Ah…the Portuguese Verbs and Conjugations, right? What a pain, I know, I know. But do not worry!
Today I will be covering some of the main verb tenses in Portuguese to give you an overview and at the end of this post you should be ready to roam through the vast land of verbs.
Who knows? If you are a grammar freak, you might end up enjoying it. My tip for you is: pretend it is a puzzle or a game and that you just have to put all the pieces together, using your memory to help you out!
So, shall we start?
I will get to the conjugations soon, but before I just want to give you a heads-up on some important facts.
Verb conjugations in Portuguese
The first thing you need to know is that there are three types of verb conjugations in Portuguese.
We have verbs that end in -ar (e.g. falar), verbs that end in -er (e.g. comer) and verbs that end in -ir (e.g. partir). This endings will determine how a verb must be conjugated, especially when they are regular.
In fact, as in many languages, Portuguese has regular and irregular verbs. Regular verbs obey a certain set of rules, and once you know which those rules are, you are good to go. However, when it comes to irregular verbs, the bad news is that they do not follow any rule and they even seem to despise it a bit! I always get the feeling that they are the rebels and look with suspicion to the regular verbs (ahah).
The radical of the verb
Another fact you should get acquainted with is the meaning of the radical of the verb, as well as the endings. Although I guess that the meaning of endings is pretty straight forward, the meaning of radical might not be.
So, let us take an example.
In the verb “comer”, the radical is com, while the ending is -er. So, we find the radical and the ending by looking at any verb in its infinitive form. Now that we know that verbs in Portuguese have either the ending -ar, -er or -ir, it will be easy to find out what the ending is (it will be -ar, -er or -ir). In the case of “comer”, its ending is then -er. What is left of the word is then the radical. In this example, the radical will be ‘com’.
Comer –> Radical: ‘com’; Ending: -er
Subject pronouns in Portuguese
The third point you should be familiar with is the subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, we, you, they) in Portuguese. In Portuguese we do not have ‘it’, as every word is either masculine or feminine (either ‘he’ or ‘she’), but we do have two kinds of ‘you’ – the formal and the informal.
The informal one is the common ‘tu‘ and we use it to address our friends, family and people who are close to us in any way (it might be someone our age simply). We also use the second person singular when we use this informal version of ‘you’.
The other kind of ‘you’ is formal and it is used to address people that are older than us, that are in a higher position (metaphoric, not literal :P), teachers, etc. Basically, anyone we want to keep a certain educated distance from (again metaphorical). For this, we use the formal ‘você‘ and besides this, we use the third person, instead of the second.
It is like we are speaking about another person and not directly at the person in front of us (although we actually really are). So, we will say something like “Does the lady want anything?”. It seems we are speaking about someone else, someone that is not present in the conversation, but actually we are speaking to the person in front of us.
‘Você’ is just the standard formal ‘you’ that we use to explain the use of the third person and the use of the formal manner to students. However, in nowadays Portugal, ‘você’ is considered as a non-prestigious way of speaking and we prefer to use ‘O senhor’ (the gentleman) or ‘a senhora’ (the lady) to address someone formally.
If we do not want to sound AS formal, we can use the person´s first name, like ‘A Ana’ or ‘O Luís’. This creates a distance as it will sound something like ‘Does Luís want anything?’.
It will sound again like we are speaking to someone who is not present in the conversation, but actually Luís is the person who is right in front of us and who is listening to us. We are just using the third person to create the formal distance between the interlocutors.
Just a last fact. To say “you all” the traditional way would be to use the word ‘vós‘. I find it important that you know it, because it does exist and you might come across it.
However, this is no longer very widely used and we transformed it into ‘vocês‘ (not to be confused with ‘você’, which is the singular ‘you’ formal) and we use the same conjugation, as we use to “they”. Take a look below.
Ok, now that you have the hard-facts, let us get into this beautiful conjugation world.
As this topic is really vast, today we will cover…
The conjugation of regular verbs in the Present Simple, Perfect and Imperfect tenses
#Presente Simples do Indicativo
(verbs ending in) -ar
With this set of verbs, you should take the radical of the verb and add the following endings:
So, let us take an example.
Verbo falar (to speak)
Eu (I) falo
Tu (you) falas
Você (you formal) fala
Ele (He) fala
Ela (She) fala
Nós (We) falamos
(Vós (you all) falais – not very widely used anymore)
Vocês (You all) falam
Eles (They – masc.) falam
Elas (They – fem.) falam
(verbs ending in) -er
For this second conjugation of verbs ending in -er, you should take the radical of the verb and add the following endings:
As you can see, it is pretty much the same as the verbs ending in -er, but instead of using an ‘a’, we use an ‘e’. Let us see an example:
Verbo comer (to eat)
Ele/ Ela/ Você come
(Vós (you all) comeis)
(verbs ending in) -ir
Finally, verbs ending in this conjugation should have the following endings:
As you can see, it is exactly the same as verbs ending in -ir, except for the “we” form, which is -imos instead of -emos. Here is an example:
Verbo abrir (to open)
Eles/ Elas abrem
#Pretérito Perfeito do Indicativo
This tense is used to speak about something that happened in a fixed point in time in the past and it is over now. It is the equivalent to the Past Simple in English. With no further ado, here are the conjugations for -ar, -er and -ir:
- ou (example – verbo falar: Eu falei, Tu falaste, Ele falou, Nós falamos, Vocês falaram, Eles falaram)
- eu (example – verbo comer: Eu comi, Tu comeste, Ele comeu, Nós comemos, Vocês comeram, Eles comeram)
- iu (example – verbo abrir: Eu abri, Tu abriste, Ele abriu, Nós abrimos, Vocês abriram, Eles abriram)
Again, if you notice there is not a big difference between them , and you just need to focus on the slight difference in letters, which mainly has to do with the ending letters in the infinitive form.
#Pretérito Imperfeito do Indicativo
This tense has a more complicated use, as it does not have any direct equivalent in English. The closest tense in English, would maybe be “I used to”.
In fact, this tense is used to talk about facts that happened for a period of time or frequently in the past. If we want to say “When I was little, I always used to eat at my grandma´s house”, I will use this tense as follows “Quando eu era pequenina, eu comia sempre em casa da minha avó”.
As you see, we did not use the simple past – ‘comi’ – but instead we used the Pretérito Imperfeito do Indicativo.
As you can see, in the previous example, we are also speaking about a description in the past. This is also why we use this tense. If I want to say, for example, “When I was young, I had long hair and I was thin”, I would also use this tense saying “Quando eu era nova, eu tinha cabelo comprido e era magra”.
In this example all the verbs are irregular (verbos ser and ter) but they are all in the imperfect tense. You can already have a sneak a pick on the irregular forms. However, the lesson I want you to take is that if you want to make descriptions of the past, Pretérito Imperfeito is the tense you will use.
We also use this tense to make polite requests. If you go to a restaurant, you will not say (as it is a bit impolite) “Quero um café” (I want a coffee), but rather “Queria um café” (I would like a coffee). In this cases we use the verbs – gostar de (to like), querer (to want), preferir (to prefer), desejar (to wish for), poder (can).
Here are the conjugations:
- ava (example – verbo falar: Eu falava, Tu falavas, Ele falava, Nós falávamos, Vocês falavam, Eles falavam)
- ia (example – verbo comer: Eu comia, Tu comias, Ele comia, Nós comíamos, Vocês comiam, Eles comiam)
- ia (example – verbo abrir: Eu abria, Tu abrias, Ele abria, Nós abríamos, Vocês abriam, Eles abriam)
As you can see, the conjugation for regular verbs ending in -er and -ir is the same. The only difference is for verbs ending in -ar. Not so difficult, huh?
So, how do you feel so far?
For now we will stop here as I do not want you to feel overwhelmed. In my ‘materials‘ section, you will be able to find this post in a printable version and also some exercises related to this topic.
Make sure to check out my European Portuguese Online Course to study this and many more topics 🙂
How is your study going? Do you want to share it with us in the comments section below? I would be happy to hear it!
Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask! I will try to answer all of them =)
Thank you and see you soon!