You’ve learned about irregular verbs and how to conjugate some of them in the present tense. If they’re irregular in the present, they’re usually irregular in other tenses too. There are no consistent rules to follow for this category, so the only way to learn the different conjugations is to study each one and practice, practice, practice! (Keep in mind, however, that there are some irregular verbs that follow the rules in most tenses, but are still called irregular due to the exceptions.)
As is the case with most languages, the same letter can be associated with different phonemes — that is to say, the same letter can be pronounced in many different ways. You’ve probably noticed that Portuguese is no exception. Two of these letters that have many variations are S and C, so we’ll cover how to pronounce S in Portuguese and then how to pronounce C.
- Sucesso Success – In this example, different letters/digraphs (s, c, and ss) have the same sound.
- Concessão Concession – Here we have the same letter (c), but two different sounds.
In this Learning Note, you’ll learn which pronunciation to use by paying attention to how the letter is positioned within a word or phrase.
The Letter S
Unlike English, most Portuguese words have a gender.
Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, like the -o ending in many masculine words and the -a ending in many feminine words. There are many, many exceptions, however, so you can’t always rely on that rule. Furthermore, some words take on different forms for each gender and others only have one form. It comes down to using the patterns as a guide and memorizing the exceptions over time as you hear them in context.
We can split Portuguese words into at least four groups when it comes to gender.
Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound. For example, conta calculation and conto tale – the only difference is in the final sound (the vowel sounds represented by a and o). Practicing with Portuguese minimal pairs is a great way to perfect your pronunciation and comprehension because it teaches you to hear the subtle differences between similar sounding words. As you’ll see in the examples below, even a tiny change in pronunciation means you could be saying something much different from what you intend to say!
While we’re at it, let’s also make a distinction between minimal pairs, homophones, and homographs.
- Homophones are words with the same exact pronunciation but different meanings
- Minimal pairs are words that have the same pronunciation except for only a single sound, also known as a fonema (phoneme). That single sound difference is the only thing that lets you know they are two different words – they are minimally different.
- Homographs are words that are written the same exact way but pronounced differently. Some minimal pairs can also be homographs but that’s not the norm.
Let’s dive into some Portuguese minimal pairs!
Open vs. Closed Vowels
You have been learning to speak and write proper Portuguese, but not every Portuguese person speaks perfectly 100% of the time. Depending on the context, we might prefer using simpler terms to save time, explain something in a different way, joke around, or even fit in with a group. That’s where gíria popular – or just gíria slang – comes in. Let’s take a look at some of the most common European Portuguese slang words.
Pá is one of the slang trademarks of the European Portuguese dialect. It can be used at the end of sentences to emphasize what’s being said, as in the example above. It can also be used in place of “uhh…”, the sound you make when you’re thinking.
Expressões Idiomáticas Idiomatic expressions, or idioms, are expressions that you shouldn’t interpret literally. Portuguese idioms have a symbolic meaning, which is rarely maintained upon literal translation into other languages. These expressions reflect the customs and history of the country and are part of all conversations of the Portuguese, rich or poor, from North to South of Portugal. They often incorporate slang words and can be used to convey irony, exaggeration, or impatience, or even just to save time.
Or, as we say in Portugal:
During the 1755 earthquake, two convents collapsed in Lisbon, one with the name Carmo and one with the name Trindade. It was here that the expression Cair o Carmo e a Trindade appeared, which initially implied terror and panic. Although it still retains that meaning, nowadays it is often used in an ironic tone, when you fear the consequences of something unimportant. For example:
Interjections are words with an emotive function. They are used to express emotions, sensations, and moods. They can be just simple vowel sounds, like Ah! and Oh! , but most are either a free word or a phrase, in which case we call them locuções interjetivas .
The same interjeição interjection can have different meanings depending on the context in which it appears, its purpose, and the speaker’s attitude. Even with simple vowel sounds, sometimes changing the tone and extending the sound will give it another meaning.
Interjections can be used as a standalone reply / affirmation, or they can be followed by a sentence.
The process for becoming a resident of Portugal varies depending on which country you are moving from. We’ll provide an overview for both EU Citizens and Non-EU Citizens. In both cases, make sure to read through the SEF or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras Foreigners and Borders Service website to get the most up to date and detailed information about the requirements for your particular circumstances.
When you’re ready to apply for your autorização de residência residence permit (non-EU citizens) or your Certificado de Residência Permanente Permanent Residence Certificate (both EU and non-EU), be sure to make your SEF appointment well in advance as the appointments fill up quickly.
You will need a Número de Identificação Fiscal Tax Identification Number, also called Número de Contribuinte Taxpayer number, which is a Portuguese tax number required for things like buying a home, opening a bank account, receiving benefits, paying taxes, and more. You can apply for this at a Finanças local tax office, or at a Loja do Cidadão Citizen Shop
In this learning note, we’ll discuss the pretérito imperfeito do indicativo , which is the Portuguese equivalent to the past continuous tense in English grammar (a.k.a. the past progressive). For simplicity, we’ll refer to it as the Imperfeito Imperfect.
This tense is used to describe something that took place in the past that was ongoing or did not have a clear endpoint. It imparts this idea of continuity that the other pretéritos past tenses don’t have, which makes it ideal to narrate past events, as well as to describe past habits.
Conjugating Verbs in the Imperfeito
Conjugating regular verbs in the Imperfeito:
|-ar verb ending||-er/-ir verb ending|
Three examples of irregular verbs in the Imperfeito:
The verb haver can also be used indicate that someone will do something at some point in the future. To use it like this, we conjugate the verb in the Present Indicative tense and add the preposition de. This is a rather formal way of describing a future action or intention.
Haver can also be used in a similar fashion to make a request. When haver + de is used to ask for something, it implies “in the future, as soon as you have the time/it is convenient”. Let’s look at a few examples:
In these contexts, haver is an impersonal verb, meaning that it doesn’t take a particular subject and is always used in the present tense form of the third-person conjugation: há
Normally há means there is or there are. However, when há is used before words that express an amount of time, you can think of it more like the word ago (which in English is placed after a time-related phrase) or as standing in for other phrases that indicate a certain amount of time has passed.
The phrase construction is pretty straightforward:
Há + Amount of Time Passed
The first and easiest of the many meanings of haver is to exist. That is to say, the verb indicates that something “is” or “exists” somewhere. In English, the verb there to be would typically be used in these contexts. When used in this sense, the verb haver is impersonal and has very few usable forms. It can’t be conjugated like other verbs.
This use of haver is very easy to identify since sentences are usually structured as Haver + Object + Location of said object, as in the examples above.
The location is not always mentioned, however. In this context, haver sometimes implies that something is for sale or being offered.
If you’ve been learning Portuguese for a while, and if you’ve done our unit on -ER Verbs, you may have noticed a glaring absence: the verb haver , one of the most essential Portuguese verbs.
Haver may be common, but it’s an odd beast, as we shall see in the next two lessons. The verb haver is mainly used in three different ways: to indicate that something exists, to indicate that something has happened in the past, or to say that something will happen in the future.
When used as a main verb to indicate the existence of something, the verb haver is impersonal (meaning it has no subject), so you only see it in one form:
However, haver is often used as an auxiliary verb, in which case it can be conjugated in different tenses and persons. In practice, it is only used in this way in very few tenses.
For the purposes of this lesson, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common tenses of the verb haver in Portuguese:
Portuguese bureaucracy can be very complicated, but applying for a NIF is at least a relatively gentle introduction. If you are going to live and/or work in Portugal, this number will chase you around, as you’ll need it for any kind of contract (opening a bank account, buying or renting a house, utilities, Internet, employment, etc.), so getting one should be very high on your to-do list.
What is a NIF number?
NIF stands for Número de Identificação Fiscal Tax Identification Number and it is commonly called Número de Contribuinte Taxpayer Number. It is a 9-digit unique personal identifier used for tax purposes. This tax number is necessary for both individual and collective persons/companies, but for companies it is actually called Número de Identificação de Pessoa Coletiva Collective Person ID Number or NIPC, instead of NIF.
Apart from its identification purposes, the NIF is also a way of fighting tax evasion and fraud. It has become very common for businesses to ask customers if they want to include their NIF on receipts because it results in deductions on their tax returns and may even grant them big prizes, as receipt numbers are drawn every month in a national fiscal lottery.
Who can ask for a NIF and where do you get it?
The NIF can be requested by anyone at any time, whether or not you’re a national or even a resident. However, if you’re a non-resident and non-EU/EEA citizen, you will need to
Ever heard of Recibos Verdes ? The name translates to “green receipts/invoices”. They are well-known to anyone working as a registered freelancer in Portugal and are the means through which you can formally invoice clients and declare your income for tax and social security purposes.
You can register as a freelancer and issue Recibos Verdes online on the Portuguese tax authority’s platform (Portal das Finanças). However, you may need to recruit the help of a knowledgeable Portuguese speaker, because while it contains several help guides in English, the website itself is all in Portuguese and you do need to be careful filling out the registration form.
Registering as a Freelancer
This learning note will cover the personal infinitive in Portuguese and how it is distinguished from the impersonal infinitive.
First let’s review what we mean by infinitive. The infinitivo infinitive is one of the three formas nominais nominal forms verbs can have. These nominal forms do not express the verb tense, mode, and person by themselves, as they are dependent on the context in which they appear. The infinitive expresses the idea of an action and it could be thought of as the base form of the verb.
The example above is not referring to anyone specific, just to the general idea of “washing”.
However, the infinitive can also appear as the subject of a sentence itself.
Again, the verbs refer to the general idea of the action, rather than to a specific person doing the action.
- -es (tu),
- -mos (nós),
- -des (vós), or
- -em (eles, elas, vocês)
(Because the 2nd person plural vós is rarely used nowadays, we’ll focus our attention on the other three.)
The following table shows how the personal infinitive is conjugated with three different verbs.
We covered when to use ser earlier in this unit, but what about estar to be temporary? The verb estar is generally used for non-permanent (i.e. temporary) conditions, traits, or things, as opposed to ser to bepermanent which tends to be used for more permanent or lasting parameters. Let’s explore many of the common contexts in which you would use estar.
We know, we know… No matter how essential they are, ser to be permanent and estar to be temporary are two difficult verbs. If the simplified distinction in the previous lesson wasn’t enough for you, you’re in luck. In this lesson, we’ll have a more detailed look at how and when to use ser, with plenty of examples to guide you. Later on in this unit, we’ll also cover when to use estar.
We use ser to introduce ourselves to others.
Addresses and Telephone Numbers
Countries and Nationalities
We use ser to express where we are from.
Quick review of regular -IR verb endings
Let’s start out with a regular -IR verb example, just to cleanse your palate 🍷:
Irregular -IR Verbs
And now, a very common and very irregular example:
Here’s another irregular (and perhaps less scary) example:
In recent years, more and more foreigners have been looking into buying a home in Portugal. Housing prices dropped significantly after an economic downturn, but as the economy recovers, property prices are beginning to rise again, especially in certain areas. Still, interest rates remain low and many are drawn to the climate, quality of life, relatively low cost of living, rich culture, and peaceful atmosphere of Portugal. We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the home-buying process in Portugal.
Quick review of regular -ER verb endings
Let’s start out with a regular verb:
Escrever – Indicativo – Presente
- eu escrevo
- I write
- tu escreves
- you write
- ele / ela escreve
- he / she writes
- você escreve
- you formal write
- nós escrevemos
- we write
- eles / elas escrevem
- they masc. / they fem. write
- vocês escrevem
- you pl. write
The verb stem escrev- is combined with the regular -ER present tense endings (-o, –es, –e, –emos, –em).
Irregular -ER Verbs
For an irregular example, let’s have a look at ser to be permanent, which you’ve likely seen by now. This verb is a mess! Not only does it have non-standard endings, but it doesn’t even have a fixed verb stem (that is, the beginning part of the conjugation is different).
The next irregular example is
How to Say A, An, & Some In Portuguese
We just learned how to say “the car” using definite articles, but what if you want to talk about “a car” in general? This is called an artigo indefinido indefinite article, because we’re talking about an undefined car, rather than a specific instance of a car.
In English, we use a, an, and the plural form some.
- Masculine, singular: um carro a car
- Feminine, singular: uma mesa a table
- Masculine, plural: uns carros some cars
- Feminine, plural: umas mesas some tables
When to use Indefinite Articles
We use indefinite articles when we want to talk about a subject or an object without specifying a particular one. For example:
Collective numbers are those that even in their singular form indicate a group of beings or things:
They work as a noun and are variable in number: