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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 Portugal You 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 portuguesa She is Portuguese

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

This type of question is used when

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 consigo He 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 mim I do that for me

Não é bom para ti It’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 tónicos tonic 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 eles with them masc.

com elas with them fem.

consigo with them

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.

Clitic Pronouns: Nos & Vos

March 30, 2019

In this lesson we’ll explore the last two clitic pronouns in Portuguese, nos and vos.

A few quick reminders:

  • No hyphens are required if they’re proclitics (placed before the verb)
  • 2 hyphens are required if they’re mesoclitic (placed between two parts of verb)
  • 1 hyphen is required if they’re enclitics (placed after the verb).
  • With 1st person plural verbs that end in s, such as vamos, the s is dropped before adding the pronoun nos or vos
    • For example: vamos + nos = vamo-nos, as in Vamo-nos embora Let’s get out of here

Nos

Nos corresponds to us or to/for us, as it is used for both direct and indirect objects. Examples:

Reflexive Pronouns

March 30, 2019

When the direct object or indirect object represents the same person or thing as the subject of the verb, it’s expressed by a reflexive pronoun.

In other words, we use reflexive pronouns when the action is something one does to oneself. In English, this would be words like myself, yourself, himself, ourselves, themselves, etc. For example, in the sentence “She convinced herself”, she is both the subject and the object, so we use herself as the reflexive pronoun.

We’re including reflexive pronouns in this unit because, despite technically belonging to a different category, they share most of the same pronouns. The only difference is in the 3rd person, both singular and plural, which uses se, si, and consigo.

Since we’re learning about clitic pronouns, which are unstressed pronouns, for now we’re going to disregard si and consigo, which are stressed pronouns, and talk about those in another unit.

Reflexive Pronouns in Portuguese

Subject pronouns Reflexive pronouns
Eu me
Tu te
Ele / Ela / Você se
Nós nos
Eles / Elas / Vocês se

When it comes to placing these pronouns within a sentence, you can follow the same rules as the rest of the clitics.

Let’s have a look at each pronoun individually, using one of the simplest Portuguese reflexive verbs, vestir-se to dress oneself

Clitic Pronouns: Me & Te

March 29, 2019

In this lesson we’ll explore the first two clitic pronouns in Portuguese, me and te.

A few quick reminders:

  • No hyphens are required if they’re proclitics (placed before the verb)
  • 2 hyphens are required if they’re mesoclitic (placed between two parts of verb)
  • 1 hyphen is required if they’re enclitics (placed after the verb)

Me

Me corresponds to me or to/for me in English, as it is used for both direct and indirect objects. Examples:

Ela chamou-me ao gabinete. She called me to the office.

Não me parece boa, esta maçã. This apple doesn’t look good to me.

Te

Te, on the other hand, is used in informal contexts and is equivalent to the English you or to/for you. It is also valid for both direct and indirect objects. Examples:

Merging Clitic Pronouns

March 22, 2019

In Portuguese, when we use a verb that asks for both a direct and indirect object (and the objects are known, i.e. we’re aware of what/who they are), we can create a contraction by combining the third person direct object pronoun with the indirect object pronoun. Sounds complicated, we know.

Let’s see a practical example…

Dei uma prenda à Joana. I gave Joana a gift.

In the sentence above, neither the direct object (uma prenda) nor the indirect object (a Joana) have been replaced by a clitic.

Dei-lhe uma prenda. I gave her a gift.

Now, we’ve replaced the indirect object (a Joana) with the clitic lhe, while the direct object remains in place.

Dei-lha. I gave it to her.

Clitic Pronouns: 3rd Person

March 22, 2019

In this lesson we’ll explore 3rd-person clitic pronouns. Both the singular and plural forms work in the exact same way. Let’s look at the direct pronouns first, followed by the indirect pronouns.

3rd Person Direct Object Clitic Pronouns

The following clitic pronouns stand in for him, her, it, or them as the direct object. We have the default forms: o/a/os/as, plus two variants:

  • lo/la/los/las (used after a consonant) and
  • no/na/nos/nas (used after a nasal sound)

O/A, Os/As

Third person direct pronouns are replaced by o or a (corresponding to him or her, respectively) in singular form and os or as (standing for them, masculine and feminine) in plural form.

Examples:

Clitic Pronouns: Direct & Indirect Objects

March 22, 2019

Pronomes clíticos Clitic pronouns are one of the trickiest subjects to learn and master in Portuguese. But don’t despair — we’re here to help! Throughout these lessons you’ll learn how to use clitic pronouns correctly, but first you should understand more about the difference between direct and indirect objects.

The objects of a sentence can be represented in various ways, the most common being nouns and pronouns. Some verbs don’t need objects for the sentence to make sense, while others demand them. These are called transitive verbs.

For example, take the English phrase “She wants”. That sounds incomplete, right? In English, want is a transitive verb, so you need more information. What does she want? “She wants that car.” Now it’s a complete sentence, with “that car” as the direct object.

Direct Objects

A complemento direto direct object answers the questions what? or who?, and therefore shows a direct connection with the main verb, complementing it.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Introduction to Clitic Object Pronouns

March 21, 2019

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at all the pronomes clíticos clitic pronouns, otherwise known as direct and indirect object pronouns, in Portuguese. (Later on, we’ll deal with reflexive pronouns separately.) Clitic pronouns are basically unstressed morphemes (sort of like mini-words) that go along with a verb to show to whom or to what the action refers. They take the place of the people or objects represented by the direct and indirect objects.

Chart of Clitic Object Pronouns in Portuguese

Subject Pronoun Direct Object Pronoun Indirect Object Pronoun
Eu me
Tu te
Ele, Você (male) o (lo, no) lhe
Ela, Você (female) a (la, na)
Nós nos
Vocês vos
Eles os (los, nos) lhes
Elas as (las, nas)

We can see in the table that the pronouns o, a, os and as are only used in place of direct objects. The opposite goes for lhe/lhes, as these are only used to represent an indirect object. Me, te, nos, and vos can be used for both.

Position of Clitic Object Pronouns

Before we study these further, we should learn about where these  pronouns can be placed in relation to the verb.

There are three possible positions for clitics:

The Imperative

January 27, 2019

When someone yells Sai! Leave! or a doctor says Pare de fumar Stop smoking, there’s one thing they’re doing in common: using the imperativo imperative mood!

There are 2 types of imperatives, the affirmative and the negative, shown below respectively. In these examples, the speaker is talking to multiple people, i.e. using the vocês form.

Parem de fazer barulho. Stop making noise.

Não parem de correr. Don’t stop running.

Regular Verbs in the Imperative

The imperativo imperative can be thought of as the verb conjugation used for giving commands or telling someone to do something (or not to do something). These “commands” could take the form of orders, advice, requests, or pleas. Since the speaker is always talking directly to another person (or group of people), the imperative is only used with the following forms:

When to Use Dele/Dela vs. Seu/Sua

March 30, 2018

Dele vs seu? When forming 3rd person possessives in European Portuguese, how do we decide when to use dele, dela, deles, delas  vs.  seu, sua, seus, suas?

Possessives formed with de are less ambiguous: they agree strictly with the subject, not with the object. In contrast, seu and its derivatives agree with the object, so we are not able to differentiate between the several possible 3rd person subjects without extra context.

In other words, when using dele, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the person who possesses something. When using seu, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the thing being possessed.

Dele, dela, deles, delas

  • dele his – When the subject is ele (him).
  • dela her – When the subject is ela (her).
  • deles their – When the subject is eles (them, a group with at least one male).
  • delas their – When the subject is elas (them, an all-female group).

Seu, sua, seus, suas

These are also used for the same 3rd person subjects, but the specific form used must match the gender and number of the object/noun being

3rd Person Possessives: De + Pronoun

March 30, 2018

The Ambiguity of Seu, Sua, Seus, and Suas

To review, the possessive pronouns/determiners for the third-person forms are the following:

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner English Equivalent
Ele, Ela, Você Seu Sua Seus Suas His, Her/Hers, Your/Yours(formal)
Eles, Elas Seu Sua Seus Suas Their, Theirs

As you can see, ele he, him, ela she, her, você youformal, eles they, themmasc., and elas they, themfem. all share the same exact possessive determiners! Since the determiners agree with both the number and the gender of the noun that is being possessed (rather than the subject), knowing precisely who we’re talking about is a bit tricky. Let’s see some examples:

Introduction to Possessives

March 30, 2018

Possessive Determiners vs. Possessive Pronouns

In this unit, we’re going to learn about possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, which both serve the function of expressing possession or ownership of something.

In English, we use my, your, his, her, their, and our as possessive determiners and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours as possessive pronouns.

Possessive determiners precede the noun they are modifying. They tell you to whom a specific item belongs. For example, in the sentence “It is my cat”, you can tell that the word “my” is a determiner because it needs to be followed by a noun (“cat”). “It is my” would not be a complete sentence.

Possessive pronouns replace the noun they are modifying. They convey ownership without telling what exactly is being owned. For example, in the sentence “It is mine”, you can tell that the word “mine” is a possessive pronoun because it can stand on its own in place of a noun.

Portuguese Possessives

In Portuguese, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners make use of the same words: meu, teu, seu, nosso, vosso, plus their associated feminine and plural forms. As you will see below, this means that there are multiple possible translations of each English possessive word. For both possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you start by choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then modify that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.

1st and 2nd Person Possessives

March 10, 2018

Mine, Yours, and Ours

Let’s take a closer look at this first group of possessives: meu, teu, nosso and vosso, plus their feminine and plural forms.

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner

(for masculine nouns)

Possessive Pronoun/Determiner

(for feminine nouns)

Eu meu my, mine

meus my, mine

minha my, mine

minhas my, mine

Tu teu your, yours

teus your, yours

tua your, yours

tuas your, yours

Nós nosso our, ours

nossos our, ours

nossa our, ours

nossas our, ours

Vós, Vocês vosso your, yours

vossos your, yours

vossa your, yours

vossas your, yours

Gender and Number Agreement

Remember that the pronoun/determiner has to agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to, rather than the person/subject.

For example, if we’re talking about single objects, such as um jornal a newspaper (a masculine noun) or uma revista magazine (a feminine noun), we’d get:

3rd Person Possessives: Seu and Sua

June 18, 2017

His, Hers, Yours, and Theirs

There are just a few more possessives to learn:

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner English Equivalent
Ele, Ela, Você Seu Sua Seus Suas His, Her/Hers, Your/Yours (formal)
Eles, Elas Seu Sua Seus Suas Their, Theirs

See what happens there? The pronouns/determiners for the third-person singular (+ você) and the third-person plural are all the same!

Gender and Number Agreement

Once again, the pronouns or determiners must agree with the respective noun, not with the subject!

If we’re talking about single objects such as um carro a car (masc. noun) and uma mota a motorcycle (fem. noun), here’s what we get:

How to Address People Formally vs. Informally

May 31, 2017

Tu vs. Você in European Portuguese

This guide will cover the grammar and usage of addressing people formally vs. informally in Portugal, with a special focus on the difference between using the pronouns tu and você in European Portuguese. Grammatically, it doesn’t take too long to learn the basics. The most challenging aspects for estrangeiros foreigners, however, tend to be those that have to be made on a social level. For example, you must determine not only when it’s best to speak to someone formally, but also choose between the subtle variations of how formal language is used.

Even the natives (like Rui! 🇵🇹) have a hard time dissecting some of these unspoken social rules, but our aim is to make this the definitive resource of how to speak formally vs. informally in European Portuguese, and all the grey areas in between.

The Easy Stuff

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we’ll start with the easy pronouns first: those which don’t have formal or informal variations.

First person

There is no distinction between formal and informal for the first person pronouns.

When talking about yourself, you’ll use Eu I. Piece of cake!

When talking about yourself along with others, you’ll use:

Invariable Demonstrative Pronouns

February 27, 2017

In the previous lessons of this unit, you learned about variable demonstratives, which change depending on the gender and number of the objects(s) they describe.

Here’s some good news for you: invariable demonstrative pronouns are much easier to learn, because as you can see below, there are only 3 of them. You still have to consider the position of the object(s), but not the number or gender.

Relative Position Invariable Demonstrative Pronoun
Near the speaker: isto this
Near the listener: isso that
Far from both: aquilo that

Even though these pronouns also translate to this and that in English, their meaning and usage is slightly different.

You can think of these invariable pronouns as being more impersonal than their variable counterparts.

How Do You Know When to Use Invariable vs. Variable?

Although we’re usually told to avoid thinking in English, here’s a trick:

Variable Demonstratives: Plural

February 27, 2017

As you’ll recall, variable demonstratives have to agree not only in gender and location, but also in number.

For every variable demonstrative covered in the previous lesson (which were all singular), there is also a plural counterpart.

It might sound scary, but you’re in luck: all you have to do is take the singular form and add an “s“!

Singular Demonstratives

Relative Position Masculine Feminine
Near the speaker: este this esta this
Near the listener: esse that essa that
Far from both: aquele that aquela that

Plural Demonstratives

Relative Position Masculine Feminine
Near the speaker: estes these estas these
Near the listener: esses those essas those
Far from both: aqueles those aquelas those

As you can see, this is to these as este/esta is to estes/estas, and so on. Once you master the singular demonstratives from the last lesson, you can easily come up with its plural, and all the same rules about gender and location apply. Let’s look at a few examples…

Variable Demonstratives: Singular

February 23, 2017

Variable demonstratives are used to indicate all of the following at once:

  • a person or object’s gender
  • the number (one or more)
  • the position in space or time

The “demonstrative” part of this fancy name refers to the last point above, the item’s position. We must choose which demonstrative to use, according to which one of the following fits best:

  • a) The object is near the speaker,
  • b) The object is far from the speaker, but near the listener, OR
  • c) The object is far away from both speaker and listener

As you may have realized, this doesn’t happen in English. You just have to choose between this and thatThat’s it! In English, the position of the object relative to the speaker is the only thing that counts. In Portuguese, we have to choose which “that” to use according to where the object is in relation to the listener.

This lesson will cover singular variable demonstratives, all of which you can see in the table below.

Introduction to Portuguese Demonstratives

February 20, 2017

Demonstrativos Demonstratives help to identify a particular person or object and establish its location in relation to the speaker, the listener, or simply within the general context. They can tell us, for example, whether something is close or distant in space or time. In English, we generally use the words this and these to refer to things that are close to the speaker or things that are happening at the present time, and we use that or those to refer to objects that are further from the speaker or things that happened in the past. In Portuguese, you must also take into account the proximity to the listener and whether something happened in the recent or distant past. The Portuguese demonstratives are este(s), esta(s), esse(s), essa(s), aquele(s), aquela(s), isto, isso, and aquilo. This learning note will serve as just an overview, so don’t overwhelm yourself with memorizing all of these just yet. We’ll focus on one group at a time in the lessons to follow.

Pronouns vs. Determiners

You may recall what we learned in the Possessives unit about the difference between