" ("short"), "magro" ("thin"), and "cansado" ("tired"), all of which are adjectives as they modify the nouns of the sentences. Let's continue by examining adjectives in more detail.

Adjectives are a little trickier than they are in English because the endings change according to gender and number of the noun modified, but the rules follow the rules for nouns fairly closely:
Adjectives that end in "-o" don't change when modifiying a masculine noun.
Adjectives that end in "o" change to "a" when modifying a feminine noun: "alto" ("tall") → "alta"
Adjectives that end in "r" or "s" add "a" when modifying a feminine noun: "inglês" ("English") → "inglesa"
Add an "s" to an adjective ending in a vowel to modify a plural noun: "bonita" ("pretty") → "bonitas"
Add an "es" to an adjective ending in a consonant to modify a plural noun: "feliz" ("happy") → "felizes"
To modify a plural noun with an adjective ending in "m," change the "m" to "ns": "bom" ("good") → "bons"
To modify a plural noun with an adjective ending in "l," change the "l" to "is": "fácil" ("easy") → "fáceis"
Adjectives that end in "ão" have three different plurals:
1) Some add "s"
2) Some change to "ões"
3) Some change to "ães"

Adjectives generally come after the nouns they modify, but in some cases they come before, and the same adjective can have different meanings according to position. The meaning of an adjective tends to be less literal when it is placed before the noun. These examples should help clarify:
"Um homem grande" ("a big man") vs. "um grande homem" ("a great man")
"Meu amigo velho" ("my old (in years) friend") vs. "meu velho amigo" ("my old friend")
"Presentes caros" ("expensive gifts") vs. "caros amigos" ("dear friends")

Adjectives that indicate quantity or sequence also go before the noun: "quando chega o primeiro comboio?" ("when does the first train arrive?").

Common adjectives like "muito" ("a lot"), "pouco" ("a little"), "bom" ("good"), and "mal" ("bad") generally also appear before the noun: "uma bom restaurante" ("a good restaurant").

Another common adjective that appears before the noun is "algum," which is used to express "some" or "any." The forms of this adjective are "algum," "alguma," "alguns," and "algumas." Note the use of this adjective in the common question "mais alguma coisa?" ("anything else?").

13. Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Many adverbs are simply modifications of adjectives that you can easily perform yourself. Just add the "mente" adding to adjectives ending in a consonant or an "e." For adjectives ending in an "-o," change the "-o" to an "-a" (the feminine form) and then add "-mente." Try out these examples:
Certo → certamente ("certainly")
Eficiente → eficientemente ("efficiently")
Rápido → rapidamente ("rapidly," note the loss of the accent)
Possível → possivelmente ("possibly")

Just as an adjective usually follows a noun, an adverb usually follows the verb it modifies: "ele fala lentamente" ("he speaks slowly"). When two or more adverbs appear in the same sentence, only the final one has the "mente" ending: "eles falam lenta e claramente" ("they speak slowly and clearly").

14. "Tudo" vs. "todo"

Because certain words appear to be very similar, we need to be careful to distinguish them from each other as the usage is different. The word "tudo" ("all") is a pronoun that is used to indicate "all" or "everything": "quanto é tudo?" ("how much is the total?"). On the other hand, the word "todo" is an adjective that agrees with gender and number and is used to indicate "all," "the whole," and "every one": "tenho todos os copos" ("I have all the glasses").

15. "Muito" and "pouco"

Other words can function as both adjectives and adverbs. For example, "muito" ("a lot," "very") and "pouco" ("a little") can be used as adverbs in a sentence like "gosto muito de café" ("I like coffee a lot"). But they can also be used as adjectives and vary with gender and number: "compro muita fruta" ("I am buying a lot of fruit").

16. Direct object pronouns

Early in our discussions we learned about subject pronouns, which replace the subject of a sentence. Now we will take on direct object pronouns, which replace the noun that receives the action of a sentence. So, for example, the object of the sentence "eu tenho o prato" ("I have the plate") can be replaced with a pronoun: "eu tenho-o" ("I have it"). The chart below summarizes both direct object pronouns that replace inanimate nouns and personal pronouns:

First person me me us nos
Second person you (familiar)
you (o senhor, a senhora)
you (você)
o, a
o, a; você
you (familiar)
you (os senhores, as senhoras)
you (vocês)
os, as
os, as; vocês
Third person him / it
her / it
them (masculine)
them (feminine)

In Brazil you have even more options. In colloquial Brazilian speech, "te" can be used for the second person formal, "ele" and "ela" for the third person singular, and "eles" and "elas" for the third person plural.

Not to immediately complicate matters, but I should point out some exceptions:
The pronouns "o"/"a" and "os"/"as" become "lo"/"la" and "los"/"las" after a verb ending in "r," "s," or "z." Additionally, in these cases the final letter of the verb is dropped, and infinitive verbs ending in "ar" and "er" gain an accent ("á" for "ar" verbs and "ê" for "er" verbs). Thus, if you were to combine "comprar" with "os," you would get "comprá-los" ("to buy them").
However, the rule does not apply to the present indicative of the third person singular of the verb "querer" ("to want"). Instead, an "e" is added to the end, so that "ele quer" combines with "o" to make "ele quere-o" ("he wants it").
Finally, the pronouns "o"/"a" and "os"/"as" become "no"/"na" and "nos"/"nas" after a verb ending in a nasal sound (such as "m," "-õe," or "ão"), so "compram" combines with "a" to make "compram-na" ("they buy it").

Examples of nouns replaced by direct object pronouns:
Vejo o autocarro ("I see the bus") → vejo-o ("I see it")
Escreves a carta ("you are writing the letter") → escreve-la ("you are writing it")
Ela compra os sapatos ("she is buying the shoes") → ela compra-os ("she is buying them")
Comemos as pêras ("we are eating the pears") → comemo-las ("we are eating them")

Examples of direct object personal pronouns:
Você ajuda-me ("you are helping me")
Olho-te ("I hear you")
Conhecemo-lo ("we know him")
Ele ama-a ("he loves her")
Vê-o ("they see you")
Mostra-nos ("you show us")
Ela acredita-os ("she believes you")
Chama-los ("you call them")
Entendem-nas ("you understand them")

17. Indirect object pronouns

Indirect object pronouns are similar to direct object pronouns as they stand in for a noun, but they are used in an indirect sense. For example, in the sentence "I am writing him a letter," the letter is the direct object as it is receiving the action of the verb and being written, and "him" is the indirect object as "he" is an indirect recipient of the action of the verb.

In English, indirect objects are often indicated by the prepositions "for" or "to," which can serve as a useful guide as to when an indirect object is required in Portuguese. In some cases you can rewrite an English sentence to see the presence of an indirect object. For example, in English one could say "I am buying her lunch." You could rewrite this sentence and say "I am buying lunch for her" to make it clear that "her" is an indirect object pronoun, and the sentence would be rendered as "compro-lhe almoço" in Portuguese.

The following chart lists the indirect object pronouns, and you should note that many are identical to direct object pronouns.

First person me me us nos
Second person you (familiar)
you (formal)
you (familiar)
you (formal)
Third person him, her, it lhe them lhes

Note that in colloquial Brazilian speech, "te" can be used for the second person formal instead of "lhe."

Examples of indirect object personal pronouns:
Envias-me um mensagem ("you send me a message")
Dou-te o copo ("I am giving you the glass")
Escreva-lhe a carta ("he is writing you a letter")
Pagamos-lhe uma bebida ("we are buying him a drink")
Compram-nos o vinho ("they are buying us the wine")
Ela vende-lhe os sapatos ("she is selling you the shoes")
Digo-lhes a verdade ("I tell them the truth")

18. Combining direct and indirect object pronouns

Now that we have direct and indirect pronouns down, the next step is combining them into single sentences. To do so, put the indirect object first and contract it with the direct object according to the table:
me + o(s) → mo(s)
te + o(s) → to(s)
lhe + o(s) → lho(s)
nos + o(s) → no-lo(s)
vos + o(s) → vo-lo(s)
lhes + o(s) → lho(s)
me + a(s) → ma(s)
te + a(s) → ta(s)
lhe + a(s) → lha(s)
nos + a(s) → no-la(s)
vos + a(s) → vo-la(s)
lhes + a(s) → lha(s)

Envias-mo ("you send it to me")
Envias-lho ("you send it to him")
Damos-ta ("we give it to you")
Damos-lha ("we give it to her")
Compra-no-los ("he buys them for us")
Compra-vo-los ("he buys them for you")
Mostro-tas ("I show them to you")
Mostro-lhas ("I show them to them")

19. Object pronoun position

As you may have noticed in the examples, the object pronouns are generally attached to the end of a verb with a hyphen. Naturally, exceptions to this rule abound. I don't mean to overload you with a lot of rules, particularly as many of these use concepts that I have not introduced yet, but I want to be thorough and make sure you have a decent reference to all of these guidelines.
1) In Brazil the object pronoun tends to precede the verb: "ele as dá a Teresa" ("he gives them to Teresa"); "ele lhas dá" ("he gives her them"). The subject pronoun has to be used in these cases as a sentence cannot begin with an object pronoun.
2) In negative sentences the object pronoun precedes the verb: "ele não as dá" ("he doesn't give them").
3) The object pronoun precedes the verb when a preposition precedes the verb.
4) In questions starting with an interrogative (question word), the object pronoun precedes the verb: "quando as dá?" ("when are you giving them?").
5) In clauses starting with a short adverb, the object pronoun precedes the verb: "já as deu" ("he already gave them").
6) In relative clauses the object pronoun precedes the verb: "o presente que lhe dá" ("the gift that he gives her").
7) In clauses introduced by a conjunction, the object pronoun precedes the verb: "porque lhos dá" ("because he gives her them").
8) In sentences where an object pronoun is the object of an infinitive verb, it follows the infinitive: "ele quer dar-lhas" ("he wants to give her them").
9) In relaxed speech, the following word order is common with object pronouns and infinitive verbs: object pronouns "me"/"te"/"lhe"/"nos"/"vos"/"lhes" + infinitive, but infinitive + "lo"/"la"/"los"/"las": "ele quer lhes dar" ("he wants to give her them"); "ele quer dá-las" ("he wants to give them").
10) In the future and conditional tenses, the object pronoun is inserted between the infinitive part of the verb and its ending: "dá-lo-á" ("he will give it"); "dar-mo-ia" ("he would give me it"). The construction is avoided in casual speech, and instead the infinitive or imperfect may be used: "dá-lo" ("he will give it"). In Brazil, the object pronoun may come between the subject pronoun and the verb in these cases: "ela mo daria" ("she would give me it").
11) In compound tenses, pronouns follow the verb "ter" and attach to it with a hyphen unless none of the rules for placing a pronoun before a verb apply: "tinha-o dado" ("he had given it") vs. "não o tinha dado" ("he had not given it").

20. Possessive adjectives

I think we should take a break from pronouns and talk about a special kind of adjective. Possessive adjectives are used to show possession of a noun, as in the word "minha" in the sentence "procuro minha bagagem" ("I'm looking for my baggage"). The definite article is often used with the possessive adjective, but it is optional and is particularly omitted in Brazil. Thus, both "ela é a minha irmã" ("she is my sister") and "ela é minha irmã" are correct. The possessive adjective is omitted when the relationship is obvious: "ela está com a irmã" ("she is with her sister"). The possessive is also omitted with parts of the body: "os braços" ("my arms").

Masculine singular noun Masculine plural noun Feminine singular noun Feminine plural noun
My meu meus minha minhas
Your (familiar singular) teu teus tua tuas
Your (formal singular) seu seus sua suas
His, her, its seu seus sua suas
Our nosso nossos nossa nossas
Your (familiar plural) vosso vossos vossa vossas
Your (formal plural) seu seus sua suas
Their seu seus sua suas

Do you notice a potential problem with the possessive adjective "seu" and its various forms? Yes, in a sentence like "vejo o seu carro" you can't quite tell whether someone is saying "I see his car," "I see her car," "I see your car," or "I see their car." So to add clarity the words "dele" ("his"), "dela" ("hers"), "deles" ("their," masculine), "delas" ("their," feminine), "de você" ("yours"), and "de vocês" ("yours," plural) can come after the noun. The first four of these are contractions of the preposition "de" ("of") with the pronouns "ele," "ela," "eles," and "elas". Note that unlike possessive pronouns they do not agree with the noun. So our sentence about the car would be rendered "vejo o carro dele" ("I see his car"), "vejo o carro dela" ("I like her car"), etc. The preposition and pronoun combinations "do senhor," "da senhora," "dos senhores," and "das senhoras" can also be used in this regard.

21. Possessive pronouns

Possessive adjectives have their counterparts in possessive pronouns, which are similar except that they replace nouns used in a possessive sense instead of simply modifying them, as in the pronoun "minha" in the sentence "a bagagem é minha" ("the luggage is mine"). The definite article is omitted when the pronoun follows the noun unless ownership is emphasized: "o carro é seu" ("the car is his") vs. "o carro é o seu" ("the car is his" (and nobody elses)). Though possessive pronouns are identical to possessive adjectives, I'll put them into a table for ease of reference.

Masculine singular noun Masculine plural noun Feminine singular noun Feminine plural noun
Mine meu meus minha minhas
Yours (familiar singular) teu teus tua tuas
Yours (formal singular) seu seus sua suas
His, hers, its seu seus sua suas
Ours nosso nossos nossa nossas
Yours (familiar plural) vosso vossos vossa vossas
Yours (formal plural) seu seus sua suas
Theirs seu seus sua suas

22. Demonstrative adjectives

The demonstrative adjectives "este" and "esse" are used to point to nouns and are the equivalents of the English words "this" and "that," respectively. "Este" indicates something close, whereas "esse" is used for things farther away. Portuguese has an additional form, "aquele," that indicates something even farther away. The forms vary by gender and number as you can see from the table:

Masculine singular Masculine plural Feminine singular Feminine plural
This este estes esta estas
That esse esses essa essas
That (farther away) aquele aqueles aquela aquelas

Este passaporte é meu ("this passport is mine")
Essa sopa é delicioso ("that soup is delicious")
Aquele hotel é muito caro ("that hotel over there is very expensive")

23. Demonstrative pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun replaces both the noun and a demonstrative adjective. For example, the phrase "este vinho" in the sentence "quero este vinho" ("I want this wine") can be replaced by "este": "quero este" ("I want this one"). As you can see in the table, the forms are identical to the demonstrative adjectives. However, demonstrative pronouns include a neuter form, which is used when the subject is not precisely identified, as in the sentence "o que é isto?" ("what is this?").

Masculine singular Masculine plural Feminine singular Feminine plural Neuter
This one este estes esta estas isto
That one esse esses essa essas isso
That one (farther away) aquele aqueles aquela aquelas aquilo

24. Prepositions

I think we're ready to introduce another important part of speech, the preposition. Though usage is similar to prepositions in English, you will notice that translation of Portuguese prepositions is frequently not direct as they can stand for more than one English equivalent. I will do my best to teach you how to distinguish some of the trickier ones, but only through practice and a lot of mistakes will you really get it down.

Probably the most common preposition is "de," which can be translated as "of," "from," or "by." Try these examples:
"Of": quero um mapa da cidade ("I want a map of the city")
"From": eu sou dos Estados Unidos ("I am from the U.S.")
"By": vou de carro ("I am going by car"). However, when going by foot the preposition "a" is used: ela vai a pé ("she is going by foot"). Also, when a specific vehicle, train, plane, etc. is indicated, the preposition "em" is used: vou no carro do meu amigo ("I am going in my friend's car," with "no" being a contraction of "em" and "o").

You may have noticed the use of "do" instead of "de" in a couple of the above examples. The preposition "de" contracts with definite and indefinite articles as follows:
de + o → do
de + a → da
de + os → dos
de + as → das
de + um → dum
de + uma → duma
Also remember from our discussion on possessives that "de" contracts with the personal pronouns "ele," "ela," "eles," and "elas" to form "dele," "dela," "deles," and "delas"

Another very common preposition, "a," is usually translated as "to" when movement is involved, as in the sentence "eu vou ao hotel" ("I am going to the hotel"). However, it is also used with receivers of the action of certain verbs, as in the sentence "Lucília pergunta à vendedora" ("she is asking the salesperson"). The preposition "a" indicates "on" when used with days of the week: "trabalho às quartas" ("I work on Wednesdays"). And don't forget the use of "a" to indicate "by" when traveling "a pé" ("by foot") as explained above.

"A" contracts with the definite article in the following manner:
a + o → ao
a + a → à
a + os → aos
a + as → às

Another versatile preposition is "em," which indicates "in," "on," or "at" depending on context:
"In": elas põem os alimentos no saco ("they put the groceries in the bag")
"On": salada está no menu ("salad is on the menu")
"At": o hotel é no fim da rua ("the hotel is at the end of the street")

"Em" has the following contractions with the definite and indefinite articles:
em + o → no
em + a → na
em + os → nos
em + as → nas
em + um → num
em + uma → numa

I'm going to talk about the common prepositions "para" and "por" together as they both can mean "for" but are used in different circumstances and are often confused by English speakers.

"Para" is employed in the following cases:
1) For purpose: quero um selo para uma carta ("I want a stamp for a letter").
2) To indicate "to" when long distance and a long stay is involved: vou para Brasília ("Im going to Brasilia"). Note the contrast with "a," which is used for shorter distances: eu vou ao hotel ("I am going to the hotel").
3) Before an infinitive verb to indicate "in order to": vou à estação para comprar um bilhete ("I am going to the station to buy a ticket").
4) To indicate "for" in the sense of time: quero um quarto para duas noites ("I want a room for two nights").
5) To indicate a beneficiary: esta xícara é para ti ("this cup is for you").

"Por" is used in the following cases:
1) To indicate an intended objective: trabalho por dinheiro ("I work for money").
2) To indicate "for" in the sense of exchange: quanto pelo bilhete? ("how much for the ticket?").
3) To indicate "per" in the sense of distribution: um prato por pessoa ("one plate per person").
4) To indicate "for" in the sense of time: vamos por quatro dias ("we are going for four days").
5) To indicate "through": anda pelo parque ("he walks through the park").
6) To indicate means: mando um mensagem pelo correio electrónico ("I am sending a message by e-mail").

"Por" contracts with the definite article in the following ways:
por + o → pelo
por + a → pela
por + os → pelos
por + as → pelas

The other prepositions are easier to distinguish from each other, so I will just touch on them briefly with examples:
Antes ("before"): chego antes dela ("I am arriving before her").
Depois ("after"): venho depois do almoço ("I am coming after lunch").
Com ("with"): quero café com leite ("I want coffee with milk").
Até ("until," "up to"): até logo! ("see you later!).
Sobre ("over," "on"): o vôo está sobre a cidade ("the flight is above the city").
Sob ("under"): a bagagem está sob a mesa ("the baggage is under the table").
Atrás de ("behind"): o estacionamento é atrás do restaurante ("parking is behind the restaurant").
Ao lado de ("beside"): o banco é ao lado do hotel ("the bank is beside the hotel").
Dentro de ("inside"): estou dentro da loja ("I am inside the store").
Fora de ("outside"): o meu amigo está fora da farmácia ("my friend is outside the pharmacy").
Longe de ("far from"): a praia está longe da cidade ("the beach is far from the city").
Perto de ("near"): o mercado é perto da igreja ("the market is close to the church").
Em frente de ("in front of," "opposite"): o apartamento é na frente do parque ("the apartment is in front of the park").

25. Disjunctive pronouns

You might have noticed that the pronoun used after the preposition "para" in the lesson above was "ti," indicating "you." This pronoun form is called the disjunctive, and it is generally used after a preposition. Note in the table below that most of these pronouns are identical to the subject pronouns.

First person me mim us nós
Second person you (familiar)
you (formal)
o senhor, a senhora, você
you (familiar)
you (formal)
os senhores, as senhoras, vocês
Third person him, it
her, it
them (masculine)
them (feminine)

The preposition "com" ("with") is a little different and contracts with certain disjunctive pronouns. The table shows you all the forms:

First person me comigo us connosco (conosco in Brazil)
Second person you (familiar)
you (formal)
com o senhor/a senhora/você
you (familiar)
you (formal)
com os senhores/as senhoras/vocês
Third person him, it
her, it
com ele
com ela
them (masculine)
them (feminine)
com eles
com elas

26. Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are equivalent to the English "myself," "yourself," etc. and appear in phrases like "eu lavo-me" ("I am washing myself"). First let's go over the forms:

First person myself me ourselves nos
Second person yourself (familiar)
yourself (formal)
yourselves (familiar)
yourselves (formal)
Third person himself
se themselves se

One important thing to remember is the reflexive is used more often in Portuguese than in English. The following verbs all take the reflexive pronoun in Portuguese. Note that the use of a "se" after the infinitive indicates that the verb is reflexive: Sentar-se ("to sit"): sento-me na cadeira ("I am sitting in the chair").
Vestir-se ("to get dressed"): Fernando veste-se cedo ("Fernando gets dressed early").
Deitar-se ("to lie down"): vou deitar-me agora ("I am going to lie down now").
Levantar-se ("to get up"): levanto-me as sete horas ("I get up at seven o'clock").
Preocupar-se ("to worry"): não se preocupe! ("don't worry").
Esquecer-se ("to forget"): ele esquece-se de tudo ("he forgets everything").
Lembrar-se ("to remember"): lembras-te? ("do you remember?").
Divertir-se ("to have fun"): eu diverto-me muito ("I am having a lot of fun")

You may have noticed that, like direct object pronouns, the reflexive pronoun is attached to the end of the verb with a hyphen in most cases. However, also like direct object pronouns, there are many exceptions to this rule:
1) In Brazil, the reflexive pronoun frequently precedes the verb: "eu me lavo" ("I wash myself"). In this case, the subject pronoun has to be used because the reflexive pronoun cannot begin a sentence.
2) The reflexive pronoun precedes the verb in negative sentences: "não me lavo" ("I dont wash myself").
3) The reflexive pronoun precedes the verb in a sentence introduced by a question word: "quando se lava?" ("when do you wash yourself?").
4) The reflexive pronoun precedes the verb in a subordinate clause introduced by a conjunction or relative pronoun: "penso que ele se lava" ("I think he is washing himself").
5) The reflexive pronoun precedes the verb when certain adverbs (such as já ("yet," already"), também ("also"), nunca ("never"), or sempre ("always")) precede the verb: "ela nunca se preocupa" ("she never worries").
6) The reflexive pronoun precedes the verb when a preposition precedes the verb: "depois de me lavar" ("after I wash myself").

In some cases, the verb itself changes when used in a reflexive sense. For example, the first person plural verb loses the "-s" at the end in the reflexive: "nós lavamo-nos" ("we wash ourselves"). Why is that? Try saying "lavamos-nos" three times fast and you can see why the "s" has disappeared. Also, the reflexive pronoun is inserted between the infinitive of the verb and its ending with the future and conditional tenses (which we will encounter later): "lavar-me-ei" ("I will wash myself"). However, this is not the case if the reflexive pronoun precedes the verb: "me lavarei" ("I will wash myself").

The third person singular reflexive pronoun is also used in an impersonal sense to express the concept of "one" or "people" as in the following examples:
Aqui pode-se fumar? ("can one smoke here?")
Como se diz esta palavra no português? ("how does one say this word in Portuguese?")

Reflexive pronouns can be added to verbs that are not normally reflexive to show reciprocal actions, as in the sentence "falo-me" ("I am talking to myself").

The reflexive use of the verb "chamar" ("to call") is the most common way of asking for someone's name or giving your own name. To ask, you would say "como se chama?" ("what is your name?"), and I would respond with "chamo-me o leopardo" ("my name is the Leopard"), which literally means "I call myself the Leopard."

27. Infinitive verbs

Frequently, verbs are used in their infinitive form without any conjugation. You can see this in English in a sentence like "I want to go," where the verb "to go" is used in the infinitive. The same thing can be done in Portuguese, where the sentence would be rendered as "quero ir," where "ir" ("to go") is in the infinitive. Note that in these cases the infinitive is used with a conjugated verb.

Two verbs that frequently link with infinitive verbs are "querer" ("to want"), which we have just seen, and "poder" ("to be able to"). The latter is frequently used to express ability, as in the sentence "posso nadar" ("I can swim"). It can also be used as a polite way to ask questions, as in the sentence "pode-me dizer onde fica o hotel?" ("can you tell me where the hotel is?") or "posso sentar aqui?" ("can I sit here?").

The verb "ir" ("to go") is also commonly used with an infinitive and is a colloquial way of talking about the future, as in the sentence "vou passar dois dias no Porto" ("I am going to spend two days in Porto").

The three verbs "ir" ("to go"), "vir" ("to come"), and "andar" ("to walk") can combine with infinitives to express progression, as in these examples:
Vai a piorar ("he is getting worse")
Vindo a melhorar ("he is getting better")
Ando a aprender português ("I have been learning Portuguese")

The verb "voltar" can combine with the preposition "a" and an infinitive to express doing something again: "volto a telefonar" ("I am telephoning again").

The verb and preposition combinations "acabar de" and "começar a" can express just having done something or starting to do something when used with infinitives:
Acabo de chegar ("I have just arrived")
Começo a comer ("I am starting to eat")

Infinitives are particularly useful for expressing wanting to have something done. They can be used in this fashion with the verbs "querer" ("to want"), "precisar" ("to need"), and "necessitar" ("to need"): "quero trocar o dinheiro" ("I want the money exchanged"). The preposition "de" must be used with the verbs "precisar" and "necessitar" when they are followed by a noun or a pronoun, as in this case: "preciso de dinheiro" ("I need the money"). Otherwise, the "de" is optional: "preciso (de) trocar o dinheiro" ("I need the money exchanged"). The verb "mandar" ("to send") is used to indicate having something done: "mando trocar o dinheiro no banco" ("I have the money exchanged at the bank").

28. Numbers

Numbers are a pretty vital thing to get down when travelling in a foreign land, frequently for simple things like telling the hotel desk clerk which room you are staying in when you need your key. So let's take on the numbers from 1 to 100. You might notice that all you really need to memorize are the numbers 1 to 20 and every 10 after that as the others are fairly regular.

1: um, uma 21: vinte e um 41: quarenta e um 61: sessenta e um 81: oitenta e um
2: dois, duas 22: vinte e dois 42: quarenta e dois 62: sessenta e dois 82: oitenta e dois
3: três 23: vinte e três 43: quarenta e três 63: sessenta e três 83: oitenta e três
4: quatro 24: vinte e quatro 44: quarenta e quatro 64: sessenta e quatro 84: oitenta e quatro
5: cinco 25: vinte e cinco 45: quarenta e cinco 65: sessenta e cinco 85: oitenta e cinco
6: seis 26: vinte e seis 46: cuarenta e seis 66: sessenta e seis 86: oitenta e seis
7: sete 27: vinte e sete 47: quarenta e sete 67: sessenta e sete 87: oitenta e sete
8: oito 28: vinte e oito 48: quarenta e oito 68: sessenta e oito 88: oitenta e oito
9: nove 29: vinte e nove 49: quarenta e nove 69: sessenta e nove 89: oitenta e nove
10: dez 30: trinta 50: cinquenta 70: setenta 90: noventa
11: onze 31: treinta e um 51: cinquenta e um 71: setenta e um 91: noventa e um
12: doze 32: trinta e dois 52: cinquenta e dois 72: setenta e dois 92: noventa e dois
13: treze 33: trinta e três 53: cinquenta e três 73: setenta e três 93: noventa e três
14: catorze 34: trinta e quatro 54: cinquenta e quatro 74: setenta e quatro 94: noventa e quatro
15: quinze 35: trinta e cinco 55: cinquenta e cinco 75: setenta e cinco 95: noventa e cinco
16: dezasseis 36: trinta e seis 56: cinquenta e seis 76: setenta e seis 96: noventa e seis
17: dezassete 37: trinta e sete 57: cinquenta e sete 77: setenta e sete 97: noventa e sete
18: dezoito 38: trinta e oito 58: cinquenta e oito 78: setenta e oito 98: noventa e oito
19: dezanove 39: trinta e nove 59: cinquenta e nove 79: setenta e nove 99: noventa e nove
20: vinte 40: quarenta 60: sessenta 80: oitenta 100: cem

You may have noticed two different ways to say 1 and 2. The first versions ("um" and "dois") agree with masculine nouns, and the second versions ("uma" and "duas") agree with feminine nouns.

In Brazil you will find slight variations on a few of these numbers:
16: "dezesseis" in Brazil
17: "dezessete" in Brazil
18: "dezenove" in Brazil
50: "cinqenta" in Brazil

"Cem" is the word for 100, but if additional numbers come after you would use the word "cento": "cento e um" (101), "cento e dois" (102), etc. Other numbers in the hundreds case have the following forms, the first being masculine and the second feminine:
200: duzentos, duzentas
300: trezentos, trezentas
400: quatrocentos, quatrocentas
500: quinhentos, quinhentas
600: seiscentos, seiscentas
700: setecentos, setecentas
800: oitocentos, oitocentas
900: novecentos, novecentas

To get even higher, the word for 1,000 is "mil" and the word for 1,000,000 is "um milhão." Numbers are generally separated by "e" ("and") except after thousands when it is generally only used if the final two numbers are zeros. Thus, 1999 would be "mil novecentos e noventa e nove," but 1900 would be "mil e novecentos." Confusing? Sure, but no doubt you'll be understood even if you get it wrong.

The indefinite articles "uns" and "umas" can be used before a number to express approximation: "uns quinze anos" ("some fifteen years").

Finally, here are the ordinal numbers. All of these agree in gender and number with nouns just like adjectives do, taking "-a," "-os," and "-as" endings as appropriate:
1st: primeiro
2nd: segundo
3rd: terceiro
4th: quarto
5th: quinto
6th: sexto
7th: sétimo
8th: oitavo
9th: nono
10th: décimo
11th: décimo primeiro
20th: vigésimo
21st: vigésimo primeiro
30th: trigésimo
40th: quadragésimo
50th: quinquagésimo
60th: sexagésimo
70th: septuagésimo
80th: octogésimo
90th: nonagésimo
100th: centésimo
1,000th: milésimo

29. Time expressions

Chances are, you will either be asked for the time or will ask for the time at some point during your trip to a foreign country, so let's make sure you're prepared. Frequently, train schedules, open hours, and such are listed in 24-hour time, but in conversation people generally talk about time in a more casual way.

The equivalent of "it's one o'clock" is simply "é uma hora," but for every hour after that the plural form of "ser" is required: "são duas horas" ("it's two o'clock"). To say "at two o'clock," use the preposition "a": "as duas horas." Use the conjunction "e" ("and") to add minutes to the hour: "são duas e cinco" ("it's 2:05").

"A quarter after" is expressed with either "quinze" ("fifteen") or "um quarto," and the half hour as "e meia." Time before the hour is indicated with "menos" ("less") or "para as." The verb "faltar" can also be used in these cases. Noon is "meio-dia" and midnight is "meia-noite."

The Portuguese equivalents of a.m. and p.m. are "da manhã" ("in the morning"), "da tarde" ("in the afternoon/evening"), and "da noite" ("in the night"). "Da tarde" is generally used from noon to 6:00 p.m. and "da noite" from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.

For punctuality, use "em ponto": "as nove em ponto" ("at nine oclock sharp"). "What time is it?" is simply "que horas são?" To ask "at what time," use "a que": "a que horas sai o comboio?" ("at what time does the train leave?").

Some examples should help sort everything out:
São sete da manhã ("it's 7:00 a.m.")
São onze e um quarto ("it's 11:15")
É meio-dia ("it's noon")
É uma e meia em ponto ("it's 1:30 sharp")
São três horas da tarde ("it's 3:00 p.m.")
As seis menos um quarto ("at 5:45")
São vinte para as sete ("it's 6:40")
Faltam quinze para as oito ("it's 7:45")
São dez menos dez da noite ("it's 9:50 p.m.")
É meio-dia ("it's midnight")

30. Definite and indefinite article pronouns

Both the definite and indefinite articles can themselves be used as pronouns in certain cases. For example, take a look at this sentence where the article "o" is used to stand for "the one": "onde está o que senhor quer?" ("where is the one you want, sir?"). The indefinite article can be used in a similar fashion: "quero um vinho de porto e um de jerez" ("I want one port wine and one sherry one").

31. Pronoun review

By now we've come across all of the pronouns forms, so let's put them together in one table for comparison. To save space, only the masculine singular form of the possessive pronouns are included.

Subject Direct
Possessive Disjunctive Reflexive
First person eu me me meu mim me
Second person tu (familiar)
você (formal)
o senhor/a senhora (formal)
te (familiar)
o/a (formal)
te (familiar)
lhe (formal)
teu (familiar)
seu (formal)
ti (familiar)
você (formal)
o senhor/a senhora (formal)
te (familiar)
se (formal)
Third person ele (masculine)
ela (feminine)
o (masculine)
a (feminine)
lhe seu ele (masculine)
ela (feminine)
First person nós nos nos nosso nós nos
Second person vós (familiar masculine)
vocês (formal)
os senhores/as senhoras (formal)
vos (familiar)
os/as (formal)
vos (familiar)
lhes (formal)
vosso (familiar)
seu (formal)
vós (familiar)
vocês (formal)
os senhores/as senhoras (formal)
vos (familiar)
se (formal)
Third person eles (masculine)
elas (feminine)
os (masculine)
as (feminine)
lhes seu eles (masculine)
elas (feminine)

32. Usage of verb "gostar"

The verb "gostar" ("to like") can be very handy for expressing preferences, likes, and dislikes. When used with a verb, "gostar" requires the preposition "de": "gosto de dançar" ("I like to dance"). When used with a noun, "de" is also used, but in some cases the definite article must be used as well. The difference is in the type of noun. when used with a noun in a general sense, "gostar" is followed simply by "de": "gosto de bife" ("I like steak"). But when "gostar" is used with specific nouns, it is followed by "de" plus the definite article: "gosto do bife bem passado" ("I like steak well done").

We have yet to learn the conditional verb tense and won't get to it for some time. But I should point out now that you can use the conditional form of "gostar" to express something you would like to do, as in the sentence "gostaria de viajar" ("I would like to travel").

33. Special expressions with "ter" and "estar"

Let's branch out a little and talk about some expressions using the verb "ter" that are a bit unusual for English speakers. In English one would say "I am hungry" using the verb "to be," but in Portuguese you would more commonly use the verb "to have": "tenho fome" ("I am hungry," literally "I have hunger"). Other similar constructions include:
Ter calor ("to be hot")
Ter frio ("To be cold")
Ter razão ("to be right")
Ter sede ("to be thirsty")
Ter tempo ("to have time")
Ter medo de ("to be afraid of")
Ter cuidado ("to be careful")
Ter pressa ("to be in a hurry")

An especially handy construction is "ter que" plus the infinitive, which indicates "to have to," as in the sentence "tenho que ir" ("I have to go").

The phrase "estar com" can be used nearly interchangeably with "ter" in these expressions. So "estou com fome" ("I am hungry," literally "I am with hunger") is equivalent to "tenho fome." However, the preposition "com" is not used with "razão" ("right"), so "estou razão" ("I am right") is equivalent to "tenho razão."

You also use "ter" to indicate age. To ask someone's age, say "quantos anos tem?" ("how old are you?") A typical response would be "tenho trinta e três anos" ("I am thirty-three years old"). The verb "fazer" ("to do") can also be used in this regard: "quantos anos faz?" "faço trinta e três."

34. Special verb "ficar"

The verb "ficar" is often used as an alternative to the verb "ser" when describing where something is located, as in the sentence "o hotel fica na primeira rua" ("the hotel is on the first street"). You can also use it to express staying someplace: "fico no Hotel Lisboa" ("I am staying at the Hotel Lisbon"). Finally, the verb frequently shows up in the expression "ficar com," which is used to indicate accepting something: "fico com o quarto" ("I will take the room").

35. Special verb "faltar"

We have already seen how the verb "falar" is used with telling time to indicate minutes before the hour. It can also be used to indicate "to be missing": "falta alguma coisa" ("something is missing"). The expression "faltar a" is used to indicate failing to fulfill a duty: "hoje falto ao trabalho" ("I am missing work today").

36. Weather expressions

Other special expressions are used to talk about the weather, which we should cover anyway as the subject frequently comes up in small-talk. Note the different ways of saying the same thing in the list below. The verb "estar" is used with adjectives and past participles (a verb form we will learn more about later), whereas the verbs "faz" and "há" are used with nouns. Note that the word "frio" ("cold") is both an adjective and a noun just as it is in English:
Que tempo faz: "hows the weather?"
Está frio: "its cold"
Faz frio: "its cold"
Há frio: "its cold"
Está quente: "its hot"
Está ventando: "its windy"
Faz vento: "its windy"
Há vento: "its windy"
Está ensolarado: "it's sunny"
Faz sol: "it's sunny"
Há sol: "it's sunny"
Está bom tempo: "its nice weather"
Está chuvoso: "it's rainy"
Está chovendo: "it's raining"
Faz chuva: "it's rainy"
Há chuva: "its rainy"
Está nevando: "its snowing"

37. Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used in place of nouns or noun phrases and come in very handy when you want to ask a question. The common ones are:
Quem ("who"): quem é esse homem? ("who is that man?")
De quem ("whose"): de quem é a bagagem? ("whose is the baggage?")
Com quem ("with whom"): com quem quer falar? ("with whom do you want to speak?")
A quem ("to whom"): a quem chama? ("whom are you calling?")
Para quem ("for whom"): para quem é a chamada ("for whom is the call?")
Que, o que ("what"): o que é isto? ("what is this?")
Qual ("which"): qual é o óptimo hotel? ("which is the best hotel?") - note that "qual" is usually used when selecting one from among many
Como ("how" or "what"): come esta? ("how are you?")
Onde ("where"): onde é o restaurante? ("where is the restaurant?")
Aonde ("to where"): aonde vai? ("where are you going?")
Donde ("from where"): donde vem? ("where are you coming from?")
Quando ("when"): quando chega o comboio? ("when does the train arrive?")
Quanto ("how much" or "how long"): quanto custa? ("how much does it cost?")
Quantos, quantas ("how many"): quantos maçãs quer? ("how many apples do you want?") - note the agreement with the gender of the noun

38. Distinguishing "por que," "por quê," "porque," and "por causa de"

A couple of other question phrases are "por que" and "por quê," which both mean "why." What's the difference besides an accent mark? "Por que" is used to indicate "why?" with a sentence: "por que bebe sumo?" ("why are you drinking juice?"). "Por quê" is used as a stand-alone expression: "por quê?" ("why?"). In responding, you may want to use "porque" or "por causa de." "Porque" is used to indicate "because": "porque gosto do sumo de laranja" ("because I like orange juice"). "Por causa de" indicates "because of": "por causa de cor" ("because of the color").

39. Comparisons of adjectives

The use of comparisons and contrasts are a good way to add some complexity to your speech. We will start with adjective comparisons. To express equality between two adjectives, use the phrase "tão . . . como": "Cristiano é tão alto como Joana" ("Cristiano is as tall as Joana").

To express one adjective as greater in quality, use "mais . . . do que": "Cristiano é mais alto do que Joana" ("Cristiano is taller than Joana").

To express one adjective as lesser in quality, use "menos . . . do que": "Cristiano é menos alto do que Joana" ("Cristiano is less tall than Joana").

To express the superlative degree of an adjective, as in the best, the greatest, the strongest, etc., use "o mais": "Cristiano é o mais alto" ("Cristiano is the tallest").

The absolute superlative expresses the idea of "very" and can be easily formed by adding the adverb "muito": "Cristiano é muito alto" ("Cristiano is very tall"). You can also add the endings "íssimo," "-íssima," "-íssimos," and "íssimas" (depending on gender and number) to express the absolute superlative: "Cristiano é altíssimo" ("Cristiano is extremely tall").

A few adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms, which you can see in the table below. Note that "má" is the feminine form of "mau," and "boa" is the feminine form of "bom."

Adjective Comparative Superlative
grande ("big") maior (mais grande) máximo
pequeno ("small") menor (mais pequeno) mínimo
bom, boa ("good") melhor óptimo
mau, má, ruim ("bad") pior péssimo

40. Comparisons of adverbs

Adverbs are compared to each other using the same types of phrases as those used to compare adjectives, but I'll still go through each case.

To express equality between two adverbs, use the phrase "tão . . . como": "Nuno fala tão rapídamente como Cristina" ("Nuno speaks as quickly as Cristina").

To express one adverb as greater, use "mais . . . do que": "Nuno fala mais rapídamente do que Cristina" ("Nuno speaks more quickly than Cristina").

To express the superlative degree of an adverb, use "o mais": "Nuno fala o mais rapídamente" ("Nuno speaks the most quickly").

For the absolute superlative add the adverb "muito": "Nuno fala muito rapídamente" ("Nuno speaks very quickly"). You can add the ending "issimamente" to express the absolute superlative "extremely": "Nuno fala rapidissimamente" ("Nuno speaks extremely quickly").

Naturally, we have a few irregular adverb comparatives to learn.

Adverb Comparative Superlative
muito ("a lot") mais o mais
pouco ("a little") menos o menos
bem ("well") melhor optimamente
mal ("badly") pior pessimamente

41. Comparisons of nouns

You will see that nouns are compared in somewhat different ways than adjectives and adverbs are, but many of the same principles apply.

To express an equal quantity between two nouns, use "tanto," "tanta," "tantos," or "tantas" (depending on gender and number) with "como": "Robinho tem tantos livros como Beatriz" ("Robinho has as many books as Beatriz").

To express a greater quantity of one noun, use "mais . . . do que": "Robinho tem mais livros do que Beatriz" ("Robinho has more books than Beatriz").

To express a lesser quantity of one noun, use "menos . . . do que": "Robinho tem menos livros do que Beatriz" ("Robinho has fewer books than Beatriz").

To express the superlative degree of a noun, use the phrases "a maior quantidade de" or "o maior número de": "Robinho tem o maior número de livros" ("Robinho has the most books").

For the absolute superlative use "muito," "muita," "muitos," or "muitas" (depending on gender and number): "Robinho tem muitos livros" ("Robinho has a lot of books"). The endings "íssimo," "-íssima," "-íssimos," and "íssimas" are used to express a large quantity of something: "Robinho tem multíssimos livros" ("Robinho has very many books").

42. Diminutive and augmentive endings

In the last section, we learned that we can make absolute superlatives of nouns by adding certain endings. We can do the same thing to make a diminutive of a noun by adding the endings "inho," "-zinho," "-ito," or "zito" to the end, varying the endings to agree with gender and number. Here are some examples:
Gato ("cat") → gatinho ("kitten")
Caixa ("box") → caixinha ("little box")
Mesas ("table") → mesinhas ("little tables")

The diminutive ending can also be used to add a tone of affection. For example, people sometimes refer to a coffee as a "cafézinho" ("nice little coffee"). Isn't that a pleasant way of making your relationship with a caffienated beverage just a little more special?

The opposite of a diminutive ending is an augmentive ending, accomplished by adding "ão" to the end of a noun:
Caixa ("box") → caixão ("large box")

43. Present continuous verb tense

It feels so long since we've had any meaningful talk about verbs, so I think it's time to touch on another verb form used to talk about the present. Though the present indicative is versatile enough that phrases like "bebo vinho branco" can express both "I drink white wine" and "I am drinking white wine," Portuguese has another way of expressing the latter sentence to better specify that someone or something is involved in an activity at a specific moment.

As in English, the present continuous is a compound tense, meaning it has two different elements. Also as in English, the two elements are the present tense of the verb "to be" ("estar") and a gerund (a verb ending in "-ing" and used as a noun). To form the gerund in Portuguese, change the ending of the verb's infinitive form according to these rules:
Add "ando" to "ar" verbs: falar → falando.
Add "endo" to "er" verbs: vender → vendendo.
Add "indo" to "ir" verbs: partir → partindo.

Thus, to express the above sentence in the present continuous, I would say "estou bebendo vinho branco" to make it clear that I am drinking white wine at this particular moment.

In Portugal, the expression "estar a" plus the infinitive of a verb is an alternative way to form the present continuous tense: "estou a beber vinho branco" ("I am drinking white wine").

44. Relative pronouns

I'm afraid we aren't done with pronouns just yet. Relative pronouns stand in for nouns that are mentioned elsewhere in a sentence. For example, in the sentence "the hotel that is downtown" the word "that" is a relative pronoun that refers to the noun "hotel." The Portuguese equivalent would be "o hotel que está no centro," in which "que" is the relative pronoun that refers to "hotel."

Use the relative pronoun "que" as above to stand in for "that," "which," and "who." Use "cujo," "cuja," "cujos," and "cujas" to stand in for "whose" and "of which": "o hotel cuja porta está aberta" ("the hotel whose door is open"). Note that the relative pronoun agrees with "door."

45. Preterite verb tense

So far, we've been spending all of our time learning how to speak about things in the present tense. However, you might need to talk about yesterday or the day before, and to do so we need to start learning some past tenses. The first we will encounter is the preterite, which is used to indicate an action that was completed at some definite time in the past, so the Portuguese sentence "eu falei" can be translated as both "I spoke" and "I have spoken."

First we'll learn the regular conjugations of the preterite tense.

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falei vendi parti
tu falaste vendeste partiste
ele, ela, você falou vendeu partiu
nós falamos vendemos partimos
vós falastes vendestes partistes
eles, elas, vocês falaram venderam partiram

Here are the preterite forms of the two verbs for "to be":

Personal pronoun ser estar
eu fui estive
tu foste estuviste
ele, ela, você foi esteve
nós fomos estivemos
vós fostes estivestes
eles, elas, vocês foram estiveram

Finally, we have some irregular forms to learn:

Personal pronoun dar
"to say"
"to do, to make"
"to exist, to have"
eu dei disse fiz houve
tu deste disseste fizeste houveste
ele, ela, você deu disse fez houve
nós demos dissemos fizemos houvemos
vós destes dissestes fizestes houvestes
eles, elas, vocês deram derem fizeram houveram

Personal pronoun ir
"to go"
"to be able to"
"to want"
eu fui pude quis
tu foste pudeste quisiste
ele, ela, você foi pôde quis
nós fomos pudemos quisemos
vós fostes pudestes quisestes
eles, elas, vocês foram puderam quiseram

Personal pronoun saber
"to know"
"to have"
"to see"
"to come"
eu soube tive vi vim
tu soubeste tiveste viste vieste
ele, ela, você soube teve viu veio
nós soubemos tivemos vimos viemos
vós soubestes tivestes vistes viestes
eles, elas, vocês souberam tiveram viram vieram

You might have noticed that the first person plural ("we") forms are identical in the indicative and preterite tenses. The meaning is generally clear from context. Also, note that the irregular forms of "ir" ("to go") and "ser" ("to be") are identical and are made clear by context.

46. Distinguishing "já," "já não," "ainda," and "ainda não"

A few common adverbs used to talk about time can be confusing, so let's sort them out:
"Já" can refer to both past and future times and indicates "straight away," "already," or "ever": "já está" ("its already done"); "volto já" ("Im returning straight away"); "já foi ao Porto?" ("have you ever been to Porto?").
"Ainda não" indicates "not yet": "não, ainda não fui ao Porto" ("no, I have not yet been to Porto").
"Ainda" indicates "still": "ainda mora em Rio de Janeiro?" ("do you still live in Rio de Janeiro?").
"Já não" indicates "no longer": não, já não moro em Rio de Janeiro ("no, I no longer live in Rio de Janeiro").

47. Imperfect verb tense

The other common past tense is the imperfect. Whereas the preterite describes actions that have a definite end, the imperfect is used for actions that occcurred over an extended period or a habitual action. So, the preterite sentence "eu falei" can be translated into "I spoke," but the imperfect sentence "eu falava" would be translated as "I was speaking" or "I used to speak." Take a look at the sentence "eu falava regularmente" ("I spoke regularly") to get a sense of the use of the imperfect for a habitual action.

The imperfect is frequently used with the preterite to express something that was going on when something else happened: "eu lia quando ela chegou" ("I was reading when she arrived").

The imperfect can also be used colloquially with the verb "querer" ("to want") to express a polite request: "queria um pão" ("I would like a loaf of bread").

The imperfect of "estar" can be used with a gerund or the infinitive of a verb to create a past equivalent of the present continuous that we learned earlier: "estava lendo o jornal" ("I was reading the newspaper") or "estava a ler o jornal" ("I was reading the newspaper").

The regular conjugations of the imperfect follow. Note that the first and third person singular forms are identical, so personal pronouns are commonly used with these tenses.

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falava vendia partia
tu falavas vendias partias
ele, ela, você falava vendia partia
nós falávamos vendíamos partíamos
vós faláveis vendíeis partíeis
eles, elas, vocês falavam vendiam partiam

Now here are some irregular forms:

Personal pronoun ser
"to have"
"to go"
"to come"
eu era tinha ia vinha
tu eras tinhas ias vinhas
ele, ela, você era tinha ia vinha
nós éramos tinhamos íamos vinhamos
vós éreis tinheis íeis vinheis
eles, elas, vocês eram tinham iam vinham

Examples to contrast the two tenses:
Preterite used to indicate an action: "fui a Lisboa" ("I went to Lisbon")
Imperfect used to indicate an action over an extended period of time: "eu morava em Lisboa" ("I was living in Lisbon")
Preterite used to indicate single action: "falei português ontem" ("I spoke Portuguese yesterday")
Imperfect used to indicate habitual action: "eu falava português cada dia" ("I used to speak Portuguese every day")

48. Future verb tense

So we have the present and the past covered, and now we need to look to the future. We learned that the verb "ir" ("to go") can combine with the infinitive as a colloquial way to talk about the future. Even the present tense can be used for the future in certain cases, as in English: "o comboio chega amanhã" ("the train arrives tomorrow").

The third way to talk about the future is to use the future tense of the verb. In the chart below, notice that unlike the other tenses we have learned so far, which involve adding endings to the stems of verbs, with the future tense we add endings to the infinitive forms of verbs.

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falarei venderei partirei
tu falarás venderás partirás
ele, ela, você falará venderá partirá
nós falaremos venderemos partiremos
vós falareis vendereis partireis
eles, elas, vocês falarão venderão partirão

Some verbs are irregular in the future tense. Because only the stems change and the endings are still consistent in the different conjugations of these verbs, I will only show the first person singular conjugation:
Dizer ("to say") → direi
Fazer ("to do," "to make") → farei
Trazer ("to bring") → trarei

49. Special verb "haver"

The third person singular form of the verb "haver" ("to exist") is "há," and it is used in a number of idiomatic senses. The most common usage is to express "there is" or "there are" as in the sentence "há tantas praias no Rio" ("there are many beaches in Rio").

The form "há" is also used to express "how long" in the sense of time: "há quanto tempo está aqui?" ("how long have you been here?"). In a response to this kind of question "há" can stand for "for": "estou aqui há dois dias" ("I have been here for two days"). When used with the preterite tense, "há" can express "ago": "cheguei há dois dias" ("I arrived two days ago").

Finally, the word "há" can express conviction over a future event, as in the sentence "há de fazer sol" ("the sun will come out"). Using the future form can express determination over a future event: "haverei de aprender o português" ("I will learn Portuguese").

50. Negative expressions

Much earlier, we learned that you can create a simple negative sentence by adding "não" in front of the verb. However, we can craft a greater variety of negative sentences by learning a few new words, all of which are negative equivalents of affirmative words. Note that we still use "não" with these sentences, a double negative that is perfectly acceptable in Portuguese and other romance languages:
The word "alguém" ("someone") has the negative equivalent "ninguém" ("nobody"): "não há ninguém no restaurante" ("theres no one in the restaurant").
The word "algo" ("something") has the negative equivalent "nada" ("nothing"): "não tenho nada a declarar" ("I have nothing to declare").
The words "algum," "alguma," "alguns," and "algumas" ("some") have the negative equivalents "nenhum," "nenhuns," "nenhuma," and "nenhumas" ("none"): "não há nenhum comboio" ("there is no train").
The word "sempre" ("always") has the negative equivalent "nunca" ("never"): "nunca como a carne" ("I never eat meat").
The expression "ou . . . ou" ("either . . . or") has the negative equivalent "nem . . . nem" ("neither . . . nor"): "não compro nem esta nem esse carteira" ("Im neither buying this wallet nor that one").
The word "também" ("also") has the negative equivalent "tampouco" ("neither"): "Não como peixe. Não como porco tampouco" ("I don't eat fish. Neither do I eat pork").

51. Days and months

Now that we can talk about the future and the past, we should learn the days of the week and the months of the year. First, the days. The definite articles are added so you will know the genders, but they are not often used.
Sunday: o domingo
Monday: a segunda-feira
Tuesday: a terça-feira
Wednesday: a quarta-feira
Thursday: a quinta-feira
Friday: a sexta-feira
Saturday: o sábado

In everyday speech, it is common to drop the "feira" part and just say "segunda," etc.

Now the months:
January: janeiro
February: fevereiro
March: março
April: abril
May: maio
June: junho
July: julho
August: agosto
September: setembro
October: outubro
November: novembro
December: dezembro

Though I have put the months and days in lower-case, initial capitals can also be used.

To ask the date, say "que dia é hoje?" ("what day is today?"). To respond, say "hoje é sábado" ("today is Saturday"). Use cardinal numbers for days of the month: "vinte de Agosto" ("August 20th"). Use the definite article and plural noun when talking about activities on certain days: "trabalho às segundas e sextas" ("I work on Mondays and Fridays").

Need to express the complete date? Here's an example: "hoje é vinte e cinco de Agosto de dois mil sete" ("today is August 25, 2007"). For the first of the month, "primeiro" ("first") is used instead of "um": "primeiro de Agosto."

52. Imperatives

Now back to some more verb tenses. The imperative is used to issue commands, as in the handy sentences "fale mais devagar" ("speak more slowly") and "repita, por favor" ("repeat, please"). You might find the inclusion of the first person plural ("nós") peculiar. After all, how can you command yourself to do something? However, the "we" form is used in cases where you would say "let's . . .," as in "vamos" ("let's go").

First let's look at the regular forms:

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
tu fala vende parte
você fale venda parta
nós falemos vendamos partamos
vós falai vendei parti
vocês falem vendam partam

Now some irregulars:

Personal pronoun ir
"to go"
"to do, to make"
"to come"
tu vai faz vem
você faça venha
nós vamos façamos venhamos
vós ide fazei vinde
vocês vão façam venham

53. Conditional verb tense

The conditional tense is used to express probability and is usually the equivalent of "would." Thus, the sentence "eu falaria" would be translated as "I would speak." In speech the conditional is frequently replaced by the imperfect, and as noted above on our discussion on the imperfect, this is particularly true with "queria," the imperfect form of "querer" ("to want"), which is useful in sentences like "queria comer" ("I would like to eat").

First, here are the regular forms. Note that the conjugations of the conditional are formed similarly to those of the future tense in that the "stem" is simply the infinitive form of the verb:

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falaria venderia partiria
tu falarias venderias partirias
ele, ela, você falaria venderia partiria
nós falaríamos venderíamos partiríamos
vós falaríeis venderíeis partiríeis
eles, elas, vocês falariam venderiam partiriam

Naturally, a few common verbs are irregular in the conditional tense. The stem changes of these verbs are identical to those of the future tense, and again I will only show the first person singular conjugation as the stem changes are consistent through the different conjugations:
Dizer ("to say") → diria
Fazer ("to do," "to make") → faria
Trazer ("to bring") → traria

Be careful of expressing a habit in the past as in Portuguese you would use the imperfect rather than the conditional in such a situation. For example, in English we would say "I would speak Portuguese every day," and the use of the word "would" might lead you to believe that the conditional would be appropriate in Portuguese. However, in Portuguese this sentence would be rendered in the imperfect tense as "eu falava português cada dia."

54. Polite commands

Although we have learned to use the imperative as a means of issuing commands, we generally want to use more polite ways of asking for things. For example, when ordering in a bar or restaurant you could use the imperative and say "traga-me uma cerveja" ("bring me a beer"). Yet, you can see that even in the English the order seems a bit abrupt, so you would likely express the request in a more polite way such as "could you bring me a beer" or "I would like a beer." So let's learn some ways to make a request polite in Portuguese.

The conditional tense we just learned can be used with the verb "gostar" ("to like") to express a polite command. Remember that "gostar" requires the preposition "de": "gostaria duma cerveja" ("I would like a beer").

The word "queria," which is the imperfect form of the verb "querer" ("to want") but that we have learned can substitute for the conditional, can also be used to make a request: "queria uma cerveja" ("I would like a beer"). The imperfect form of the verb "poder" ("to be able to") can be used in a similar fashion: "podia trazer-me uma cerveja?" ("could you bring me a beer?").

The words for "please" are "por favor" and "faz favor" and both can be appended to a request: "queria uma cerveja, faz favor" ("I would like a beer, please"). However, a more elegant way is to say "faça favor": "faça favor, pode trazer-me uma cerveja?" ("please, can you bring me a beer?"). Another similar formulation is "faça o favor de": "faça o favor de trazer-me uma cerveja?" ("would you please bring me a beer?").

55. Past participle

We learned about the present participle in our discussion on the present continuous tense. The past participle is similar and is constructed by adding the appropriate ending to the stem of the verb:
Add "ado" to "ar" verbs: falar → falado
Add "ido" to "er" verbs: vender → vendido
Add "ido" to "ir" verbs: partir → partido

Several past participles are irregular:
Abrir ("to open") → aberto
Dizer ("to say") → dito
Fazer ("to do") → feito
Pôr ("to put") → posto
Ver ("to see") → visto
Vir ("to come") → vindo
Escrever ("to write") → escrito
Gastar ("to spend") → gasto
Ganhar ("to earn") → ganho

Past participles are frequently used as adjectives, and in these cases the endings vary just like with an adjective: "o homem perdido" ("the lost man"). Another common use of the past participle is with perfect verb tenses, which are coming up next.

56. Compound perfect verb tenses

Now it's time to learn another form of verb tense. These are called compound tenses because they are made up of two components: the verb "haver" or "ter" and the past participle. The past participle part does not vary according to number and gender as it does when used as an adjective.

The most common type of perfect verb tense is the present perfect, which is formed with the present indicative form of "haver" or "ter." The tense is another type of past tense and is used to describe a continuous or frequently repeated action or a series of actions occurring within a period of time that has not yet elapsed. That's a complicated way of talking about something simple, so let's use an example. In the sentence "I have been sleeping," we are discussing a continuous action that is still in progress, so we would render this sentence into Portuguese with the present perfect: "tenho estado a dormir." If, however, there is a time limit on an activity, the present or present continuous is used: "estou dormido há duas horas" ("I have been sleeping for two hours").

However, be careful of the tendency to confuse the present perfect with the preterite. For example, in English the sentence "he has written" is in the present perfect tense and you can see that "has written" is a compound tense, so you might want to use the present perfect in Portuguese to translate this sentence. In fact, the preterite tense would actually be used in this case as the action has definitely ended, and you would express it as "ele escreveu" ("he has written"). The present perfect equivalent in Portuguese, "ele tem escrevendo," is translated as "he has been writing."

Another form of perfect tense is the future perfect, which I won't go into in too much detail as you likely won't be using it, but it can best be illustrated through a simple example: "ela terá comido a torta" ("she will have eaten the pie").

One final perfect form I will touch on is the past perfect, which is formed with the imperfect conjugation of "ter" with the past participle. The past perfect (also known as the pluperfect) describes something that was completed before some given or implied past time. Again, a simple example should suffice: "ele tinha ido" ("he had gone").

Note that object pronouns, including the reflexive, are often attached to the first part of the compound tense: "tinha-os comprado" ("I had bought them"). However, this is not the case with negative sentences: "não os tinha comprado" ("I had not bought them").

57. Subjunctive mood

I hope you're up for a challenge, because that's exactly what the subjunctive mood (not quite the same thing as a tense) frequently represents for English speakers. However, we often do use the subjunctive in English without being aware of it. For example, notice the form of the verb "to come" in the sentence "we prefer that he come with us." Normally, the present indicative form of this verb in the third person is "comes," but in this case the subjunctive form "come" is used.

The subjunctive is used in similar cases in Portuguese but shows up more often. In particular, you will see the subjunctive in the following four situations:
1) To express a wish or hope: espero que ela chege hoje ("I hope that she might arrive today").
2) To express sorrow or sympathy: sinto que ele esteja doente ("I am sorry that he is ill").
3) To discuss an action or event regarded as a possibility: ela talvez tome uma cerveja ("she may perhaps have a beer").
4) After a main clause that implies influence on other people or things: peço a Gilberto que me compre uma bebida ("I'm asking Gilberto to buy me a drink")

First let's look at the standard conjugation of the present subjunctive:

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu fale venda parta
tu fales vendas partas
ele, ela, você fale venda parta
nós falemos vendamos partamos
vós faleis vendais partais
eles, elas, vocês falem vendam partam

Now try these irregulars:

Personal pronoun ir
"to go"
"to give"
tu vás dês
ele, ela, você
nós vamos dêmos
vós vades deis
eles, elas, vocês vão dêem

A few others irregulars are simpler and only require a stem change in the subjunctive, so I won't lay out the full conjugations. Here are the first person singular conjugations, and you can work out the rest if you need to:
Estar ("to be") → esteja
Dizer ("to say") → diga
Fazer ("to do," "to make") → faça
Haver ("to exist," "to have") → haja
Poder ("to be able to") → possa
Ler ("to read") → leia
Saber ("to know") → saiba
Querer ("to want") → queira
Ser ("to be") → seja
Ter ("to have") → tenha
Trazer ("to bring") → traga
Ver ("to see") → veja
Vir ("to come") → venha

You might have noticed that certain subjunctive conjugations are identical to imperative forms. This is no accident, and when you use certain commands you are essentially using the subjunctive. The second person formal singular ("você") and plural subjunctive ("vocês") forms are identical to the second person formal singular and plural imperative forms, and the first person plural subjunctive form ("nós") is identical to the first person plural imperative.

58. Imperfect subjunctive verb tense

Of course, every present tense has its equivalent past tense, and the subjunctive is no exception. Use the imperfect subjunctive in the following cases:
1) To express a wish or hope in the past or a more remote possibility: esperava que ele chegasse hoje ("I was hoping that she might arrive today").
2) To express sorrow or sympathy in the past: senti que ele estivesse doente ("I was sorry that he was ill").
3) To express a possible event but with a much greater degree of doubt: ela talvez tomasse uma cerveja ("she might perhaps have a beer").
4) After a main clause that implies influence upon people or things in the past: pedia a Gilberto que me comprasse uma bebida ("I used to ask Gilberto to buy me a drink").
5) With the conditional tense in certain cases: se quisesse, poderíamos ir ao teatro ("if you so wanted, we could go to the theater").

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falasse vendesse partisse
tu falasses vendesses partisses
ele, ela, você falasse vendesse partisse
nós falássemos vendêssemos partíssemos
vós falásseis vendêsseis partísseis
eles, elas, vocês falassem vendessem partissem

Naturally there are many irregulars, but because the past subjunctive is not that common of a form I won't get into them here.

59. Inflected or personal infinitive tense

Finally, let's talk about a verb tense that's unique to Portuguese. Because it's unusual, its usage may not be immediately apparent, but I will do my best to explain it in simple terms.

The basic use of the personal infinitive is to specify who is being referred to when an infinitive form of a verb is used. For example, I could say "é fácil de fazer" ("it is easy to do") if I am talking about something in a general sense, but I could also use the personal infinitive to specify the one for whom something is easy to do: "é fácil de fazerdes" ("it is easy for us to do"). However, if the subject of the main verb and the infinitive verb are the same, use the infinitive instead of the personal infinitive: "espero fazer boa viagem" ("I hope I have a nice journey").

The personal infinitive can also replace the subjunctive. This is particularly done in cases where a preposition replaces the conjunction "que." Compare the sentence "vai telefonar antes que partas" ("he is going to telephone before you leave") with "vai telefonar antes de partires." The former uses the subjunctive, whereas the latter uses the personal infinitive.

I could go into greater depth with the explanation of when the personal infinitive can replace the subjunctive, but I don't think such a discussion would be very useful to you if you just want to get the basics, so I'll just give you the conjugations and leave it at that. Note again that the stem is the infinitive of the verb.

Personal pronoun falar
"to speak"
"to sell"
"to leave"
eu falar vender partir
tu falares venderes partires
ele, ela, você falar vender partir
nós falardes venderdes partirdes
vós falarmos vendermos partirmos
eles, elas, vocês falarem venderem partirem


I hope this quick survey has been helpful to you. I don't pretend to be fluent in Portuguese, but if you have any questions or if you see something that's just plain wrong (which happens despite the attention I put into these things), feel free to e-mail me:

Last update for this page: 19 November 2007