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Saying No

May 19, 2020

The Basics: No & Not The simplest way to make a sentence negative in Portuguese is just to place the word before the verb. This is the Portuguese equivalent of adding “no” or “not” to a sentence in English. Examples: Não is also used at the beginning of sentences, when replying “no” to a question:

Learn Portuguese by Cooking

May 17, 2020

How about a lesson that ends in a tasty reward? For all you omnivores out there, let’s explore some vocabulary in context for different types of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients with these family receitasrecipes contributed by one of our team members and his mother. Thanks Eduardo and Fernanda! 🙌

Learn the vocabulary in the ingredients list and then challenge yourself to remember it in the recipe steps.

Carolos à Moda da Beira-Alta (Beira-Alta Style Carolos)


Reflexivity with Tonic Pronouns

May 5, 2020

Reflexive pronouns tell you that an action is done to oneself (i.e. the object is the same as the subject). In English, we use words like myself, herself, and ourselves to express this idea. If you want to read more about Portuguese reflexive pronouns, we also cover them in the Clitic Pronouns unit here. In order to make it easier to spot and understand the differences, we’ll be using the same examples throughout this Learning Note.

As you’ll see below, clitic pronouns (such as -me) are often used along with tonic pronouns (such as mim) to emphasize the object in reference: Desenhei-me a mim.I drew myself.

In some cases, it is also helpful to add the words próprioself or mesmosame to emphasize the reflexive nature of the verb even more and make the meaning less ambiguous: Ela desenhou-se a si própria.She drew herself.

…but this is optional if you’ve already used a clitic pronoun, as in this example: Desenhaste-te a ti (mesmo).You drew yourself.

Explore the examples in each category below to help clarify these concepts…

The Pronouns Si & Consigo

May 5, 2020

The Pronoun Si: Then and Now

Grammatically speaking, the pronouns si and consigo belong to the 3rd person subjects: ele(s)/ela(s). This is because they were initially only used as reflexive pronouns*, which are pronouns that refer to the same subject or thing as the verb. For example:

Ele levou a mala consigoHe took the suitcase with him

*We’ll talk more about reflexive tonic pronouns in an upcoming Learning Note, but you can read more about reflexive clitic pronouns here.

The sentence above is still correct and wouldn’t be confusing because the context makes it clear who consigo refers to. Nowadays, however, it’s more common to see si and consigo used with 2nd person formal subjects. Si and consigo can replace você, as using você in European Portuguese can sometimes be seen as disrespectful or too intense. For example:

Using Tonic Pronouns with Prepositions

May 5, 2020

In this Learning Note, we’ll explore each tonic pronoun and see some examples of how it is used along with different prepositions.

Me and You(Informal)

The tonic pronouns that correspond to eu I, me and tu youinf. are mim and ti . Let’s see how they are used in sentences:

Tens medo de mim?Are you scared of me?

Faço isso por mimDo that for me

Não é bom para tiIt’s not good for you

Agora vivo mais perto de ti Now I live closer to you

When mim or ti go along with com with, the pronouns become comigo with me and contigo with youinf..

Introduction to Tonic Pronouns

May 5, 2020

Personal pronouns can be classified according to how they are used within a sentence. There are pronomes clíticos clitic pronouns, which are unstressed, and pronomes tónicostonic pronouns, which are stressed.

This learning note will serve as an introduction to tonic pronouns, however, let’s first see a recap of all the personal pronouns in order to compare them.

Subject Pronouns Clitic Pronouns Tonic Pronouns Tonic Pronouns + “Com”
eu me mim comigo with me
tu te ti contigo with you informal
ele/ela lhe, se ele



com ele with him

com ela with her

consigo with him, with her, with you formal

nós nos nós connosco with us
vocês* vos vocês convosco with you plural
eles/elas lhes, se eles


com eleswith them masc.

com elaswith them fem.

consigo with them

Past Participles & Auxiliary Verbs

April 27, 2020

In this lesson we’re going to tackle one of the most seemingly arcane subjects of the Portuguese language: particípios passados past participles.

What is a past participle? A past participle is a verb form that can be used similarly to an adjective (e.g. “I am interested in that”), or that can be used along with an auxiliary verb to form different verb tenses or use the passive voice (e.g. “The bill has been paid“, “The bill was paid“). Let’s look at a few examples to better understand how past participles are used in Portuguese:

Aquele filme? Já o tinha visto, sim. That film? I had already seen it, yes.

Tínhamos escrito ao professor para lhe pedirmos as notas. We had written to the professor to ask for our grades.

Notice that, in the two examples above, you needed to use another verb before using the past participles “seen” and “written”.

Double Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at particípios passados duplos double past participles. ‘Double’ here means that some verbs can take the form of either a regular or an irregular participle, depending on the auxiliary verb being used with them.

Remember those verbs we marked off with an asterisk in the Irregular Participles learning note? They were ganhar to win, to earn, gastar to spend, and pagar to pay. These are verbs that have double participles. Let’s see them in action:


Eles deviam ter ganhado o campeonato. They should have won the championship.

O campeonato foi ganho pela outra equipa. The championship was won by the other team.


Irregular Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at particípios passados irregulares irregular past participles, i.e. past participles which behave in a unique and unpredictable way. What do we mean by “unique and unpredictable”? Let’s see an example:

Eu abri a janela. A janela foi aberta. I opened the window. The window was opened.

If you are fresh off the previous lesson, perhaps you expected the past participle of abrir to open to follow the rule for -IR verbs, and be “abrida”. Right? But being a mischievous irregular verb, instead of “abrido”/”abrida”, the verb abrir becomes “aberto”/”aberta”! Similarly, if we look at the past participle of fazer to do, to make we get:

Regular Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In Portuguese, there are three types of past participles:

  • Particípios passados regulares Regular past participles,
  • Particípios passados irregulares Irregular past participles, and
  • Duplos particípios passados Double past participles

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at regular past participles, that is to say, past participles which behave in a predictable way. These participles depend on the verb’s ending, i.e. they have a different ending depending on whether they’re the past participle of an -AR, -ER or -IR verb.

-AR Verbs

For -AR verbs – andar to walk, falar to speak, amar to love, for instance – the regular ending of the past participle is ‘-ado’, which is added to the root of the verb. Examples:

Os alunos tinham andado até ao instituto. The students had walked up to the institute.

Idiomatic Expressions 2

April 13, 2020

In this Learning Note we’re going to show you a few more Portuguese idioms.

És uma cabeça de alho chocho. You’re a knucklehead.

This expression literally means “you’re a head of spoiled garlic”, which means you are not very bright. Although originally meant for people who are easily distracted or forgetful, it has a become an endearing way of calling someone dumb.

O negócio ficou em águas de bacalhau. The deal fell apart.

In the past, Portuguese fishermen sailed all the way to Greenland and Newfoundland looking for cod. While fishing in those “cod waters”, many of them lost their lives, boats, and cargo and that is, supposedly, the origin of this expression. It can mean that after a great deal of work, nothing happened, something was lost, or that an agreement could not be reached.

A pensar morreu um burro. Decide-te! A donkey died thinking. Make a decision!

This is an expression used when someone says they’re thinking, but all they really need to do is to take some action. The word burro can also be used as an insult for someone you think is stupid or not very bright, but that’s not the meaning of the word in this context.

Irregular Verbs in the Simple Past

April 13, 2020

You’ve learned about irregular verbs and how to conjugate some of them in the present tense. If they’re irregular in the present, they’re usually irregular in other tenses too. There are no consistent rules to follow for this category, so the only way to learn the different conjugations is to study each one and practice, practice, practice! (Keep in mind, however, that there are some irregular verbs that follow the rules in most tenses, but are still called irregular due to the exceptions.)

Irregular -AR Verbs


to give


Dar – Indicativo – Pretérito

Tu deste um presente à tua mãe ontem.
You gave a present to your mom yesterday.

  • eu dei
  • I gave
  • tu deste
  • you gave
  • ele / ela deu
  • he / she gave
  • você deu
  • you formal gave
  • nós demos
  • we gave
  • eles / elas deram
  • they masc. / they fem. gave
  • vocês deram
  • you pl. gave


Forming Questions Using “Que”

February 10, 2020

When forming sentences in Portuguese, especially questions, English speakers are often surprised by all the seemingly “extra” words that show up. One of these tricky words is que , which can serve many different purposes depending on the context in which it is used.

We hope you can use the examples below to help you understand how and when to use que in its different forms.

When to use “Quê”

Quê What, that, which (notice the accent) is the form generally used at the end of a sentence or clause, whether or not it’s an interrogative one.

You can’t end a sentence with que what, that, which (without the accent) so the choice is easy in these cases.

O quê?What?

Não tens de quê! You’re welcome!

Disseste o quê? You said what?

Of these three, O quê? is probably the most common case. It can serve as a simple reply, literally meaning What?, but also, depending on the tone, it can express one’s surprise (What!?) or lack of focus (What!? I wasn’t listening.).

Quê can also appear in other parts of a sentence, but that’s pretty much limited to the following two cases:

The Letters S and C

January 16, 2020

As is the case with most languages, the same letter can be associated with different phonemes — that is to say, the same letter can be pronounced in many different ways. You’ve probably noticed that Portuguese is no exception. Two of these letters that have many variations are S and C:

  • Sucesso Success – In this example, different letters/digraphs (s, c, and ss) have the same sound.
  • Concessão Concession  – Here we have the same letter (c), but two different sounds.

In this Learning Note, you’ll learn how to pronounce these letters by paying attention to how they are positioned within a word or phrase.

The Letter S

Depending on where it’s placed, and the letters surrounding it, s can have 3 different sounds: se , ze, or sh

The Gender of Portuguese Words

January 11, 2020

Unlike English, most Portuguese words have a gender.

Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, like the -o ending in many masculine words and the -a ending in many feminine words. There are many, many exceptions, however, so you can’t always rely on that rule. Furthermore, some words take on different forms for each gender and others only have one form. It comes down to using the patterns as a guide and memorizing the exceptions over time as you hear them in context.

We can split Portuguese words into at least four groups when it comes to gender.

Minimal Pairs

December 10, 2019

Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound.

For example, conta calculation and conto tale – the only difference is in the final sound (the vowel sounds represented by a and o).

Practicing with minimal pairs is a great way to perfect your pronunciation and comprehension because it teaches you to hear the subtle differences between similar sounding words. As you’ll see in the examples below, even a tiny change in pronunciation means you could be saying something much different from what you intend to say!

While we’re at it, let’s also make a distinction between minimal pairs, homophones, and homographs.

  • Homophones are words with the same exact pronunciation but different meanings
  • Minimal pairs are words that have the same pronunciation except for only a single sound, also known as a fonema (phoneme). That single sound difference is the only thing that lets you know they are two different words – they are minimally different.
  • Homographs are words that are written the same exact way but pronounced differently. Some minimal pairs can also be homographs but that’s not the norm.

Let’s dive into some minimal pairs!

Open vs. Closed Vowels

à vs. a

  • give da of
  • às to as the
  • para – para stop – to
  • falámos we spoke falamos we speak

Portuguese Slang

November 3, 2019


You have been learning to speak and write proper Portuguese, but not every Portuguese person speaks perfectly 100% of the time. Depending on the context, we might prefer using simpler terms to save time, explain something in a different way, joke around, or even fit in with a group. That’s where gíria popular – or just gíria slang comes in. Let’s take a look at some of the most common words.


Ya, eu vou ter convosco Yeah, I’ll meet you guys

Ya – also found written as – is often, but not exclusively, used by young people. It simply means Sim Yes, but can also replace, or be replaced by, Claro Of course, Certo Right, or even Uh-huh.

Eu não sei, ! I don’t know, man!

is one of the trademarks of the European Portuguese dialect. It can be used at the end of sentences to emphasize what’s being said, as in the example above. It can also be used in place of  “uhh…”, the sound you make when you’re thinking.

Idiomatic Expressions 1

October 18, 2019

Expressões IdiomáticasIdiomatic expressions, or idioms, are expressions that you shouldn’t interpret literally. They have a symbolic meaning, which is rarely maintained when they are translated into other languages. These expressions reflect the customs and history of the country and are part of all conversations of the Portuguese, rich or poor, from North to South of Portugal. They often incorporate slang words and can be used to convey irony, exaggeration, or impatience, or even just to save time.

Or, as we say in Portugal:

Poupar o nosso latim Spare our Latin

This expression, Poupar latim Spare Latin, is itself idiomatic, and is based on the fact that Portuguese is a language originating from Latin.

During the 1755 earthquake, two convents collapsed in Lisbon, one with the name Carmo and one with the name Trindade. It was here that the expression Cair o Carmo e a Trindade appeared, which initially implied terror and panic. Although it still retains that meaning, nowadays it is often used in an ironic tone, when you fear the consequences of something unimportant. For example:

Ui, parece que caiu o Carmo e a Trindade! Yikes, it looks like the crap hit the fan


October 16, 2019

Interjections are words with an emotive function. They are used to express emotions, sensations, and moods. They can be just simple vowel sounds, like Ah! and Oh! , but most are either a free word or a phrase, in which case we call them locuções interjetivas.

The same interjeição interjection can have different meanings depending on the context in which it appears, its purpose, and the speaker’s attitude. Even with simple vowel sounds, sometimes changing the tone and extending the sound will give it another meaning.

Ai! Bati com o joelho na mesa. Ah! I hit the table with my knee.

Ai! Já me estou a passar contigo. Ah! You’re getting on my nerves.

Interjections can be used as a standalone reply / affirmation, or they can be followed by a sentence.

Basta! Enough!

Irra! Vocês não conseguem mesmo estar calados, pois não? Geez! You really can’t keep quiet, can you?

There’s practically an unlimited number of interjeições interjections, but below you will find the most common grouped by meaning/context.

Getting Residency

September 26, 2019

The process for becoming a resident of Portugal varies depending on which country you are moving from. We’ll provide an overview for both EU Citizens and Non-EU Citizens. In both cases, make sure to read through the SEF or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras Foreigners and Borders Service website to get the most up to date and detailed information about the requirements for your particular circumstances.

When you’re ready to apply for your autorização de residência residence permit (non-EU citizens) or your Certificado de Residência Permanente Permanent Residence Certificate (both EU and non-EU), be sure to make your SEF appointment well in advance as the appointments fill up quickly.

You will need a Número de Identificação Fiscal Tax Identification Number, also called Número de Contribuinte Taxpayer number, which is a Portuguese tax number required for things like buying a home, opening a bank account, receiving benefits, paying taxes, and more. You can apply for this at a Finanças local tax office, or at a Loja do Cidadão Citizen Shop

Past Continuous Tense

September 2, 2019

In this learning note, we’ll discuss the pretérito imperfeito do indicativo, which is the Portuguese equivalent to the past continuous tense in English grammar. For simplicity, we’ll refer to it as the Imperfeito Imperfect.

This tense is used to describe something that took place in the past that was ongoing or did not have a clear endpoint. It imparts this idea of continuity that the other pretéritos past tenses don’t have, which makes it ideal to narrate past events, as well as to describe past habits. 

Fui picado por mosquitos enquanto dormia. I was bitten by mosquitoes while I was sleeping.

Eu comia sopa todos os dias. I used to eat soup every day.

The first sentence mixes the Pretérito Perfeito Simple Past (fui picado) with the Imperfeito Imperfect (dormia). We’ll compare both tenses further below in this article.

Conjugating Verbs in the Imperfeito

Conjugating regular verbs in the Imperfeito:

-ar verb ending -er/-ir verb ending
eu -ava -ia
tu -avas -ias
ele/ela/você -ava -ia
nós -ávamos -íamos
eles/elas/vocês -avam -iam

Three examples of irregular verbs in the Imperfeito:

Talking About the Future with “Haver”

August 21, 2019

The verb haver can also be used indicate that someone will do something at some point in the future. To use it like this, we conjugate the verb in the Present Indicative tense and add the preposition de. This is a rather formal way of describing a future action or intention.

Hei de visitar a minha avó. I shall visit my grandmother.

Hás de ir a França um dia. You shall go to France one day.

Haver can also be used in a similar fashion to make a request. When haver + de is used to ask for something, it implies “in the future, as soon as you have the time/it is convenient”. Let’s look at a few examples:

Talking About the Past with “Haver”

August 21, 2019

Another common use of haver is to indicate that an amount of time has passed before the present moment.

When used in this way, haver is only conjugated in the third person singular: . This is known as haver‘s impersonal use because the verb doesn’t have a specific subject. Thus, there are no other conjugations. It roughly corresponds to the English adverb ago, or to other expressions which signal that a certain amount of time has passed. Let’s have a look at some examples:

As piscinas fecharam cinco minutos. The pools closed five minutes ago.

Há muito que não comia panquecas assim. I haven’t had pancakes like those in a long time.

Estou à espera do cartão seis meses. I’ve been waiting for that card for six months.

Similarly, haver can be used to ask how long something has been going on for. Examples:

Haver as “To Exist / To Have”

August 21, 2019

The first and easiest of the many meanings of haver is to exist. That is to say, the verb indicates that something “is” or “exists” somewhere. In English, the verb there to be would typically be used in these contexts. When used in this sense, the verb haver is impersonal and has very few usable forms. It can’t be conjugated like other verbs.

dois cadernos na tua secretária. There are two notebooks on your desk.

uma laranja podre no cesto da fruta. There is a rotten orange in the fruit basket.

cobertores no sótão. There are blankets in the attic.

Word Order

This use of haver is very easy to identify since sentences are usually structured as Haver + Object + Location of said object, as in the examples above.

The location is not always mentioned, however. In this context, haver sometimes implies that something is for sale or being offered.