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Verb Phrases & Clitic Pronouns

August 25, 2020

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.

Future Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

As previously mentioned, the futuro do conjuntivo future subjunctive allows us to talk about the conditions that must be met in order for a potential future action to occur, (i.e. “If this goes well, I will do that” or “When we get home, I will do that”). This tense appears in subordinate adverbial clauses (i.e. clauses which function like an adverb), as well as in relative clauses. It often goes along with the conjunction se if or others such as:

  • assim que as soon as, once
  • sempre que whenever
  • quando when
  • enquanto while, as long as
  • como how
  • o que what

Verb Conjugation

Regular Verbs

With regular verbs, the futuro do conjuntivo is conjugated exactly the same as the

Imperfect Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

Another tense that makes up part of the conjuntivo is the imperfeito do conjuntivo imperfect subjunctive. You learned about the pretérito imperfeito do indicativo, which references past events that were ongoing. In the conjuntivo, however, the imperfect refers to:

  • past or future wishes and desires;
  • something purely hypothetical in the past or future:
    • i.e. imagining “what could have been” or “what could be” if things were or had been different;
  • something that is or was unlikely to take place.


Present Subjunctive

July 27, 2020

Presente do Conjuntivo

As one of the tenses that makes up part of the conjuntivo (subjunctive) mood, the presente do conjuntivo present subjunctive lets you talk about something that may or may not happen, but that is within the realm of possibility. This includes hopes, fears, doubts, and other hypotheticals. It tends to be paired with the presente do indicativo, such as in clauses beginning with:

  • Espero que… I hope that…
  • É importante que… It’s important that…
  • É bom que… It would be good if…, Literal – It is good that…
  • Receio que… I’m afraid that…
  • Duvido que… I doubt that…
  • Desejo que… I wish that…
  • Quer que eu…? Do you want me to…?

In the next lessons, we’ll focus on the presente do conjuntivo, but you

The Subjunctive Mood in Portuguese (Conjuntivo)

July 27, 2020

Conjuntivo: What is it?

What in English is called the subjunctive mood, in European Portuguese is named modo conjuntivo subjunctive mode. While the indicativo indicative mood refers to actions that are certain or real, the conjuntivo, in contrast, indicates something possible, desired, hypothetical, or even unreal. It conveys the idea of uncertainty, doubt, or hope.

It is often found in sentences that contain the word se if or after a verb + que that, as you will notice in many (but not all) of the examples.

The conjuntivo can appear in

Past Participles & Auxiliary Verbs

April 27, 2020

In this lesson we’re going to tackle past participles in Portuguese, i.e. particípios passados past participles

What is a past participle? A past participle is a verb form that functions similarly to an adjective (e.g. “I am interested in that”), or that goes 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 to use past participles 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:


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.


Irregular Past Participles

April 26, 2020

In this lesson, we’ll have a look at particípios passados irregulares irregular past participles in Portuguese, i.e. past participles which behave in a unique and unpredictable way, instead of following the typical rules. 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 specific 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


to give


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


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 (a.k.a. the past progressive). 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:

Talking About the Future with “Haver”

August 21, 2019

The verb haver can also be used indicate that someone will do something at some point in the future. To use it like this, we conjugate the verb in the Present Indicative tense and add the preposition de. This is a rather formal way of describing a future action or intention.

Hei de visitar a minha avó. I shall visit my grandmother.

Hás de ir a França um dia. You shall go to France one day.

Haver can also be used in a similar fashion to make a request. When haver + de is used to ask for something, it implies “in the future, as soon as you have the time/it is convenient”. Let’s look at a few examples:

Talking About the Past with “Haver”

August 21, 2019

The Portuguese often use the verb haver to discuss the past, whether it be minutes, hours, days, months, or years.

In these contexts, haver is an impersonal verb, meaning that it doesn’t take a particular subject and is always used in the present tense form of the third-person conjugation:

Normally  means there is or there are. However, when is used before words that express an amount of time, you can think of it more like the word ago (which in English is placed after a time-related phrase) or as standing in for other phrases that indicate a certain amount of time has passed.

The phrase construction is pretty straightforward:

Há + Amount of Time Passed

Comprei esta caneta há uma semana. I bought this pen a week ago.

Haver as “To Exist / To Have”

August 21, 2019

The first and easiest of the many meanings of haver is to exist. That is to say, the verb indicates that something “is” or “exists” somewhere. In English, the verb there to be would typically be used in these contexts. When used in this sense, the verb haver is impersonal and has very few usable forms. It can’t be conjugated like other verbs.

dois cadernos na tua secretária. There are two notebooks on your desk.

uma laranja podre no cesto da fruta. There is a rotten orange in the fruit basket.

cobertores no sótão. There are blankets in the attic.

Word Order

This use of haver is very easy to identify since sentences are usually structured as Haver + Object + Location of said object, as in the examples above.

The location is not always mentioned, however. In this context, haver sometimes implies that something is for sale or being offered.

The Verb “Haver”

August 20, 2019

If you’ve been learning Portuguese for a while, and if you’ve done our unit on -ER Verbs, you may have noticed a glaring absence: the verb haver , one of the most essential Portuguese verbs.

Haver may be common, but it’s an odd beast, as we shall see in the next two lessons. The verb haver is mainly used in three different ways: to indicate that something exists, to indicate that something has happened in the past, or to say that something will happen in the future.

Main Verb

When used as a main verb to indicate the existence of something, the verb haver is impersonal (meaning it has no subject), so you only see it in one form:

there is

houve there was

havia there was, there used to be

haverá there will be

Auxiliary Verb

However, haver is often used as an auxiliary verb, in which case it can be conjugated in different tenses and persons. In practice, it is only used in this way in very few tenses.

For the purposes of this lesson, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common tenses of the verb haver in Portuguese:

Impersonal vs Personal Infinitive

August 16, 2019

This learning note will cover the personal infinitive in Portuguese and how it is distinguished from the impersonal infinitive.

First let’s review what we mean by infinitive. 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.

When to Use Estar

July 24, 2019

We covered when to use ser earlier in this unit, but what about estar to be temporary? The verb estar is generally used for non-permanent (i.e. temporary) conditions, traits, or things, as opposed to ser to bepermanent which tends to be used for more permanent or lasting parameters. Let’s explore many of the common contexts in which you would use estar.


Estou tão triste. I am so sad.


Hoje está calor. It is hot today.

When to Use Ser

July 24, 2019

We know, we know… No matter how essential they are, ser to be permanent and estar to be temporary are two difficult verbs. If the simplified distinction in the previous lesson wasn’t enough for you, you’re in luck. In this lesson, we’ll have a more detailed look at how and when to use ser, with plenty of examples to guide you. Later on in this unit, we’ll also cover when to use estar.


We use ser to introduce ourselves to others.

O meu nome é Daniela. My name is Daniela.

Addresses and Telephone Numbers

O endereço dele é Rua Afonso Henriques, nº 20. His address is Rua Afonso Henriques, no. 20.

O número deles é o 276 123 456. Their number is 276 123 456.

Countries and Nationalities

We use ser to express where we are from.

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 🍷:


to open


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


Irregular -IR Verbs

And now, a very common and very irregular example:


to go


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


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:


to write


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


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).


to be (permanent condition)


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


The next irregular example is

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 in Portuguese

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: