In this post I am going to speak about the Personal Infinitive in Portuguese. I know that many of my students struggle with it and chances are you do too.
The infinitive can be impersonal or personal. The impersonal infinitive does not have any conjugations and we could say it is the equivalent to the verb’s “name” itself. So, for the verb “falar” the impersonal infinitive is “falar” and this always stays the same.
The Personal Infinitive, however, will vary according to the person. Thus, it will have different conjugations for different persons.
Below you can check how this form is conjugated and when it is used.
Are you ready?
Personal Infinitive – Conjugation
You can check how the conjugation goes on the following table:
|Eu falar||Eu comer||Eu abrir|
|Tu falares||Tu comeres||Tu abrires|
|Você/ Ele/ Ela falar||Você/ Ele/ Ela comer||Você/ Ele/ Ela abrir|
|Nós falarmos||Nós comermos||Nós abrirmos|
|Vocês falarem||Vocês comerem||Vocês abrirem|
|Eles/ Elas falarem||Eles/ Elas comerem||Eles/ Elas abrirem|
As you can see, the first (eu) and third (você/ ele/ ela) persons always stay the same as the verb’s “name” across the three types of verbs (verbs ending in ar, er and ir).
The second person singular (tu) adds an es to the infinitive of the verb.
The first person plural (nós), adds mos to the infinitive of the verb.
Finally, the second (vocês) and third (eles/ elas) persons of the plural form, add an em to the infinitive of the verb.
Ok, but now that you know the conjugations, you may be thinking when to use it. Well, don’t worry, read on and you will soon find out! 🙂
Personal Infinitive – When to Use It
The personal infinitive can and will be used many times. In the following lines, I will tell you the most common uses of this form, so that you can start using it with ease.
After certain prepositions:
After prepositions like Até, Para, Por, Sobre, Após… and many more.
Check the following examples:
Até aprenderes a somar, não podes aprender a dividir (Until you learn how to add, you can not learn how to divide).
Sobre quereres ir morar para a China, não tenho opinião (About you wanting to go live in China, I have no opinion).
After certain propositional constructions:
After propositional constructions like Antes de, Depois de, No caso de…
Check out the following examples:
Antes de comeres, lava as mãos (Before eating, wash your hands)
No caso de não vires, diz-nos (In case you don’t come, let us know)
After certain impersonal constructions:
There are some impersonal constructions, which do not have any specific subject, that ask for the personal infinitive as well.
Take a look at the following examples:
É preciso fazeres bem os trabalhos de casa (It is necessary that you make the homework correctly)
É necessário seres mais prudente (It is necessary that you are more careful)
É importante comunicar claramente o que queremos (It is important to clearly communicate what we want).
The impersonal sentences above, are the ones underlined: É preciso, É necessário, É importante. They are called impersonal because they do not have any specific subject.
Things to note
The use of the subject
The subject in sentences using the personal infinitive might be overt or hidden.
This means we can either have:
É preciso tu fazeres os trabalhos de casa
É preciso fazeres os trabalhos de casa
When the subject is understood by context (as on the example above), Portuguese speakers tend to hide it. However, when the conjugation of the verb and/or the context does not make it very clear, we need to add the subject.
Take a look:
É importante fazeres os trabalhos de casa
I do not need to add tu because the verb conjugation (fazeres) lets me know that the subject I am talking about is tu.
But that is not always the case:
É importante fazer os trabalhos de casa
In this case, if I don’t overtly add the subject, I do not know if I am saying something in general or if I am speaking to someone.
I could be saying that in general is important to make our homework. I could also be saying that it is important that I make my homework OR I could also be saying that it is important that he or she does the homework.
So, I could be meaning to say:
É importante fazer os trabalhos de casa.
É importante eu fazer os trabalhos de casa.
É importante ele/ ela fazer os trabalhos de casa.
É importante você fazer os trabalhos de casa.
So, to sum up: really check if the subject is understood by context or if you need to make it clear about/to whom you are talking.
The use of the Infinitivo vs Conjuntivo
Another thing you should bear in mind is that the Personal Infinitive sentences can be substituted by the Conjuntivo.
To do this, you just need to change them slightly.
Normally, either the preposition changes a little bit or a que is added or substitutes the de.
Let’s check the examples above again, how they are in the infinitive and how they would be with the conjuntivo.
Até aprenderes a somar, não podes aprender a dividir (Until you learn how to add, you can not learn how to divide). vs Até que aprendas a somar, não podes aprender a dividir (Conj.)
No caso de não vires, diz-nos (In case you don’t come, let us know) vs Caso não venhas, diz-nos (Conj.)
É preciso fazeres bem os trabalhos de casa (It is important you do your homework well) vs É preciso que faças bem os trabalhos de casa (Conj.)
Antes de o filme começar, liga-me (Before the movie starts, call me) vs Antes que o filme comece, liga-me.
As you can see, the sentences change slightly, but they have the same meaning.
In conclusion, the personal infinitive can be your ally, as it can substitute the more complicated Conjuntivo form in many instances. You just have to check out its use and conjugation, which I hope I have helped you do with this blog post.
In the comments below, please do the following:
- Leave me a sentence using the personal infinitive and the same sentence using the conjuntivo. Can you do it?
I will check it out and let you know if you’ve managed. 🙂 This can be an excellent exercise for you to consolidate what you have learnt, so I will be waiting.