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Using “é que” in European Portuguese Questions

June 24, 2020

You may have come across é que in a variety of questions and wondered why these extra words are added. The pair of words is technically optional (the meaning stays the same with or without it), but including é que in Portuguese questions is so common that you should typically default to including it. This would be especially wise for beginners because there are not consistent rules for when it can be left out and excluding it can make certain sentences sound very strange.

Where to add é que

É que appears after the interrogative pronouns and adverbs you learned about previously, for example:

  • O que é que…?What is…?
  • Como é que…?How is…?, What is…?
  • Onde é que…?Where is…?
  • Quando é que…?When is…?

The rest of the question stays the same, continuing in subject, verb, object order, just like in English. É que basically translates to

Asking Questions in Portuguese

June 18, 2020

Yes/No Questions in Portuguese

There are a number of different ways to form questions in Portuguese. We’ll start with those for which the answers are either affirmative or negative. These are the easiest Portuguese questions to ask because very few changes have to be made to turn a statement into a question.

1. Add a question mark to the end of a statement

Tu estás em PortugalYou are in Portugal

Tu estás em Portugal?Are you in Portugal?

By adding a ‘?’ to a statement, all we have to do is change the intonation of the sentence and it becomes a “yes or no” question.

2. Add a phrase like “não é?” to the end of a statement

Ela é portuguesaShe is Portuguese

Ela é portuguesa, não é?She is Portuguese, isn’t she?, She is Portuguese, right?

This type of question is used when

Saying No

May 19, 2020

The Basics: No & Not The simplest way to make a sentence negative in Portuguese is just to place the word before the verb. This is the Portuguese equivalent of adding “no” or “not” to a sentence in English. Examples: Não is also used at the beginning of sentences, when replying “no” to a question:

Reflexivity with Tonic Pronouns

May 5, 2020

Reflexive pronouns tell you that an action is done to oneself (i.e. the object is the same as the subject). In English, we use words like myself, herself, and ourselves to express this idea. If you want to read more about Portuguese reflexive pronouns, we also cover them in the Clitic Pronouns unit here. In order to make it easier to spot and understand the differences, we’ll be using the same examples throughout this Learning Note.

As you’ll see below, clitic pronouns (such as -me) are often used along with tonic pronouns (such as mim) to emphasize the object in reference: Desenhei-me a mim.I drew myself.

In some cases, it is also helpful to add the words próprioself or mesmosame to emphasize the reflexive nature of the verb even more and make the meaning less ambiguous: Ela desenhou-se a si própria.She drew herself.

…but this is optional if you’ve already used a clitic pronoun, as in this example: Desenhaste-te a ti (mesmo).You drew yourself.

Explore the examples in each category below to help clarify these concepts…

The Pronouns Si & Consigo

May 5, 2020

The Pronoun Si: Then and Now

Grammatically speaking, the pronouns si and consigo belong to the 3rd person subjects: ele(s)/ela(s). This is because they were initially only used as reflexive pronouns*, which are pronouns that refer to the same subject or thing as the verb. For example:

Ele levou a mala consigoHe took the suitcase with him

*We’ll talk more about reflexive tonic pronouns in an upcoming Learning Note, but you can read more about reflexive clitic pronouns here.

The sentence above is still correct and wouldn’t be confusing because the context makes it clear who consigo refers to. Nowadays, however, it’s more common to see si and consigo used with 2nd person formal subjects. Si and consigo can replace você, as using você in European Portuguese can sometimes be seen as disrespectful or too intense. For example:

Using Tonic Pronouns with Prepositions

May 5, 2020

In this Learning Note, we’ll explore each tonic pronoun and see some examples of how it is used along with different prepositions.

Me and You(Informal)

The tonic pronouns that correspond to eu I, me and tu youinf. are mim and ti . Let’s see how they are used in sentences:

Tens medo de mim?Are you scared of me?

Faço isso por mimI do that for me

Não é bom para tiIt’s not good for you

Agora vivo mais perto de ti Now I live closer to you

When mim or ti go along with com with, the pronouns become comigo with me and contigo with youinf..

Introduction to Tonic Pronouns

May 5, 2020

Personal pronouns can be classified according to how they are used within a sentence. There are pronomes clíticos clitic pronouns, which are unstressed, and pronomes tónicostonic pronouns, which are stressed.

This learning note will serve as an introduction to tonic pronouns, however, let’s first see a recap of all the personal pronouns in order to compare them.

Subject Pronouns Clitic Pronouns Tonic Pronouns Tonic Pronouns + “Com”
eu me mim comigo with me
tu te ti contigo with you informal
ele/ela lhe, se ele

ela

si

com ele with him

com ela with her

consigo with him, with her, with you formal

nós nos nós connosco with us
vocês* vos vocês convosco with you plural
eles/elas lhes, se eles

elas

com eleswith them masc.

com elaswith them fem.

consigo with them

Past Participles & Auxiliary Verbs

April 27, 2020

In this lesson we’re going to tackle one of the most seemingly arcane subjects of the Portuguese language: particípios passados past participles.

What is a past participle? A past participle is a verb form that can be used similarly to an adjective (e.g. “I am interested in that”), or that can be used along with an auxiliary verb to form different verb tenses or use the passive voice (e.g. “The bill has been paid“, “The bill was paid“). Let’s look at a few examples to better understand how past participles are used in Portuguese:

Aquele filme? Já o tinha visto, sim. That film? I had already seen it, yes.

Tínhamos escrito ao professor para lhe pedirmos as notas. We had written to the professor to ask for our grades.

Notice that, in the two examples above, you needed to use another verb before using the past participles “seen” and “written”.

Double Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at particípios passados duplos double past participles. ‘Double’ here means that some verbs can take the form of either a regular or an irregular participle, depending on the auxiliary verb being used with them.

Remember those verbs we marked off with an asterisk in the Irregular Participles learning note? They were ganhar to win, to earn, gastar to spend, and pagar to pay. These are verbs that have double participles. Let’s see them in action:

Ganhar

Eles deviam ter ganhado o campeonato. They should have won the championship.

O campeonato foi ganho pela outra equipa. The championship was won by the other team.

Gastar

Irregular Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at particípios passados irregulares irregular past participles, i.e. past participles which behave in a unique and unpredictable way. What do we mean by “unique and unpredictable”? Let’s see an example:

Eu abri a janela. A janela foi aberta. I opened the window. The window was opened.

If you are fresh off the previous lesson, perhaps you expected the past participle of abrir to open to follow the rule for -IR verbs, and be “abrida”. Right? But being a mischievous irregular verb, instead of “abrido”/”abrida”, the verb abrir becomes “aberto”/”aberta”! Similarly, if we look at the past participle of fazer to do, to make we get:

Regular Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In Portuguese, there are three types of past participles:

  • Particípios passados regulares Regular past participles,
  • Particípios passados irregulares Irregular past participles, and
  • Duplos particípios passados Double past participles

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at regular past participles, that is to say, past participles which behave in a predictable way. These participles depend on the verb’s ending, i.e. they have a different ending depending on whether they’re the past participle of an -AR, -ER or -IR verb.

-AR Verbs

For -AR verbs – andar to walk, falar to speak, amar to love, for instance – the regular ending of the past participle is ‘-ado’, which is added to the root of the verb. Examples:

Os alunos tinham andado até ao instituto. The students had walked up to the institute.

Irregular Verbs in the Simple Past

April 13, 2020

You’ve learned about irregular verbs and how to conjugate some of them in the present tense. If they’re irregular in the present, they’re usually irregular in other tenses too. There are no consistent rules to follow for this category, so the only way to learn the different conjugations is to study each one and practice, practice, practice! (Keep in mind, however, that there are some irregular verbs that follow the rules in most tenses, but are still called irregular due to the exceptions.)

Irregular -AR Verbs

dar

to give

Indicativo

Dar – Indicativo – Pretérito

Tu deste um presente à tua mãe ontem.
You gave a present to your mom yesterday.

  • eu dei
  • I gave
  • tu deste
  • you gave
  • ele / ela deu
  • he / she gave
  • você deu
  • you formal gave
  • nós demos
  • we gave
  • eles / elas deram
  • they masc. / they fem. gave
  • vocês deram
  • you pl. gave

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Interjections

October 16, 2019

Interjections are words with an emotive function. They are used to express emotions, sensations, and moods. They can be just simple vowel sounds, like Ah! and Oh! , but most are either a free word or a phrase, in which case we call them locuções interjetivas.

The same interjeição interjection can have different meanings depending on the context in which it appears, its purpose, and the speaker’s attitude. Even with simple vowel sounds, sometimes changing the tone and extending the sound will give it another meaning.

Ai! Bati com o joelho na mesa. Ah! I hit the table with my knee.

Ai! Já me estou a passar contigo. Ah! You’re getting on my nerves.

Interjections can be used as a standalone reply / affirmation, or they can be followed by a sentence.

Basta! Enough!

Irra! Vocês não conseguem mesmo estar calados, pois não? Geez! You really can’t keep quiet, can you?

There’s practically an unlimited number of interjeições interjections, but below you will find the most common grouped by meaning/context.

Past Continuous Tense

September 2, 2019

In this learning note, we’ll discuss the pretérito imperfeito do indicativo, which is the Portuguese equivalent to the past continuous tense in English grammar. For simplicity, we’ll refer to it as the Imperfeito Imperfect.

This tense is used to describe something that took place in the past that was ongoing or did not have a clear endpoint. It imparts this idea of continuity that the other pretéritos past tenses don’t have, which makes it ideal to narrate past events, as well as to describe past habits. 

Fui picado por mosquitos enquanto dormia. I was bitten by mosquitoes while I was sleeping.

Eu comia sopa todos os dias. I used to eat soup every day.

The first sentence mixes the Pretérito Perfeito Simple Past (fui picado) with the Imperfeito Imperfect (dormia). We’ll compare both tenses further below in this article.

Conjugating Verbs in the Imperfeito

Conjugating regular verbs in the Imperfeito:

-ar verb ending -er/-ir verb ending
eu -ava -ia
tu -avas -ias
ele/ela/você -ava -ia
nós -ávamos -íamos
eles/elas/vocês -avam -iam

Three examples of irregular verbs in the Imperfeito:

Impersonal vs Personal Infinitive

August 16, 2019

The infinitivo infinitive is one of the three formas nominais nominal forms verbs can have. These nominal forms do not express the verb tense, mode, and person by themselves, as they are dependent on the context in which they appear.

The infinitive expresses the idea of an action and it could be thought of as the base form of the verb.

There are two types of infinitives: impessoal impersonal and pessoal personal. We’ll dive into each type below and explain the differences.

Impersonal Infinitive

The infinitivo impessoal impersonal infinitive is invariable, meaning it appears in its full form (without any conjugation) as it doesn’t have a subject.

É obrigatório lavar as mãos. Washing hands is mandatory.

The example above is not referring to anyone specific, just to the general idea of “washing”.

However, the infinitive can also appear as the subject of a sentence itself.

Errar é humano. To err is human.

Amar é viver. To love is to live.

Again, the verbs refer to the general idea of the action, rather than to a specific person doing the action.

Personal Infinitive

The infinitivo pessoal personal infinitive differs because there is a known subject. It is formed by adding the following endings to the impersonal infinitive:

  • -es (tu),
  • -mos (nós),
  • -des (vós), or
  • -em (eles, elas, vocês)

(Because the 2nd person plural vós is rarely used nowadays, we’ll focus our attention on the other three.)

The following table shows how the personal infinitive is conjugated with three different verbs.

Irregular -IR Verbs

July 24, 2019

Quick review of regular -IR verb endings

Let’s start out with a regular -IR verb example, just to cleanse your palate 🍷:

abrir

to open

Indicativo

Abrir – Indicativo – Presente

A loja abre muito cedo.
The store opens very early.

  • eu abro
  • I open
  • tu abres
  • you open
  • ele / ela abre
  • he / she opens
  • você abre
  • you formal open
  • nós abrimos
  • we open
  • eles / elas abrem
  • they masc. / they fem. open
  • vocês abrem
  • you pl. open

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Irregular -IR Verbs

And now, a very common and very irregular example:

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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Here’s another irregular (and perhaps less scary) example:

Irregular -ER Verbs

July 9, 2019

Quick review of regular -ER verb endings

Let’s start out with a regular verb:

escrever

to write

Indicativo

Escrever – Indicativo – Presente

Tu escreves poemas lindos.
You write beautiful poems.

  • eu escrevo
  • I write
  • tu escreves
  • you write
  • ele / ela escreve
  • he / she writes
  • você escreve
  • you formal write
  • nós escrevemos
  • we write
  • eles / elas escrevem
  • they masc. / they fem. write
  • vocês escrevem
  • you pl. write

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The verb stem escrev- is combined with the regular -ER present tense endings (-o, –es, –e, –emos, –em).

Irregular -ER Verbs

For an irregular example, let’s have a look at ser to be permanent, which you’ve likely seen by now. This verb is a mess! Not only does it have non-standard endings, but it doesn’t even have a fixed verb stem (that is, the beginning part of the conjugation is different).

ser

to be (permanent condition)

Indicativo

Ser – Indicativo – Presente

Tu és uma boa pessoa.
You’re a good person.

  • eu sou
  • I am
  • tu és
  • you are
  • ele / ela é
  • he / she is
  • você é
  • you formal are
  • nós somos
  • we are
  • eles / elas são
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês são
  • you pl. are

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The next irregular example is

Indefinite Articles in Portuguese

May 8, 2019

How to Say A, An, & Some In Portuguese

We just learned how to say “the car” using definite articles, but what if you want to talk about “a car” in general? This is called an artigo indefinidoindefinite article, because we’re talking about an undefined car, rather than a specific instance of a car.

In English, we use a, an, and the plural form some.

In Portuguese, there are 4 indefinite articles: um a, an uma a, an uns some umas some

Once again, the specific form used depends on the gender and number of the noun:

  • Masculine, singular: um carro a car
  • Feminine, singular: uma mesa a table
  • Masculine, plural: uns carros some cars
  • Feminine, plural: umas mesas some tables

When to use Indefinite Articles

We use indefinite articles when we want to talk about a subject or an object without specifying a particular one. For example:

Existential Quantifiers

May 2, 2019

In this lesson, we’ll learn about quantificadores existenciais existential quantifiers. Existential quantifiers provide information about quantity without specifying an exact quantity or amount. In English, we would use words like many, few, some, so much, another, several, and plenty. Let’s take a look at how to express these concepts in Portuguese.

Muito, Muita, Muitos, Muitas

Muito and muita are the singular form equivalents to many, very, much, or a lot. Examples:

muito very, a lot masc.

Tenho muito medo! I’m very afraid!

muita very, a lot fem.

Isto ainda é muita coisa para levar. This is still a lot to carry.

Relative Quantifiers

April 23, 2019

In this lesson, we’ll learn about quantificadores relativos relative quantifiers. Relative quantifiers don’t specify an exact quantity, but instead tell us about how a quantity compares in relation to an unspecified whole. Sound complicated? The examples below will make everything more clear.

Quanto, Quanta, Quantos, Quantas

Quanto and quanta are the singular form equivalents to “as much as” in English.

Examples:

quanto as much as masc.

Tenho tanto de comer quanto necessito. I have as much to eat as I need.

quanta as much as fem.

Ela aprendeu tanta matéria quanta havia no manual. She learned as much as there was to learn in the textbook.

Quantos and quantas are the plural forms of quanto and quanta, and they’re equivalent to “as many as” in English.

Examples:

quantos as many as masc.

Vou deitar a mão a tantos bombons quantos conseguir! I’ll have as many chocolates as I can get my hands on!

quantas as many as fem.

Levo tantas maçãs quantas tiveres. I’ll take as many apples as you have.

Determiners vs. Pronouns

April 22, 2019

To master Portuguese, it is essential that we tackle determiners. As you may recall, we have already learned about a few types of determiners in previous units, such as articles, possessives, and demonstratives. So this will be a good opportunity to review, as well as to be introduced to some new types. In this unit, we will focus primarily on:

  • definite articles (such as o and a)
  • indefinite articles (such as um and uma)
  • demonstrative determiners (such as este and estes)
  • indefinite determiners (such as outro and certo)
  • interrogative determiners (such as que and qual)

Before we dive in, let’s quickly review how to differentiate between determiners and pronouns.