Introduction to Portuguese Verbs

Learning the gender and number of things is all well and good, but you won’t get very far if you can’t recognise how things interact with one another. For this, you need verbs! This article is a brief overview of how verbs work in Portuguese. This is just an initial approach, so don’t get too caught up in the details just yet. It is meant to pique your curiosity, and 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 one of many different forms. In fact, each verb has over 50 different conjugations! But don’t get too freaked out – there are rules you will learn to make each conjugation easier to remember, and not all of those verb forms are used on a daily basis.

Depending on the situation, a verb’s conjugation can tell you:

  • Who is doing the action (me, you, him, her, etc)*
  • The number of people (e.g. he 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, what the action is

*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. Example:

Eu gosto de música I like music

becomes

Gosto de música I like music

Too abstract? To get started, let’s look at an example:

Ser (to be) in Present Tense:

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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Tips:

  • “Você, Ele and Ela” are always conjugated the same for all verbs, in this example, “é”.
  • 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 might have a group of 1000 females, but just by adding one guy to the group, “elas” becomes “eles”! Eles and Elas always use the same verb conjugation, in this case, “são”.

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