Shortcuts for Learning European Portuguese

learn european portuguese fast

This guide will focus on how to learn European Portuguese fast! Did you know that each Portuguese verb can have over 50 different forms? 😱 With so many different tenses and moods to account for, not to mention learning both regular and irregular verbs, it can feel like a never-ending task. Luckily, to communicate comfortably as a Portuguese beginner, you can get by studying a much smaller subset of conjugations for only the most commonly used forms.

The best way to save yourself time (and sanity!) is to learn the patterns and shortcuts for European Portuguese.

As mentioned in the Portugal News, we put together this “cheat sheet” to show you how to learn European Portuguese fast and get the maximum communicative power out of what you know. Building this foundation gets you talking in basic conversations earlier, which means you’ll pick up additional skills more naturally over time.

Shortcuts Using the Present Tense

Start by learning the presente do indicativo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio present tense verb endings for regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs, as well as for the most common irregular verbs. Here are a few suggestions for which verbs to study first:

  • ser paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be(permanent) estar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be(temporary) ir paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to go
  • ter paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to have poder paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be able to (can, may) gostar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to like
  • falar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to speak comer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to eat

As for the rest of the verbs, try to learn some of the infinitive forms, but don’t worry about the conjugations just yet. You can use this first set of verbs to talk about a wide variety of actions and can even refer to the present, past, or future, if you get a little creative. Now let’s see how we can maximize our knowledge of the present tense in the following shortcuts.

Use “estar + a + infinitivo” for the Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous tense is a bit simpler in European Portuguese compared to Brazilian Portuguese, because it utilizes the pattern verb estar + a + verb in the infinitive, instead of using the gerund form of the verb. This means you only have to conjugate estar when you want to talk about an ongoing action that is happening at the moment. For example:

Estou a comer Play normal audio I am eating Estás a dormir? Play normal audio Are you sleeping? Estamos a falar português Play normal audio We are speaking Portuguese Estão a correr Play normal audio They are running, You(pl.) are running

Avoiding the Present Perfect Continuous

Similarly, you can use verb andar + a + infinitive when you want to talk about something that you have been doing. This is strictly informal, but it’s a good way to avoid the present perfect continuous tense, which is more advanced.

Ando a comer melhor Play normal audio I've been eating better Ando a aprender português Play normal audio I've been learning Portuguese

Alternatively, you can use the word (from the verb haver) with the present tense to talk about something you have been doing for a certain period of time. For example:

Há 2 anos que escrevo Play normal audio I've been writing for 2 years Moro aqui há três meses Play normal audio I've been living here for 3 months

Avoiding the Future Tense

There are also European Portuguese shortcuts that let you use the present tense to talk about the future. Here we go avoiding things again! It’s okay, because our focus right now is on how to learn European Portuguese fast. In other words, we want to quickly develop a basis for the language that we can use to get talking early and then build upon over time.

In fact, sometimes the shortcuts are actually more common to hear, especially in spoken language. The actual future tense, also known as futuro do indicativo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio , is typically only used in more formal or literary contexts. In everyday conversations, it’s much more common (and much easier!) to use one of the following options:

ir + infinitivo

Guess what? To talk about the future, you only have to know how to conjugate one verb in the present tense: ir paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to go.

verb-icon

ir
to go

Indicativo

Ir – Indicativo – Presente

Nós vamos lá muito.
We go there a lot.

  • eu vou
  • I go
  • tu vais
  • you go
  • ele / ela vai
  • he / she goes
  • você vai
  • you formal go
  • nós vamos
  • we go
  • eles / elas vão
  • they masc. / they fem. go
  • vocês vão
  • you pl. go

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Once you have that memorized, you can just add the infinitive form of another verb onto the end to say that you are going to do something. This is known as the informal future tense:

Vou comer Play normal audio I am going to eat Vais chegar em breve? Play normal audio Are you going to arrive soon? Ela vai morar lá Play normal audio She is going to live there Vamos correr Play normal audio We are going to run

Note: There is not an “a” before the infinitive verb like there was with the last shortcut (and like there is in Spanish)!

Present tense + context

Sometimes, you can simply use the present tense to imply a future action (I do → I’ll do), but only if it’s clear from the context that you are referencing the future.

For example, if you add single words such as amanhã paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio tomorrow or depois paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio after, later, or groups of words mentioning dates or times of day, the listener will know you are talking about the future, not the present.

Depois passo cá Play normal audio I'll stop by later Faço anos na próxima semana Play normal audio My birthday's next week Provamos o bolo depois de jantar Play normal audio We'll taste the cake after dinner

Even without these references to dates and times, sometimes the context makes it abundantly clear. For example:

Se ela gostar, eu trago os outros dois Play normal audio If she likes (it) , I'll bring the other two

We’re mentioning something that may or may not happen, so you know we’re referencing a time in the future with eu trago.

Or, take this short dialogue, for example:

👩🏾‍🦱  Cláudia: Diz-lhe que lhe mando um beijinho. Play normal audio Tell her I send her a kiss.

👩🏾‍🦱  Cláudia: Tenho tantas saudades dela! Play normal audio I miss her so much!

🧔🏻  Tiago: Digo, sim Play normal audio Yes, I'll tell (her) .

Cláudia and Tiago are clearly talking about someone who is not there right now, so it is implied that Tiago will pass along Cláudia’s message later (in the future).

Avoiding the Past Tense

portuguese past tenseIt’s a good idea to learn the pretérito perfeito paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio simple past tense, including the common irregular verbs and the regular endings for -ar verbs, -er verbs, and -ir verbs.

However, we know you want to know how to learn European Portuguese fast! There’s three common ways you can get around learning all of those endings right away and those are the following formulas: verb estar + a + infinitivo, verb acabar + de + infinitivo and verb ir + infinitivo. This way, you only need to know the pretérito perfeito tense of the verbs estar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio be, acabar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio finish and ir paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio go. Let’s go through each one now.

acabar de + infinitivo

verb-icon

acabar
to end

Indicativo

Acabar – Indicativo – Pretérito

Eu já acabei o meu duche.
I’ve already finished my shower.

  • eu acabei
  • I ended
  • tu acabaste
  • you ended
  • ele / ela acabou
  • he / she ended
  • você acabou
  • you formal ended
  • nós acabámos
  • we ended
  • eles / elas acabaram
  • they masc. / they fem. ended
  • vocês acabaram
  • you pl. ended

{{{button}}}

Now you can say:

Acabámos de chegar Play normal audio We just arrived Acabei de comer Play normal audio I just finished eating

You can also, sometimes, add more context to the sentence which allows you to refer to something you did earlier rather than just now:

Acabei de jantar tarde Play normal audio I finished eating dinner late Acabaste de ler o livro ontem? Play normal audio Did you finish reading the book yesterday?

estar a + infinitive

verb-icon

estar
to be (temporary or accidental condition)

Indicativo

Estar – Indicativo – Pretérito

Tu estiveste ausente demasiado tempo.
You were away for too long.

  • eu estive
  • I was
  • tu estiveste
  • you were
  • ele / ela esteve
  • he / she was
  • você esteve
  • you formal were
  • nós estivemos
  • we were
  • eles / elas estiveram
  • they masc. / they fem. were
  • vocês estiveram
  • you pl. were

{{{button}}}

While the previous way (“acabar de”) usually indicates actions that just took place, “estar a” is used with actions that happened and ended a while ago, whether that is one hour ago or yesterday. Let’s see some examples:

Estive a fazer o almoço Play normal audio I made lunch instead of Fiz o almoço Play normal audio

Eles estiveram a estudar na biblioteca Play normal audio They studied at the library instead of Eles estudaram na biblioteca Play normal audio

You can also add more context to these sentences to discuss actions that happened further in the past:

Estiveste a tratar da papelada na semana passada Play normal audio You took care of the paperwork last week Ontem estive a limpar a casa Play normal audio Yesterday I cleaned the house

ir + infinitive

verb-icon

ir
to go

Indicativo

Ir – Indicativo – Pretérito

Ele foi de férias por um mês.
He went on vacation for a month.

  • eu fui
  • I went
  • tu foste
  • you went
  • ele / ela foi
  • he / she went
  • você foi
  • you formal went
  • nós fomos
  • we went
  • eles / elas foram
  • they masc. / they fem. went
  • vocês foram
  • you pl. went

{{{button}}}

This is an alternative to using estar a to reference the past and it means, basically, that “I went and did something”. Notice that unlike acabar and estar, there is no preposition (a or de) before the infinitive.

Fui fazer o almoço Play normal audio I (went and) made lunch instead of Fiz o almoço Play normal audio I made lunch

Fui passear o cão Play normal audio I took the dog for a walk instead of Passeei o cão Play normal audio I walked the dog

Once again, you can add more context to the sentence to make it clear when the action happened.

Foste fazer as compras ontem Play normal audio You went shopping yesterday Fomos buscar o cão na terça feira passada Play normal audio We went to pick up the dog last Tuesday

Present tense + context

Similar to what happens with the future tense, you can also avoid the past tense by conjugating a verb in the present simple and adding a preposition such as desde paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio since to reference the past:

Estou solteiro desde ontem Play normal audio I'm single since yesterday, I've been single since yesterday

Getting Creative With What You Know

As you start adding more verbs to your vocabulary, you’re able to get creative with how you phrase things to avoid the verb conjugations you don’t know. For example, let’s see some examples of sentences we can form knowing only how to conjugate querer, poder, and ter:

Tenho de estudar Play normal audio I have to study instead of Devo estudar Play normal audio I must study

Eu posso ajudar Play normal audio I can help instead of Eu ajudarei Play normal audio I will help

Quero ver o filme Play normal audio I want to watch the movie instead of Gostaria de ver o filme Play normal audio I would like to watch the movie

Vocabulary Shortcuts

Cognates

If you want to learn European Portuguese fast, you can add a lot of vocabulary quickly by focusing on cognates. Cognates are words that have a common origin, which means they are often very similar to the English translation. You can learn more in this video Joel and Rui put together on 5000 Portuguese words you already know!

Let’s take a look at some of the common spelling patterns when going from English → Portuguese. Keep in mind that these don’t apply every time; they are just a way to help you keep an eye out for other cognates:

ph → f

o telefone Play normal audio telephonea farmácia paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio pharmacyalfabeto Play normal audio alphabet

th → t

o teatro paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio theatreatleta Play normal audio athletematemático Play normal audio mathematics

tion → cão

ficção Play normal audio fictionopção Play normal audio optionsituação Play normal audio situation

ty → dade

sociedade Play normal audio societyresponsabilidade Play normal audio responsibilitycomunidade Play normal audio community

ism → ismo

racismo Play normal audio racismturismo Play normal audio tourismorganismo Play normal audio organism

ist → ista

artista Play normal audio artistortodontista Play normal audio orthodontistoptimista Play normal audio optimist

ize → izar

organizar Play normal audio organizeautorizar Play normal audio authorizeespecializar Play normal audio specialize

ous → oso / osa

nervoso Play normal audio nervous(masc.)curiosa Play normal audio curious(fem.)famosa Play normal audio famous(fem.)

Loan words from English

Good news, there are a number of words that you don’t have to worry about translating! With English being so widespread, there are many words that have come to be used in Portuguese as well. You’ll notice that many of them related to technology and popular culture. Sometimes the spelling stays the same as the English version, but other times it changes to match the way it’s pronounced in Portugal.

  • shopping Play normal audio
  • fast food Play normal audio
  • check-in Play normal audio
  • stress Play normal audio
  • bestseller Play normal audio
  • e-mail Play normal audio
  • laptop Play normal audio
  • site Play normal audio site, website
  • designer Play normal audio
  • internet Play normal audio
  • marketing Play normal audio
  • uau Play normal audio wow
  • uísque Play normal audio whiskey
  • pijama paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio pajamas
  • panqueca Play normal audio pancake
  • champô Play normal audio shampoo

What Else?

Do you know any other shortcuts that have helped you learn European Portuguese fast? Share in the comments!

Comments

  • Thanks for this very comprehensive lesson. I have spent the past 5 months learning português on Duolingo which has been good but sounding so different. Thanks to your audio I feel pretty sure now that it’s Brazilian português. Oh no!!!

  • Thanks for the useful shortcuts! I am preparing to move to Portugal. This will help fast-track my basic working knowledge!

  • Caros Rui e Joel
    Sempre me facilitando a vida, obrigada!!
    Mas a última frase “espero QUE te veja (presente do Conjuntivo) sai do contexto e suscita dúvidas…
    Embora tivesse algumas pequenas críticas, novamente, principalmente em relação à irrelevância de algumas sugestões, este post é PRECIOSO. Parabéns e obrigada. Um abraço amigos… ( eu sou a Ana… Nos encontrámos na Blip em Portimão…)

    • Olá Ana, que bom ouvir de si! Eu lembro-me sim da nossa conversa, foi um prazer falar consigo. Que pena que o BLiP não vá acontecer este ano, (pelo menos fisicamente. Vão experimentar um novo formato online). Obrigado por este feedback, vou rever esse exemplo com a nossa equipa. Obrigado de novo, e cumprimentos a si e aos seus alunos.

  • Muito útil! Ando a perder o meu sotaque português devido a viver nos EUA. Este site e’ precisamente o que eu preciso para treinar o sotaque e o ouvido!

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