In Portuguese, verb phrases are known as locuções verbais. The definition of verb phrases varies in English, but in the Portuguese language, it refers to the use of an auxiliary verb + a main verb. More specifically, the formula “auxiliary verb + the main verb in the infinitive, past participle or gerund”. In such situations, the placement of the clitic pronoun is a bit more lax compared to the rules we’ve discussed in the past.
Let’s take a look at how to place clitic object pronouns when the main verb in is the infinitive or gerund form compared to how to place them when the main verb is in its past participle form.
When the main verb is in the infinitive or gerund
In the first example below, the pronoun comes after the main verb (mostrar) and this would be the most common way to place it. This is because there’s not a so-called “attractive” word that requires you to place it before the verb (such as an adverb or negative word). This usually happens in affirmative sentences.
Ele quer mostrar-me um desenhoHe wants to show me a drawing
However, you can also place the pronoun after the auxiliary verb (quer) separated by a hyphen, as shown below.
Ele quer-me mostrar um desenhoHe wants to show me a drawing
But in some cases, we have an “attractive” word like não, which requires the pronoun to be proclitic, which is why it comes before the entire locução verbal (“quer mostrar”). This is the most common form and it usually happens with negative sentences.
Ele não te quer mostrar o desenhoHe doesn't want to show you the drawing
As you can see below, you can also place it after the main verb in the infinitive, just like in the first example with mostrar-me.
Ele não quer mostrar-te o desenhoHe doesn't want to show you the drawing
If the auxiliary verb is in the future tense, the pronoun can be placed mesoclitically – inside the verb – or after the main verb.
Ele querer-me-á mostrar um desenhoHe will want to show me a drawing
Ele quererá mostrar-me um desenhoHe will want to show me a drawing
When the main verb is in the past participle
When the main verb is in the part participle, the pronoun is always placed next to the auxiliary verb. It will come after the auxiliary verb if there’s no “attractive” word or before it if there is an “attractive” word (usually negative sentences). In the example below we’ll use the auxiliary verb tem and the past participle mostrado.
Ela tem-me mostrado os desenhos delaShe has been showing me her drawings
Ela não me tem mostrado os desenhos delaShe hasn't been showing me her drawings
Just as before, the pronoun is placed mesoclitically – inside the verb – if the auxiliary verb is in the future tense.
Note: If you’re unsure whether you need to use a hyphen (-) or not, remember that whenever the pronoun is between the verbs, you need to use a hyphen.