Time for some action! We’ve covered some of the basics already, but we won’t get very far without talking about verbos verbs! This article is a brief overview of how verbs work in Portuguese, as well as the personal pronouns associated with each conjugation. Don’t worry too much about the details just yet… everything will become clearer as you progress.
Just like in English, a Portuguese verb expresses an action. For example:
cantar to sing
ser to be
beber 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 verbs within each group are conjugated the same way (i.e. with the same endings in each tense), so this is where those rules will come in handy! Unfortunately, we also have to learn those pesky irregular verbs, which just have to be memorized. You’ll get plenty of practice, as we’ll explore each type in more detail in future lessons.
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)
- 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)
- 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.
The Present Tense Conjugation of the Verb Ser (to be)
To understand the basics or Portuguese verb conjugations, you should also know who is doing the action! Here are the words used for each of the Portuguese personal pronouns / subject pronouns:
- Eu I
- Tu Youinformal
- Ele He Ela She Você Youformal
- Nós We
- Eles Theymasculine or mixed group Elas Theyfeminine Vocês Youplural
3rd Person Verb Conjugations
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 subjective 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 I like music
Gosto de música I like music