conjuntivo - portuguese subjunctive

The Subjunctive Mood in Portuguese (Conjuntivo)

Conjuntivo: What is it?

What in English is called the subjunctive mood, in European Portuguese is named modo conjuntivosubjunctive mode. While the indicativoindicative mood refers to actions that are certain or real, the conjuntivo, in contrast, indicates something possible, desired, hypothetical, or even unreal. It conveys the idea of uncertainty, doubt, or hope.
It is often found in sentences that contain the word se if or after a verb + que that, as you will notice in many (but not all) of the examples.
The conjuntivo can appear in simple sentences1 (of doubt or desire) or coordinate clauses2, but most of the time you find it in subordinate clauses3 (a.k.a. dependent clauses). In the latter case, it is preceded by conjunctions or by verbs that express doubt, will, order, permission, expectation, among others.

  1. Talvez para irMaybe it's possible to go
  2. Vamos embora, quer queiras quer nãoWe're leaving, whether you want it or not
  3. Espero que estejas bem I hope that you're doing well

Verb Tenses in the Conjuntivo

The conjuntivo includes these three distinct verb tenses:

  • futuro do conjuntivofuture subjunctive
  • imperfeito do conjuntivoimperfect past subjunctive
  • presente do conjuntivopresent subjunctive

The distinction between these values depends a lot on the context, verb, and words used, and it’s not always obvious which is correct. Furthermore, keep in mind that the conjuntivo in Portuguese is used much differently than the English subjunctive, so it’s most helpful to focus on the examples to “get a feel” for when to use it. We can notice some common patterns that we’ll cover below as we compare the three tenses.

Futuro do Conjuntivo (Future Subjunctive)

The future subjunctive lets you talk about something that may or may not happen in the future. Sometimes it describes a condition that must be met in order for another action to take place (i.e. If this goes well, I will do that or When we get home, I will do that). It often goes along with words like se if and other conjunctions such as:

  • assim que as soon as, once
  • sempre que whenever
  • quando when
  • enquanto while, as long as

For example:
Assim que o almoço estiver pronto, eu digo-teAs soon as the lunch is ready, I'll tell you
Podes brincar quando fizeres a camaYou can play once you make your bed
Se fores ao supermercado, diz-meIf you go to the supermarket, tell me

>Read more about the futuro do conjuntivo here

Imperfeito do Conjuntivo (Imperfect Subjunctive)

The imperfeito do conjunctivoimperfect past subjunctive is often used in circumstances when you are talking about something purely hypothetical or speculating about a possible action (If things were different, I would do that).
However, it can also be used to talk about a desired future action (I would like you to do that).
The imperfeito do conjuntivo is found in the dependent clause of a sentence. You may find it within clauses that use phrasing such as:

  • Se eu...If I...
  • Mesmo que...Even if...
  • Como se...As if...
  • Talvez...Maybe...
  • E se nós...?What if we...?

As you’ll see in the examples below, the main clause of the sentence usually contains a verb in the imperfeito do indicativo or in the conditional. For example:

  • Eu faria se...I would do it if...
  • Gostaríamos que...We would like...
  • Eu esperava que...I expected that..., I was hoping that...
  • Pensei que...I thought that...
  • Seria bom que...It would be nice if...
  • O que faria se...What would you do if...?
  • Queria que...I would like it if...

This is a good way to help you remember when to use the imperfeito do conjuntivo. Let’s see some examples:
Não ficaria chateado se dissesses a verdadeI wouldn't be upset if you told the truth
Queria que trouxesses o meu casacoI wanted you to bring my coat
O ideal era que vocês estudassem maisThe ideal thing would be for you to study more

>Read more about the imperfeito do conjuntivo here

Presente do Conjuntivo (Present Subjunctive)

The presente do conjuntivo is used in most other cases. It’s for talking about something that may or may not happen (in the present or future), but that is within the realm of possibility. The other verb in the sentence tends to be in the presente do indicativo along with the word que , such as with clauses beginning with:

  • Espero que...I hope that...
  • É importante que...It's important that...
  • É bom que...It would be good if..., Literal - It is good that...
  • Receio que...I'm afraid that...
  • Duvido que...I doubt that...
  • Desejo que...I wish that...
  • Quer que eu...Do you want me to...?

Here are some examples:
Não gosta que olhem para eleHe doesn't like people looking at him
Espero que ganhesI hope that you sing.,inf. win
Quer que eu fale com ela?Do you want me to talk to her?

>Read more about the presente do conjuntivo here

Subjunctive Verb Conjugations

Finally, let’s compare the conjugations for each subjunctive tense by exploring these examples:

Future Subjunctive

ser
to be (permanent condition)

Conjuntivo

Ser – Conjuntivo – Futuro

Quando nós formos ricos, vamos a um casino.
When we’re rich, we’ll go to a casino.

  • eu for
  • I am
  • tu fores
  • you are
  • ele / ela for
  • he / she is
  • você for
  • you formal are
  • nós formos
  • we are
  • eles / elas forem
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês forem
  • you pl. are

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falar
to speak

Conjuntivo

Falar – Conjuntivo – Futuro

Se eu falar sobre isso, ela vai ficar furiosa.
If I talk about that, she’ll be furious.

  • eu falar
  • I speak
  • tu falares
  • you speak
  • ele / ela falar
  • he / she speaks
  • você falar
  • you formal speak
  • nós falarmos
  • we speak
  • eles / elas falarem
  • they masc. / they fem. speak
  • vocês falarem
  • you pl. speak

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Notice that some forms look exactly the same as in the infinitive form of the verb.

Imperfect Subjunctive

ser
to be (permanent condition)

Conjuntivo

Ser – Conjuntivo – Imperfeito

Se eles fossem atores, seriam famosos.
If they were actors, they would be famous.

  • eu fosse
  • I were
  • tu fosses
  • you were
  • ele / ela fosse
  • he / she were
  • você fosse
  • you formal were
  • nós fôssemos
  • we were
  • eles / elas fossem
  • they masc. / they fem. were
  • vocês fossem
  • you pl. were

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falar
to speak

Conjuntivo

Falar – Conjuntivo – Imperfeito

Gostaria que eles falassem mais alto.
I’d like it if they spoke louder.

  • eu falasse
  • I spoke
  • tu falasses
  • you spoke
  • ele / ela falasse
  • he / she spoke
  • você falasse
  • you formal spoke
  • nós falássemos
  • we spoke
  • eles / elas falassem
  • they masc. / they fem. spoke
  • vocês falassem
  • you pl. spoke

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Present Subjunctive

ser
to be (permanent condition)

Conjuntivo

Ser – Conjuntivo – Presente

Espero que vocês sejam felizes.
I hope you are happy.

  • eu seja
  • I am
  • tu sejas
  • you are
  • ele / ela seja
  • he / she is
  • você seja
  • you formal are
  • nós sejamos
  • we are
  • eles / elas sejam
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês sejam
  • you pl. are

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falar
to speak

Conjuntivo

Falar – Conjuntivo – Presente

Espero que tu fales primeiro.
I hope that you speak first.

  • eu fale
  • I speak
  • tu fales
  • you speak
  • ele / ela fale
  • he / she speaks
  • você fale
  • you formal speak
  • nós falemos
  • we speak
  • eles / elas falem
  • they masc. / they fem. speak
  • vocês falem
  • you pl. speak

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Notice that the imperative mood shares the same verb endings as the presente do conjuntivo (2nd person singular and plural), with the presente do conjuntivo filling in the gaps for the other personal pronouns that are missing from the imperativo. Thus, you’ll notice these same forms used for commands and requests, such as Sejam felizes! Be happy! pl.

⏩  Want to practice using the conjuntivo in this series of lessons? Consider becoming a member of Practice Portuguese! You can learn more about the membership benefits here.

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