Verb Phrases & Clitic Pronouns

August 25, 2020

In Portuguese, verb phrases are known as locuções verbais. The definition of verb phrases varies in English, but in the Portuguese language, it refers to the use of an auxiliary verb + a main verb. More specifically, the formula “auxiliary verb + the main verb in the infinitive, past participle or gerund”. In such situations, the placement of the clitic pronoun is a bit more lax compared to the rules we’ve discussed in the past.

Let’s take a look at how to place clitic object pronouns when the main verb in is the infinitive or gerund form compared to how to place them when the main verb is in its past participle form.

When the main verb is in the infinitive or gerund

In the first example below, the pronoun comes after the main verb (mostrar) and this would be the most common way to place it. This is because there’s not a so-called “attractive” word that requires you to place it before the verb (such as an adverb or negative word). This usually happens in affirmative sentences.

Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Consonants

August 17, 2020

Portuguese and English share a common alphabet, for the most part, and many of the sounds associated with each consonant are quite similar. If you’re a native English speaker, the pronunciations to pay special attention to are those associated with the vowels, which we will cover in a separate learning note, as well as the following consonants / consonant digraphs: c, ç, ch, h, lh, m, n, nh, r, s, x, and z. This guide will serve as an overview of European Portuguese pronunciation for consonants, but you should also explore these links for more detailed explanations of some of the trickier sounds:

Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Vowels

August 17, 2020

It’s time to take a deep dive into the pronunciation of vowels in European Portuguese! First we’ll invite you to play around with this interactive guide and then we’ll cover all the factors that go into creating the variety of subtle variations between each vowel sound.

Pronunciation of Vowels in European Portuguese

Explore the guide below to get to know Portuguese vowels a little bit better. You can mouseover Rui’s lovely face in the interactive diagram to listen to and practice all these vowel sounds! For the best possible experience, use a computer running the Chrome browser.

European vs Brazilian Portuguese

August 13, 2020

What’s the difference between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese? For starters, European Portuguese is the variant spoken in Portugal and is more similar to the dialects spoken in Africa and Asia. (It is sometimes called Continental Portuguese, or even Portuguese Portuguese! 😄  ) Given the size and population of Brazil, however, the Brazilian Portuguese set of dialects are the most famous across the world, including online and in the entertainment industry.

Some compare the distinction between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese to that between American and British English, or between Latin American and European/Castilian Spanish. Practice Portuguese only teaches European Portuguese, but if you are arriving here with a background in Brazilian Portuguese, it can be helpful to understand the differences.

For native Portuguese speakers, the various dialects are mutually intelligible. As a non-native, hearing multiple versions can sometimes add extra confusion and complexity to the learning process, particularly when it comes to the pronunciation differences. If you’re planning to spend time in Portugal, or you just want to learn more about the Portuguese language as a whole, it’s important to understand the many unique characteristics of European Portuguese. We’ll take a look at some of the primary differences in spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

The European Portuguese Alphabet

August 13, 2020

This Learning Note will teach you how to spell using the letters of the European Portuguese alphabet, which will likely come in handy if you ever travel or move to Portugal. Receiving packages, making phone calls, and setting up services often require you to spell your name or other personal information, such as the name of the street you live on.

While the Portuguese alfabeto alphabet contains practically the same letters as the English one, and the original Latin alphabet for that matter, the names for each letter and the sounds (also called fonemas phonemes) associated with each letter are quite different.

The Letters of the Portuguese Alphabet

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

Future Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

As previously mentioned, the futuro do conjuntivo future subjunctive allows us to talk about the conditions that must be met in order for a potential future action to occur, (i.e. “If this goes well, I will do that” or “When we get home, I will do that”). This tense appears in subordinate adverbial clauses (i.e. clauses which function like an adverb), as well as in relative clauses. It often goes along with the conjunction se if or others such as:

  • assim que as soon as, once
  • sempre que whenever
  • quando when
  • enquanto while, as long as
  • como how
  • o que what

Verb Conjugation

Regular Verbs

With regular verbs, the futuro do conjuntivo is conjugated exactly the same as the

Imperfect Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

Another tense that makes up part of the conjuntivo is the imperfeito do conjuntivo imperfect subjunctive. You learned about the pretérito imperfeito do indicativo, which references past events that were ongoing. In the conjuntivo, however, the imperfect refers to:

  • past or future wishes and desires;
  • something purely hypothetical in the past or future:
    • i.e. imagining “what could have been” or “what could be” if things were or had been different;
  • something that is or was unlikely to take place.


Present Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

Presente do Conjuntivo

As one of the tenses that makes up part of the conjuntivo (subjunctive) mood, the presente do conjuntivo present subjunctive lets you talk about something that may or may not happen, but that is within the realm of possibility. This includes hopes, fears, doubts, and other hypotheticals. It tends to be paired with the presente do indicativo, such as in clauses beginning with:

  • Espero que… I hope that…
  • É importante que… It’s important that…
  • É bom que… It would be good if…, Literal – It is good that…
  • Receio que… I’m afraid that…
  • Duvido que… I doubt that…
  • Desejo que… I wish that…
  • Quer que eu…? Do you want me to…?

In the next lessons, we’ll focus on the presente do conjuntivo, but you

The Subjunctive Mood in Portuguese (Conjuntivo)

July 27, 2020

Conjuntivo: What is it?

What in English is called the subjunctive mood, in European Portuguese is named modo conjuntivo subjunctive mode. While the indicativo indicative mood refers to actions that are certain or real, the conjuntivo, in contrast, indicates something possible, desired, hypothetical, or even unreal. It conveys the idea of uncertainty, doubt, or hope.

It is often found in sentences that contain the word se if or after a verb + que that, as you will notice in many (but not all) of the examples.

The conjuntivo can appear in

Common Herbs & Spices in Portuguese Cuisine

June 24, 2020

Before we go any further, it’s best to explain the difference between ervas herbs and especiarias spices. Simply put, herbs are leaves while spices are seeds, bark, roots, and flowers. If you love food like we do, or want to understand the menu at a Portuguese restaurant, we think you’ll enjoy this guide to vocabulary for herbs and spices in Portuguese cooking. Thanks to Relish Portugal magazine for suggesting this great idea!

Depending on the type of herb, you can buy them in many different forms:

Using “é que” in European Portuguese Questions

June 24, 2020

You may have come across é que in a variety of Portuguese questions and wondered why these extra words are added. The pair of words is technically optional (the meaning stays the same with or without it), but including é que in Portuguese questions is so common that you should typically default to including it. This would be especially wise for beginners because there are not consistent rules for when it can be left out and excluding it can make certain sentences sound very strange.

Where to add é que

É que appears after the interrogative pronouns and adverbs you learned about previously, for example:

  • O que é que…? What is…?
  • Como é que…? How is…?, What is…?
  • Onde é que…? Where is…?
  • Quando é que…? When is…?

The rest of the question stays the same, continuing in subject, verb, object order, just like in English. É que basically translates to

Asking Questions in Portuguese

June 18, 2020

Yes/No Questions in Portuguese

There are a number of different ways to form questions in Portuguese. We’ll start with those for which the answers are either affirmative or negative. These are the easiest Portuguese questions to ask because very few changes have to be made to turn a statement into a question.

1. Add a question mark to the end of a statement

Tu estás em Portugal You are in Portugal

Tu estás em Portugal? Are you in Portugal?

By adding a ‘?’ to a statement, all we have to do is change the intonation of the sentence and it becomes a “yes or no” question.

2. Add a phrase like “não é?” to the end of a statement

Ela é portuguesa She is Portuguese

Ela é portuguesa, não é? She is Portuguese, isn’t she?, She is Portuguese, right?

This type of question is used when

Saying No

May 19, 2020

The Basics: No & Not This is how to say no in Portuguese: 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 […]

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 receitas recipes 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 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 próprio self or mesmo same 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

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 consigo He took the suitcase with him

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 mim I do that for me

Não é bom para ti It’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 clitic pronouns (pronomes clíticos ), which are unstressed, and tonic pronouns (pronomes tónicos ), which are stressed. This learning note will serve as an introduction to tonic pronouns in Portuguese, however, let’s first see a recap of all the personal pronouns in order to compare them.

Subject Pronouns Clitic Object 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 eles with them masc.

com elas with them fem.

consigo with them

Past Participles & Auxiliary Verbs

April 27, 2020

In this lesson we’re going to tackle past participles in Portuguese, i.e. particípios passados past participles

What is a past participle? A past participle is a verb form that functions similarly to an adjective (e.g. “I am interested in that”), or that goes 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 to use past participles 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 in Portuguese, i.e. past participles which behave in a unique and unpredictable way, instead of following the typical rules. 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 specific 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.