Rita realizes that she has quite a bit in common with Marcelo’s siblings! Listen for lots of possessive pronouns and possessive determiners throughout their conversation.
This unit will cover relative pronouns in Portuguese. Relative pronouns are used to connect a dependent clause to the main clause of a sentence. A dependent clause refers to someone or something mentioned previously. The relative pronoun establishes a relationship with an antecedent and it’s that relation that allows us to understand who or what one is referencing.
Simply put, relative pronouns make sentences clearer and help us to avoid repetition. For example, let’s look at these 2 separate phrases used to describe a teacher:
Now, if we use a relative pronoun to put them together:
The word professor has been replaced by the relative pronoun que. Much more concise, right?
Classifying Relative Pronouns in Portuguese
In the past, some other words were also considered relative pronouns in Portuguese, but are now officially classified as something else. For example:
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.
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.
Luísa and Gaspar make plans for the weekend. Listen for how tonic pronouns are used throughout their conversation.
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
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
This type of question is used when
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:
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:
Me and You(Informal)
The tonic pronouns that correspond to eu Play slow audio Play normal audio I, me and tu Play slow audio Play normal audio you(inf.) are mim Play slow audio Play normal audio and ti Play slow audio Play normal audio . Let’s see how they are used in sentences:
When mim or ti go along with com Play slow audio Play normal audio with, the pronouns become comigo Play slow audio Play normal audio with me and contigo Play slow audio Play normal audio with you(inf.).
Personal pronouns can be classified according to how they are used within a sentence. There are clitic pronouns (pronomes clíticos Play slow audio Play normal audio ), which are unstressed, and tonic pronouns (pronomes tónicos Play normal audio ), which are stressed. This learning note will serve as an introduction to tonic pronouns in Portuguese, however, let’s first see an overview of all the personal pronouns in order to compare them.
|Subject Pronouns||Clitic Object Pronouns||Tonic Pronouns||Tonic Pronouns + “Com“|
|eu||me||mim Play slow audio Play normal audio||comigo Play slow audio Play normal audio with me|
|tu||te||ti Play slow audio Play normal audio||contigo Play slow audio Play normal audio with you (informal)|
|ele/ela||lhe, se||ele Play slow audio Play normal audio||com ele Play slow audio Play normal audio with him|
|nós||nos||nós Play slow audio Play normal audio||connosco Play slow audio Play normal audio with us|
|vocês*||vos||vocês Play slow audio Play normal audio||convosco Play slow audio Play normal audio with you (plural)|
|eles/elas||lhes, se||eles Play slow audio Play normal audio||com eles Play normal audio with them (masc.)|
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.
In this lesson we’ll explore two more clitic object pronouns in Portuguese, nos and vos.
A quick reminder: 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 Play slow audio Play normal audio Let’s get out of here
Nos corresponds to us or to/for us, as it is used for both direct and indirect objects. Examples:
Portuguese reflexive verbs are formed by adding the reflexive pronouns me, te, se, or nos. 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.
You’ve probably come across some of these in earlier units and wondered how they work. For example:
- Como te chamas? Play slow audio Play normal audio What’s your name? (sing.,inf.) – Literally, “What do you call yourself?”
- Chamo-me Joel Play slow audio Play normal audio My name is Joel – Literally, “I call myself Joel”
Reflexive pronouns are clitic pronouns. A clitic is similar to an affix because it goes along with the verb rather than standing on its own. You’ll learn about the other clitics in more detail in a later unit. Luckily, they are mostly the same. Portuguese reflexive pronouns share most of the same pronouns as the Portuguese clitic direct and indirect object pronouns. The only difference is in the 3rd person, both singular and plural: se.
One last thing to note is that clitic pronouns are unstressed. (In another learning note, we’ll cover si and consigo, which are stressed pronouns.)
Reflexive Pronouns in Portuguese
Here are the reflexive pronouns that correspond to each subject pronoun.
|Subject pronouns||Reflexive pronouns|
|Ele / Ela / Você||se|
|Eles / Elas / Vocês||se|
In this lesson we’ll explore the first two clitic object 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 corresponds to me or to/for me in English, as it is used for both direct and indirect objects. Examples:
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:
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…
In the sentence above, neither the direct object (uma prenda) nor the indirect object (a Joana) have been replaced by a clitic.
Now, we’ve replaced the indirect object (a Joana) with the clitic –lhe, while the direct object remains in place.
In this lesson we’ll explore 3rd-person clitic object pronouns in Portuguese. We saved these for last because they are a little bit more complicated. Unlike the others we’ve practiced so far in the Clitic Pronouns unit, there are different forms depending on whether it’s a direct or indirect object pronoun. (Visit the introduction learning note if you want to review the chart of all the clitic object pronouns.)
Let’s look at the direct pronouns first, followed by the indirect pronouns. (Both the singular and plural forms work in the exact same way.)
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)
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.
Pronomes clíticos Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 object 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.
Let’s look at a few examples in Portuguese:
In this lesson, we’ll have a look at direct and indirect object pronouns in Portuguese. These fall into the category of pronomes clíticos Play slow audio Play normal audio clitic pronouns, along with reflexive pronouns, which we will cover separately, but which follow many of the same rules.
Keep in mind that we focusing on how to use object pronouns in European Portuguese, as there are some differences in the Brazilian dialect.
So What IS a Clitic Object Pronoun?
You may recall from the Reflexive Verbs unit that a clitic pronoun is an unstressed morpheme (sort of like a mini-word) that goes along with a verb. A clitic object pronoun shows to whom or to what the action refers. In other words, it takes the place of the people or objects represented by the direct or indirect objects.
For example, the direct object pronouns -me and -os:
Chart of Object Pronouns in Portuguese
Here are the direct and indirect object pronouns (“clitics”) associated with each subject pronoun:
When someone yells Sai! Play slow audio Play normal audio Leave! or a doctor says Pare de fumar Play slow audio Play normal audio Stop smoking, there’s one thing they’re doing in common: using the imperativo Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 (you – plural) form.
Regular Verbs in the Imperative in Portuguese
The imperativo Play slow audio Play normal audio 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:
Tiago makes his father’s life difficult as he gets ready for school in the morning. Hugo finally finds a way of motivating him to cooperate.
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 subject/person who possesses something. When using seu, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the object/thing being possessed.
- dele Play slow audio Play normal audio his – When the subject is ele (him).
- dela Play slow audio Play normal audio her – When the subject is ela (her).
- deles Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is eles (them, a group with at least one male).
- delas Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is elas (them, an all-female group).
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
The Ambiguity of Seu, Sua, Seus, and Suas
To review, the Portuguese possessive pronouns/determiners for the third-person forms are the following:
As you can see, ele Play slow audio Play normal audio he, him, ela Play slow audio Play normal audio she, her, você Play slow audio Play normal audio you(formal), eles Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(masc.), and elas Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(fem.) 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:
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, these are words like my, your, his, her, their, and our (possessive determiners) and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours (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.
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 for each possessive word.
To choose the correct possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you can start by
(1) choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then
(2) modifying that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.
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.
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 Play slow audio Play normal audio a newspaper (a masculine noun) or uma revista Play slow audio Play normal audio magazine (a feminine noun), we’d get:
His, Hers, Yours, and Theirs
There are just a few more Portuguese possessives to learn:
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 Play slow audio Play normal audio a car (masc. noun) and uma mota Play slow audio Play normal audio a motorcycle (fem. noun), here’s what we get:
This guide will cover how to address people formally vs. informally in Portugal, with a special focus on the difference between tu and você in European Portuguese.
Grammatically, it doesn’t take too long to learn the basics. The most challenging aspects for estrangeiros Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 which formal language to use.
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 European Portuguese resource for informal vs. formal language, and all the grey areas in between!
It’s important to be aware of the difference between tu and você from the beginning, but don’t worry if you don’t have it perfected right away. It goes without saying that it will take many months or even years of experience to get comfortable with all these social subtleties.
The Different Forms of “You”
You don’t have to worry about formality in the 1st person or 3rd person (yay!). But it gets a little trickier in the 2nd person, which has formal and informal variations.