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Portuguese Verbs and Personal Pronouns

Time for some action! 🕺🏻💃🏻 We’ve covered some of the basics already, but we won’t get very far without talking about verbos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio verbs. This Learning Note is a brief overview of Portuguese verbs work, as well as the personal pronouns associated with each conjugation. Don’t worry too much about all the details just yet… everything will become clearer as you progress. Let’s get started!
Just like in English, a Portuguese verb expresses an action. For example:
cantar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to sing
ser paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be
beber paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to drink
Each verb can appear in many different forms. In fact, each verb has over 50 different conjugations! Luckily, there are rules you will learn to make each conjugation easier to remember, and not all 50 forms are used on a daily basis. Phew! 😅

Types of Verbs

In Portuguese, verbs are generally split into three groups based on the last two letters of the verb’s infinitive form:


Regular vs. Irregular: Regular verbs within each of the 3 groups are conjugated the same way (i.e. with the same endings), so this is where the regular rules will come in handy! Unfortunately, we also have to learn those pesky irregular verbs, which just have to be memorized. (Keep in mind that some verbs follow the regular rules in some tenses, but are irregular in other tenses.)
You’ll get plenty of practice, as we’ll explore each type in more detail in future lessons. For now, here’s an example of one of the most common irregular verbs, ser:

verb-icon

ser
to be (permanent condition)

Indicativo

Ser – Indicativo – Presente

Tu és uma boa pessoa.
You’re a good person.

  • eu sou
  • I am
  • tu és
  • you are
  • ele / ela é
  • he / she is
  • você é
  • you formal are
  • nós somos
  • we are
  • eles / elas são
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês são
  • you pl. are

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What Does a Verb’s Conjugation Tell You?

Depending on the situation, you can get all the following information just from the conjugated verb:

  • Who is doing the action (me, you, him, her, etc)
  • The number of people (e.g. I vs. we, you – singular vs. you – plural, etc.)
  • Whether your relationship to that person is formal or informal (when using the second person forms, “you”)
  • When the action is happening (e.g. past, present, future tense)
  • The certainty
  • and, of course, the action itself

To get started, let’s see an example of a verb conjugation for one of the most common verbs, which happens to be irregular.

Personal Pronouns

Who is doing the action? Here are the words used for each of the Portuguese personal pronouns / subject pronouns:

  • Eu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I
  • Tu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You(informal)
  • Ele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He Ela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio She Você paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You(formal)
  • Nós paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio We
  • Eles paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They(masculine or mixed group) Elas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They(feminine) Vocês paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You(plural)

3rd Person Verb Conjugations

*Você and vocês are technically 2nd person (you), however, they are typically grouped in the 3rd person category for simplicity, because this is how they are conjugated.
The verb forms for the personal pronouns ele, ela, and você are always conjugated the same way. (E.g. “Ele é…”, “Ela é…”, “Você é…”) Similarly, the verb forms for eles, elas, and vocês are also always conjugated the same way. (E.g. “Eles são…”, “Elas são…”, Vocês são…”)
When we’re talking about a group of females, we use the word elas, and for a group of males, eles. If the group is made up of both males and females, we also use eles. As sexist as it sounds, you could have a group of 1000 females, but just by adding one guy to the group, elas becomes eles!

What About “It”?

Portuguese doesn’t use neutral pronouns like it in English. In cases where you would expect it to be used, there is often no pronoun at all. That said, ele or ela are sometimes used to refer to inanimate objects, depending on whether they are masculine or feminine nouns.

Omitting Personal Pronouns

In Portuguese, it’s common to omit the personal pronoun preceding a verb (eg. eu, tu, ele etc) because in most contexts, the verb conjugation already tells you who is doing the action. For example:
Eu gosto de música paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I like music
becomes
Gosto de música paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I like music

A Few Common Verbs

We’ll teach you verbs in the present tense first, so you can talk about current or habitual actions or states of being. In Portuguese, given the right context, present tense can also refer to the future, so you may notice this when you get to the Shorties dialogues. For example, Eu pago could mean I pay or I’ll pay, depending on the context.
Here are just a few more common verb conjugations that are helpful to be familiar with early on. For your reference, there are hundreds more under Learn > Verbs.

verb-icon

ter
to have

Indicativo

Ter – Indicativo – Presente

Tu tens olhos azuis.
You have blue eyes.

  • eu tenho
  • I have
  • tu tens
  • you have
  • ele / ela tem
  • he / she has
  • você tem
  • you formal have
  • nós temos
  • we have
  • eles / elas têm
  • they masc. / they fem. have
  • vocês têm
  • you pl. have

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verb-icon

ir
to go

Indicativo

Ir – Indicativo – Presente

Nós vamos lá muito.
We go there a lot.

  • eu vou
  • I go
  • tu vais
  • you go
  • ele / ela vai
  • he / she goes
  • você vai
  • you formal go
  • nós vamos
  • we go
  • eles / elas vão
  • they masc. / they fem. go
  • vocês vão
  • you pl. go

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verb-icon

poder
can / to be able to

Indicativo

Poder – Indicativo – Presente

Com esse dinheiro, tu podes comprar um carro.
With that money, you can buy a car.

  • eu posso
  • I can
  • tu podes
  • you can
  • ele / ela pode
  • he / she can
  • você pode
  • you formal can
  • nós podemos
  • we can
  • eles / elas podem
  • they masc. / they fem. can
  • vocês podem
  • you pl. can

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Comments

  • Till now all is so simple and clear to learn, Thank you very much ^^ I love this website!

  • I feel like it would have been useful to hear the whole phrase e.g. we just heard “sou” not “eu sou”

  • This site is great. The grammar structure is very similar to Italian so fortunately this makes sense to me but the pronunciation is tricky so the spoken examples are very helpful

    • Hi Dave! Vós is used, but it’s an archaic form. You may still see it in literature or extremely formal/ceremonial contexts. We chose not to cover it here in order to focus on the forms that you’ll encounter most often in spoken language.

  • Just started using this site, after my husband has been using for a few months, and we LOVE IT! It is well paced, organized, and fun! Thank you and keep up the great work!

    • Thank you both! I hope PP’s resources are keeping you well entertained during these strange times 🙂

  • Hi there! Thanks so much for this resource, I’m really enjoying it so far. Do some Portuguese people consciously break the rules when it come to eles? Like in English we now could use ‘she’, ‘s/he’ or ‘they’ where before only ‘he’ Would have been acceptable. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your comment, Frances! Do you mean something like using only “elas” for a group of people where there are also men, for example? At least in my experience, I see people do it on occasion in casual contexts, but always in a cheeky way. And they still end up acknowledging the one guy among 1000 women, even if just by saying “and you too, of course” 🙂 Apart from that, there are more people writing variations such as “elxs”, as a way to be inclusive to all genders or the lack of them, but it doesn’t translate well to speech… I’m curious to see how that will evolve.

  • That’s really interesting, thanks! Someone mentioned to me that you can say ‘obrigad’ too, rather than obrigado or obrigada. Is that something you’ve heard anyone saying?

    • Sure, you’re welcome!

      It’s really hard to say if I’ve ever come across someone purposely saying “obrigad”. We naturally swallow lots of vowels when we talk, so that wouldn’t stand out to me at all. “Obrigado”, in particular, is often pronounced just like “obrigad”. So, I really don’t know. And maybe that’s why the person told you that – it doesn’t make much of a difference.

  • Quero dar os parabéns ao Rui e ao Joel pela excelente funcionalidade do site e pelo modo prático como estão a permitir aprender o português.
    Bem gradual, bem apelativo. Muito bom. Parabéns.

    • Elijah, keep up the good work! You’re right, this is tough. We’re very impressed that you’re up for the challenge!

  • I’m impressed. I started learning with Portuguese Lab (also helpful) and then learned about your site from my iTalki teacher Ana. I’m so glad that I found you!

  • My first TL was French where despite the written forms being very different, the spoken form of the conjugation was almost always identical, so personal pronouns are never omitted. I new of “pro drop” Romance languages, like Italian, where the conjugations are distinct in the spoken language, so it’s quite exciting to see this difference so early on 🙂 I know I’m just being a geek, but this is cool.

  • This is so simple and fun. I went to Portuguese lessons for a year and found it so difficult, I made no progress and the rest of the class left me behind. This is much better. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Charlotte! Even with in-person lessons, sometimes it takes some luck to find the approach that works best for you. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to move forward 🙂

  • Hi, I’m new here and really like it so far. I started working on Portuguese with the idea of moving with my wife to Portugal in about two years. So far, we have been learning vocabulary using Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever and Anki flashcards. This is really helping to pull it together.

    I’m curious about the use of “de” as a preposition in the sentence “Gosto de música”. When would you typically use this preposition? To me it literally translates to “I like in music”. Is there any rule about how to use this?

    Thanks,
    Paula

    • Welcome Paula! Prepositions are tricky because they fulfill a more relational/functional role, rather than providing a lot of meaning. So the translation in English can vary quite a bit. There are also a lot of contexts in which a preposition is used in Portuguese, but not used at all in English, such as this one. “De” always follows the verb “gostar” when talking about what one likes. We translate this to “I like music” because that’s the most similar meaning, but you could think of it as “I am fond of music” if that helps you remember to use de. You’ll learn more about when to use each preposition in the Prepositions units, but you can skip ahead now to read more about The Preposition “De” if you’d like. 🙂

  • Thank you so much Molly, that totally helps, especially the “I am fond of music” way of looking at it.

    Cheers,

    Paula

  • Ola Practise Portuguese team. I’m new and I wanted to say thank you for this unit; I can finally clearly hear the difference between ela/ele and elas/eles, and pronounce them properly. Hooray!

    • You’re very welcome! Thanks for sharing your progress — that’s wonderful to hear. Those are very hard to distinguish so we’re so glad we could help!

  • If “The verb forms for the personal pronouns ele, ela, and você are always conjugated the same way.” Why are there two (identical) entries in the list of conjugations, not one? Seems pointless, or am I missing something? Same for eles, etc.

    • You’re right, we could have just put those together to simplify. I think we decided to separate them initially because even though they are all conjugated the same (as if they are 3rd person), ele/ela/eles/elas are in the 3rd person, while você and vocês are technically in the 2nd person.

  • An intriguing and ingenious site….and fun. Your casual and friendly approach seems like I am in your living room talking with you. I am beginner – we are moving to Portugal. I have access to other sites and tapes, plus have a tutor. However, your site is the FINAL answer if I have a question. Speaking of a question: in the present tense, I hear the “Eu” and “Ele” sounding the same. Is that my ear? “Ela” is more distinct.

    You two deserve all the best life can offer.

    • Thank you SO much for the kind words! Really glad we could make a difference in your learning. Rui and Joel have put a lot of work into making the site both informative and approachable, so it’s so nice to hear. 🙂

      Eu and ele sound a bit similar, but I think over time you will start to be able to hear the difference more. The “L” in ele is quite subtle because it’s followed by that closed “e” vowel, whereas the a in ela is a bit more open, so I think that’s what’s making ele/eu harder to distinguish.

  • Molly: thank you for your prompt response. Yes, I will not listen for the “l” in ele! Like Joel pronouncing the silent “H” when he and Rui are going over the sounds of the consonants – funny. This site has been so rewarding for me that I had my spouse sign up a few days ago. Hopefully, he and I will be able to move to Portugal soon, I am waiting on my visa. We already rent a flat in Coimbra, but can’t get to it Muito Obrigado, Mell

  • I have to say in my long association with Portugal Ive learned loads of vocabulary but never bothered with the grammer and Im really enjoying your course and together with an online tutor Vanessa Im slowly but surely making progress! Thank You guys!

  • I am a bit confused. Why is “vós” the informal plural form of you no longer used in conjugation?

    • Vós used to be the pronoun used for 2nd person plural (i.e. when speaking to more than 1 person). However, nowadays it is rarely used, except in certain areas or in ceremonial contexts. Instead, the pronoun vocês is used for 2nd personal plural, but it has the same conjugation as 3rd person plural. Does that help?

  • Thank you for the response. But if it is part of the Portuguese PT language why is it omitted from lessons? On the internet (Dicionário infopédia for example) lists first, second and third person singular and first, second and third person plural for verbs, not even mentioning você or vocês. I thought this might have been a Brazilian influence of not using vós.

    • Olá, Ranjita. It was a choice not to actively cover the pronoun vós in lessons because in most of the country, ‘vocês’ has become the default second-person plural over ‘vós’ or it coexists with it, so the significant burden of learning to conjugate Portuguese verbs using ‘vós’ will not necessarily pay off for the average learner.

      So far, we have focused more on what people truly are expected to know and use anywhere they go – which is not to say that ‘vós’ doesn’t matter at all, or that the current approach isn’t subject to future change 🙂 ‘Vós’ is still a formal element of Portuguese grammar and is taught in all Portuguese schools from a young age. ‘Vocês’ is usually addressed separately from the standard subject pronouns, at least for the time being. While not actively covered on Practice Portuguese, ‘vós’ does get some occasional features, such as in the Passo a Passo documentary, where it was one of the major linguistic topics: Passo a Passo (O Caminho de Santiago)

  • It is very interesting lesson to me as i am a beginer. But i know a bit french and i see a very close relationship especialy in conjugating verbs, respecting number, gender to a subject concern.

  • It’s been a while my dear Portuguese!
    I have just come back from my holidays in Portugal. 🤙 I fell in love… Again! Nice to be back on track with the language.
    Thank you guys for this amazing content you’re creating 👏

    • Thank you so much for your comment and kind feedback, Sylwia! Also, it’s great that you were able to have a good time in Portugal despite the current restrictions 🙂

  • Olá todos! If I am trying to speak to a group of people and say “where are you all from?” How do I do this? I believe in Brazilian Portuguese you may say: De onde vocês são?, but assuming you do not want to use vocês, how would you say this? Another example – “I am excited to be here with you all.”

    • Olá, Ben 🙂 “Vocês” is fine to use and rather neutral in terms of formality, so “De onde vocês são?” or “De onde é que vocês são?” are also suitable options in European Portuguese. If you want to be very formal, you can replace “vocês” with “os senhores/as senhoras”, for example. As for “I am excited to be here with you all”, you could say something like “Estou feliz por estar aqui convosco” or “Estou feliz por estar aqui com todos vocês”. (Note: The Portuguese adjective “excitado” should be used with caution, hah)

  • Just wanted to ask whether we can already start learning past and future conjugations of verbs? Or is it something you would not recommend? 🙂

    • Good question!

      As for the future, we’ll introduce Informal Future (the most common way to talk about the future) in an upcoming unit within the A1 series. In some contexts, present tense can also be used to refer to the future. (For example – Eu pago could mean I pay or I’ll pay, depending on the context.) We don’t have a unit on the “real” future tense (futuro do indicativo) yet, just because it’s not used as often. But you can practice it separately in the Verb section (under Learn).

      As for past tense, we won’t officially introduce Simple Past (pretérito perfeito) until the A2 level.

      That said, if you’re not overwhelmed and you feel like it’s relevant or interesting to you right now, I would always recommend skipping ahead (or at least trying it out in the Verbs section).

      Even though it’s typically taught at A2, past tense is very useful to know and will expand the types of things you can talk about. There’s no harm in skipping ahead whenever you feel ready or motivated to explore a particular topic. You can always go back to A1 and continue along the regular path whenever you want.

  • I’m familiar with Spanish and French, and used my Spanish when I went to Porto and Alvor out of season (which I loved). The receptionist at our hotel told me that “The Portuguese can understand the Spanish, but mostly the Spaniards can’t understand Portuguese.” This whetted my appetite and curiosity, so now, at 76, I’m embarking on Portuguese… and now I understand why he said that! Thank you so much for this site, which complements the other site I’m learning from.
    By the way, I also speak Welsh, which I started learning in my sixties. It’s not related to any other mainstream European language, which made it a real challenge!
    Diolch yn fawr iawn (muito obrigada)

  • Hi , just a bit confused .. why is the first letter ‘o’ in podemos pronounce with an oo sound as in swimming pool, yet in the word podem it is just an English ‘o’ as in Tod, rod, cod, etc?

    • Olá, John. The difference is in whether the O is stressed or not. In both words, the stressed syllable is the second to last one. In “podem” (po-dem), this coincides with the O and makes it sound more open. In “podemos” (po-de-mos), the O is unstressed, which is why it sounds like an oo.

  • Admittedly I found Practice Portuguese (after Duolingo and Babel) because I wanted to learn European Portuguese. However, I find the way you present the language and the variety of the speakers on video quite helpful. Thanks so much!

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