In this lesson, we’ll have a look at all the clitic (object) pronouns in Portuguese*. Clitic pronouns are basically mini-words that go along with a verb to show to whom or to what the action refers. They take the place of the direct object and indirect object pronouns.
|Subject pronoun||Direct object pronoun||Indirect object pronoun|
|Ele/Você (You, male)||o (lo, no)||lhe|
|Ela/Você (You, female)||a (la, na)|
|Eles (They)||os (los, nos)||lhes|
|Elas (They)||as (las, nas)|
*Not including reflexive pronouns, which we’ll deal with separately later on.
But before we can study them, we must learn about where they can be placed regarding the verb.
There are three possible positions for clitic pronouns:
- Before the verb – Proclitic
- In the middle of the verb – Mesoclitic
- After the verb – Enclitic
For each example that we’ll use, we will also show you the version of the sentence without the clitic. This is only so that you can better understand the logic and origin, but remember that you should not use that second construction, or you will sound like Tarzan! For example, while in English it’s correct to say something like “If they give the books to me“, the Portuguese equivalent using “a mim” will not sound right.
Origin: Se derem os livros “a mim”, eu digitalizo-os. (indirect)Não vos parece um dia lindo? Doesn’t it look like a beautiful day to you pl.?
Origin: Não parece um dia lindo “a vocês”? (indirect)
Origin: Eu entregarei “a ele” o ensaio amanhã. (indirect)Eu ter-lhe-ia ligado se tivesse bateria no telemóvel. I would have called her if my phone were charged.
Origin: Eu teria ligado “a ele” se tivesse bateria no telemóvel. (indirect)
The mesoclitic forms are only used with two verb tenses – the future indicative (the first example) and the conditional (the second example) -, with the pronoun placed between the radical of the verb and the ending of the verb. Or, to put it simply: mesoclitic pronouns are always placed between two hyphens!
Origin: A Joana disse isso “a mim” ontem. (direct)Dá-lhe uma caneta, por favor. Give her a pen, please.
Origin: Dá uma caneta “a ela”, por favor. (indirect)
Like mesoclitics, they too are separated from the verb by a hyphen, though in this case it is only the one.
If you read grammar books, they will tell you that, as a rule, object pronouns in Portuguese are usually placed enclitically. And then every book will follow this statement with a long list of exceptions, which undermine the rule. We think that it’s much easier to remember this: in Portuguese, pronouns are almost always placed proclitically, except in the two mesoclitic exceptions we mentioned above, and in simple affirmative statements, where they’re always placed enclitically. Here are 2 more examples:
Eu vi-a ontem no café. I saw her yesterday at the café.
Eles pagaram-me o jantar. They paid for my dinner.