the verb haver in portuguese

The Verb “Haver”

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 paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
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.

Main Verb

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:
paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio there is
houve Play normal audio there was
havia Play normal audio there was, there used to be
haverá Play normal audio there will be

Auxiliary Verb

However, haver is also 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:

The Verb Haver in the Indicative (Indicativo)

Present
(Presente)
Simple Past
(Pretérito Perfeito)
Imperfect Past
(Pretérito Imperfeito)
Future
(Futuro)
Eu hei Play normal audio houve Play normal audio havia Play normal audio haverei Play normal audio
Tu hás Play normal audio houveste Play normal audio havias Play normal audio haverás Play normal audio
Ele/Ela/Você paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio houve Play normal audio havia Play normal audio haverá Play normal audio
Nós havemos Play normal audio houvemos Play normal audio havíamos Play normal audio haveremos Play normal audio
Eles/Elas/Vocês hão Play normal audio houveram Play normal audio haviam Play normal audio haverão Play normal audio

Examples!

Now let’s cover some examples from each tense which highlight the most common uses of the verb haver.

Presente (haver de & há)

When the verb haver is used in the present tense in combination with the preposition de, haver is actually used to talk about the future. You won’t hear this very often, though, as it’s a quite formal usage.

  • Hás de ir a França um dia Play normal audio You shall go to France one day

Similarly, it can be used to make a request, implying “in the future, as soon as you have the time / it is convenient”.

  • Sr. Pereira, há de me ver se tem o meu agrafador. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Mr. Pereira, could you check whether you have my stapler?

The most common form you will see and hear is just paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio there is, which can actually be used to refer to the present or the past, depending on the context. As mentioned previously, in this case it is an impersonal verb, meaning it has no subject.

  • leite no frigorífico Play normal audio There is milk in the refrigerator
  • As piscinas fecharam cinco minutosThe pools closed five minutes ago
  • Não falo com os meus primos muito tempo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I have not spoken to my cousins in a long time

Pretérito Perfeito

  • Houve Play normal audio There was
  • Quando nós nos conhecemos, houve uma atração imediata Play normal audio When we met there was an immediate attraction

Imperfeito

  • Havia Play normal audio There was, There used to be
  • Havia um banco aqui Play normal audio There was a bank here, There used to be a bank here

Futuro

  • Haverá Play normal audio There will be
  • Haverá um relatório Play normal audio There will be a report

Learning More

Mark as complete to continue to the first lesson of Haver unit to practice some of the most common uses. We’ll learn more about this verb in this unit’s upcoming learning notes, or you can skip ahead to read about:

Comments

  • Perhaps it’s just me! But I’m finding “haver” which is one if the most essential Portuguese verbs, to also be one of the most complicated!

    • It’s not just you! Haver is very complicated. Luckily if you just remember , houve, havia, and haverá, that will get you through most everyday situations. Há is used quite often in particular, which you’ll read more about in the Learning Notes later in the haver unit.

  • Thanks Molly, I hoped you might say that! I spend several Months each year living in Portugal, and always see signs like “Há percebes” etc. I did ask a Portuguese friend and he said it just means “they have percebes” but couldn’t help grammatically!

    • Exactly! I think this is one of those cases where, ironically, the less you think about the underlying grammar, the better. You just start to understand how to use it over time as you see more examples in different contexts.

    • Olá Robert.
      What are percebes. I understand it as the informal conjugation of the verb perceber,i.e “Tu percebes”? Is it a type of food, or something else?

      • Hi David, percebes are a very popular seafood! I think in English they are called “goose barnacles”! They are really nice, and taste a bit like eating the sea!

        • Hi Robert.
          My son and family live in Ericeira which is a real seafood town. Will have to look out for them in August ( fingers crossed that I can get there)!!
          Thanks for that very interesting information.

          • I love Ericeira David, fantastic town, spent several “noites do Anno Novo” in Ericeira. Fabulous restaurants, plenty of percebes👍

  • Are houve and havia interchangeable, or are there rules on when one or the other should be used? One lesson gives these examples:

    Houve uma explosão (There was an explosion)

    Havia um parque aqui (There was a park here, There used to be a park here)

    Would it be correct usage to replace these with

    Havia uma explosão
    and
    Houve um parque aqui?

    • Olá, Alex. Sometimes, both can be used, but they’re not quite interchangeable, because the meaning/emphasis changes.
      – When you’re talking about events such as an explosion, which happen in a single point in time, only the simple past (houve) is acceptable. So, “houve uma explosão” is fine to use, but “havia uma explosão” is not.
      – When you’re talking about events or things where a certain continuity is possible and the end point isn’t clear, or isn’t your main focus, the imperfect (havia) can be used. The imperfect tense suggests a vaguer timeline than the simple past, like a smudge vs. a sharp dot. That’s the (small) difference between “Havia um parque aqui” and “Houve um parque aqui”. Both sentences can be used, but the former is like a blurry picture, whereas the latter is more focused and emphasizes that the action is over.

      The imperfect is especially suitable for past narrations and descriptions. For example: “Naquela rua, havia uma casa grande que não tinha dono” (On that street, there was a big house that had no owner). Again, this applies when a certain continuity is possible. A house can be there for a long time, but an explosion doesn’t last indefinitely. However, you could write something like, “Havia uma explosão todas as noites” (There would be an explosion every night; There was an explosion every night), because in that case, you’d be describing something that was habitual (habitual past), continuous, rather than one-off.

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