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Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

March 26, 2017

Here’s how we refer to the present day, the day before, and the next day:

hoje today
ontem yesterday
amanhã tomorrow

Now let’s put them into context:

Hoje é sexta(-feira). Today is Friday.
O jogo foi ontem às quatro da tarde (16h00). The game was yesterday at 4 in the afternoon.
O inverno começa amanhã. Winter starts tomorrow.

By combining the terms antes before and depois after with ontem and amanhã, you can also form expressions to refer to

Now, Before and After – Time Relationships

March 26, 2017

Here are a few ways to express how a certain date or time relates to another:

Current Time

agora now is the term we use when we’re referring to the present. O filme vai começar agora. The movie will start now.
Agora está muito frio. Now it’s very cold.

Previous and Future Time

Here’s how we refer to the past or future:

Seasons of the Year

March 26, 2017

The seasons of the year are called as estações do ano.

Their names have Latin origins, which by now you must be noticing is very common in Portuguese. (Don’t you wish you had paid more attention to Latin in school? 😜)

Primavera Spring
Verão Summer
Outono Autumn
Inverno Winter

Portuguese Holidays

March 26, 2017

The Portuguese calendar has several holidays and holiday periods throughout the year. Holiday can have two meanings in Portuguese:

  • a day to celebrate something of specific cultural or religious importance at a local or national level (called feriado), or
  • a planned period of time off work or school (called férias). Férias are often scheduled around important feriados, such as Christmas (Natal) or Easter (Páscoa).

Some of the Main Holidays in Portugal

Holiday Name and Date English Translation
Ano Novo (1 de Janeiro) New Year’s
Carnaval (Fevereiro) Carnival, Mardi Gras
Páscoa (Março/Abril) Easter
Dia da Liberdade (25 de Abril) National Freedom Day
Dia de Portugal (10 de Junho) Portugal’s National Day
Natal (25 de Dezembro) Christmas

In Portuguese, the structure of dates is “(Dia) de (Mês) de (Ano)” or “(Day) of (Month) of (Year)”, and the numbers are typically cardinal, not ordinal. That means that you say Um de janeiro January one instead of Primeiro de janeiro January first. In writing, dates are written as

Months of the Year

March 26, 2017

As you saw in previous lessons, the days of the week are very different from other languages. But as luck would have it, the names of os meses do ano the months of the year in Portuguese are quite similar to other languages, since we all use the same Gregorian calendar. All the names share common roots in Roman culture.

janeiro January
fevereiro February

Expressing the Past with the Verb Haver

March 26, 2017

The Portuguese use the verb haver to be, to have to express the past, whether it be minutes, hours, days, months, or years. Used like this, 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:

Normally the verb haver means “there is/are”. However, when used before words that express an amount of time, it works similarly to the word ago placed after a time-related phrase in English.

The phrase construction is pretty straightforward:

Há + Amount of Time Passed

Comprei esta caneta há uma semana. I bought this pen a week ago.

Hours and Telling Time

March 26, 2017

While many countries favour the 12-hour clock system, Portuguese-speaking countries usually use the 24-hour clock.

English Time (am) Portuguese Time English Time (pm) Portuguese Time
12 am (midnight) 00h (zero horas or meia-noite) 12pm (noon) 12h (doze horas or meio-dia)
1 1h (uma hora) 1 13h (treze horas)
2 2h (duas horas) 2 14h (catorze horas)
3 3h (três horas) 3 15h (quinze horas)
4 4h (quatro horas) 4 16h (dezasseis horas)
5 5h (cinco horas) 5 17h (dezassete horas)
6 6h (seis horas) 6 18h (dezoito horas)
7 7h (sete horas) 7 19h (dezanove horas)
8 8h (oito horas) 8 20h (vinte horas)
9 9h (nove horas) 9 21h (vinte e uma horas)
10 10h (dez horas) 10 22h (vinte e duas horas)
11 11h (onze horas) 11 23h (vinte e três horas)

Telling Time Formally vs. Informally


In formal situations, you should apply the 24-hour clock system, and use the exact minutes shown on the clock, rather than more informal expressions of subdivisions of time (as you will see below).

Periods of the Day and Greetings

March 26, 2017

As the sun rises and sets, different períodos do diaperiods of the day are defined as:

a manhã the morning – from about 6am until noon

a tarde the afternoon – from noon until about 6pm.

a noite the night – from about 6pm to midnight

a madrugada very early in the morning – from midnight to 6am


Although the transition from a manhã to a tarde is always clearly 12:00 noon, the rest of the terms are

Days of the Week

March 26, 2017

In Portuguese, the naming of os dias da semana the days of the week does not take inspiration from the planets and gods, as is the case for many other languages. Instead, they are simply numbered.

The origin of the names of the days of the week in Portuguese

The numbering of each weekday in Portuguese might have to do with ancient Easter celebrations, in which people were granted seven days of rest, starting from Sunday. Sunday would then be called, in Latin, feria prima (first free day), while the day after would be feria secunda (second free day) and so on. These Latin roots are evident today in the naming of the days of the week in Portuguese.

Day in English Day in Portuguese Origin
Sunday domingo Latin: dies Dominicus (day of the Lord)
Monday segunda-feira Latin: feria secunda
Tuesday terça-feira Latin: feria tertia
Wednesday quarta-feira Latin: feria quarta
Thursday quinta-feira Latin: feria quinta
Friday sexta-feira Latin: feria sexta
Saturday sábado Latin: sabbatum

Domingo and sábado didn’t remain numbered. Domingo Sunday would never be referred to as primeira-feira! But they still mark the

Combining "A" With Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

As previously mentioned, the preposition “a” can be combined with the articles a, as, o, and os to become à, às, ao and aos.

As far as demonstratives are concerned, a can only be contracted with the following:


a + aquela = àquela
a + aquelas = àquelas
a + aquele = àquele
a + aqueles = àqueles


a + aquilo = àquilo

The Preposition "A"

February 27, 2017

A is a very important and versatile preposition. It can correspond to many different English words, depending on the context:

Vou a Espanha no próximo ano I will go to Spain in the next year
Ela foi para lá a She went there on foot
Isto sabe a morango This tastes like strawberry

A… or A?

It’s easy to mistake the preposition a with the definite article a. They both look the same, but they serve different functions in the sentence. As you hear or read a Portuguese sentence, think about whether “a” would make more sense as:

Combining "Em" with Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

Em can be combined with variable and invariable demonstratives to form a number of very useful contractions.

Remember that all the same rules for demonstratives remain valid when they appear in the following contractions.

Relative Position / Number Demonstrative (masc./fem./invariable) Contraction (masc./fem./invariable) English
Near the speaker (singular): este/esta/isto neste/nesta/nisto in this
Near the speaker (plural): estes/estas/— nestes/nestas/— in these
Near the listener (singular): esse/essa/isso nesse/nessa/nisso in that
Near the listener (plural): esses/essas/— nesses/nessas/— in those
Away from both (singular): aquele/aquela/aquilo naquele/naquela/naquilo in that
Away from both (plural): aqueles/aquelas/— naqueles/naquelas/— in those

These contractions can be used to indicate positions, movement or time, to identify something more clearly, and

Combining "De" with Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

You learned in The Preposition “De” (from the first Prepositions unit) that “de” has several different meanings and can be joined together (contracted) with:

  • articles (do, da, dos, das), and
  • pronouns (dele, dela, deles, delas)

Another very common combination is with demonstratives, both variable and invariable. These are the possible contractions:

Relative Position and Number Demonstrative (masc/fem/invariable) Contraction (masc/fem/invariable) English Equivalent
Near the speaker (singular): este/esta/isto deste/desta/disto this
Near the speaker (plural): estes/estas/— destes/destas/— these
Near the listener (singular): esse/essa/isso desse/dessa/disso that
Near the listener (plural): esses/essas/— desses/dessas/— those
Away from both (singular): aquele/aquela/aquilo daquele/daquela/daquilo that
Away from both (plural): aqueles/aquelas/— daqueles/daquelas/— those

These contractions can express possession, origin, direction, and more. Here are some examples:

Digging Deeper into Prepositions

February 27, 2017

You have learned that prepositions are usually small, but important, words that usually come before a noun to show how it relates to other elements in the sentence.

An important part of mastering European Portuguese is not only learning the meaning of each of these prepositions, but also the nuances of when each one should be used.

Prepositions can be used to establish a time or a location…

Vou partir antes do amanhecer. I will leave before dawn.
A carta está sob o livro. The letter is under the book.

To describe movement…

Vou viajar de Boston para Lisboa. I will travel from Boston to Lisbon.

To express a purpose…

Estes sapatos são para dançar. These shoes are for dancing.

…and more!

The same preposition can often have a completely different meaning depending on

Invariable Demonstrative Pronouns

February 27, 2017

In the previous lessons of this unit, you learned about variable demonstratives, which change depending on the gender and number of the objects(s) they describe.

Here’s some good news for you: Invariable demonstrative pronouns (pronomes demonstrativos invariáveis) are much easier to learn, because as you can see below, there are only 3 of them. They do still tell you the position of the object(s), but not the number or gender.

Relative Position Invariable Demonstrative Pronoun English Equivalent
Near the speaker: isto this
Near the listener: isso that
Away from both: aquilo that

Even though these pronouns also translate to this and that in English, their meaning and usage is slightly different.

You can think of these invariable pronouns as being more impersonal than their variable counterparts.

How Do You Know When to Use Invariable vs. Variable?

Although we’re usually told to avoid thinking in English, here’s a trick:

Variable Demonstrative Pronouns – Plural

February 27, 2017

As you’ll recall, variable demonstratives have to agree not only in gender and location, but also in number.

For every variable demonstrative covered in the previous lesson (which were all singular), there is also a plural counterpart.

It might sound scary, but you’re in luck: all you have to do is take the singular form and add an “s“!

Relative Location Masculine (Singular/Plural) Feminine (Singular/Plural) English (Singular/Plural)
Near the speaker: este/estes esta/estas this/these
Near the listener: esse/esses essa/essas that/those
Away from both: aquele/aqueles aquela/aquelas that/those

As you can see, these is to this as estes/estas is to este/esta, and so on. Once you master the singular demonstratives from the last lesson, you can easily come up with its plural, and all the same rules about gender and location apply.


Esta mobília é bonita, mas estes cortinados são feios. This furniture is beautiful, but these curtains are ugly.

cortinados curtains

Gender: Cortinado is masculine, so if there is one curtain, we start with

Variable Demonstrative Pronouns – Singular

February 23, 2017

Variable demonstratives (demonstrativos variáveis) are used to identify all of the following at once:

  • a person or object’s gender
  • the number (one or more)
  • their position in space or time

The “demonstrative” part of this fancy pronoun’s name, refers to the last point above; the item’s position. We must choose which demonstrative to use, according to which one of the following fits best:

a) The object is near the speaker

b) The object is far from the speaker, but close to the listener


c) Far away from both of you

As you may have realized, this doesn’t happen in English: We just have to choose between this and that. That’s it! In English, the position of the object relative to the speaker is the only one that counts. In Portuguese, we have to choose which “that” to use according to where the object is in relation to the listener.

This lesson will cover singular variable demonstratives, all of which you can see below:

Introduction to Demonstrative Pronouns

February 20, 2017

Demonstratives (demonstrativos) help to identify a particular person or object and establish its location in relation to the speaker, the listener, or simply within the general context. They can tell us, for example, whether something is close or distant in space or time.

In English, we generally use the words this and these to refer to things that are close to the speaker or things that are happening at the present time, and we use that or those to refer to objects that are further from the speaker or things that happened in the past. In Portuguese, you must also take into account the proximity to the listener and whether something happened in the recent or distant past. The Portuguese demonstratives are este(s), esta(s), esse(s), essa(s), aquele(s), aquela(s), isto, isso, and aquilo. This is just an overview, so don’t overwhelm yourself with memorizing all of these just yet. We’ll focus on one group at a time in the lessons to follow.

Pronouns vs. Determiners

You may recall what we learned in the Possessives unit about the difference between

The Preposition "Em"

January 21, 2017

This preposition is usually a bit easier to understand compared to others. Although there are multiple uses, it most commonly refers to being “in” something, either physically or conceptually:

Estamos em Setembro We are in September

Ela está em Lisboa She is in Lisbon

Ela divide o quarto em dois She divides the room in two

Estar em dúvida To be in doubt

Ele está em boa condição física. He is in good physical condition.

Ela está em choque She is in shock

Em” can also have other meanings, for example:

Por & Para

January 21, 2017

This is a topic that is tricky for English speakers, because although both of these words can mean “for”, you have to choose the correct one depending on the situation.


Para can mean “for”, “to”, “in order to” or “towards”.

To refer to a destination or result, you would always choose “para” instead of “por”.

Nós vamos para casa We go home

Eu vou para Portugal I go to Portugal


The Preposition "De"

January 21, 2017

De is one of the first Portuguese prepositions you should learn because it’s used extremely often in a variety of different situations. De can correspond to many different English translations, depending on the context.


falar de to talk about
Eu falo de ti I talk about you


ir de to go by
Eu vou de carro I go by car
Vou viajar de comboio. I will travel by train.


Prepositions in Portuguese

January 21, 2017

What is a Preposition?

Prepositions are short words that usually occur before a noun (or pronoun). They show how the noun relates to another element in the sentence in terms of time, location, movement, or other parameters. For example, the English prepositions in, at, on, and through could be used to create prepositional phrases like in the morning, at the park, on the table, and through the rain.

To get us started, here are a few examples of Portuguese prepositions that translate somewhat easily into English:

Ir de carro To go by car

Sou de Lisboa I am from Lisbon

Eu espero por ti I wait for you

Eu vou para Portugal I go to Portugal

You may have noticed that the first two examples use the same word in different ways: de by ~ from

There are many situations like this, in which a Portuguese preposition corresponds to multiple possibilities in English, or vice-versa.

Sometimes you’ll even see that a Portuguese phrase uses a preposition, while the corresponding English translation uses nothing:

New Year’s Eve Traditions in Portugal

December 14, 2016

In Portugal, A noite de Ano Novo New Year’s Eve is full of traditions and superstitions. Just like Christmas, the celebration begins with a family dinner, and even more holiday sweets.

It’s All About o Dinheiro!

Superstition says that you can attract dinheiro money in the new year by eating chocolate.

The Holiday Season in Portugal

December 14, 2016

Portugal has no official religion, but most of its population is Christian (81% Catholic). However, only about 19% attend mass and take the sacraments regularly. In Portugal, Church and State are formally separate, but the Catholic Institution still has a strong influence, especially for the older population.

xmas lisboaLike other parts of the world, holidays like o Natal Christmas have gradually transformed from being purely religious to being more commercialized, cultural holidays, especially for the younger generations. Despite the growing commercialization and consumerism of the holiday, it is still possible to find some old traditions, especially in as aldeias the small towns of Portugal.

In more recent years, the Portuguese have incorporated as árvores do Natal the Christmas trees and Santa Claus imagery in their homes. Parents tell their children that