Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense

Subjunctive in Portuguese – Imperfect Tense

In my last blog post, I spoke about the Present Subjunctive in Portuguese. In today’s article, I will continue to address the Subjunctive in Portuguese, but this time I will be focusing on the Imperfect Tense.

As I previously mentioned, and unlike what you have probably been told, we do use Conjuntivo (subjunctive, in Portuguese) regularly in our every day conversations.

Therefore, it is time for you to learn this verb mood.

What you first need to know is that the Subjunctive mood is used to express more abstract things that the Indicative mood. It does not refer to an actual time – the present does not actually always convey the present, the imperfect does not actually always convey the past and the future does not always really relate to future times.

In fact, this mood has more to do with abstract things, and we use it when giving opinions, showing doubts, expressing concerns, etc and each tense – the present, the imperfect and the future – express a different idea.

Imperfeito do Conjuntivo

Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense

Today we will be diving into the world of Imperfeito do Conjuntivo (Imperfect Subjunctive) and we will learn when it is used.

But let us take a look at its form first:

FORM:

To form the Imperfect Subjunctive in Portuguese go to the third person plural of Pretérito Perfeito do Indicativo and take out the ending “ram”.

Then, add the endings for the Imperfeito do Conjuntivo => estudaram => estuda + sse

Look at the examples, for each conjugation:

Estudar => Eu estudasse / Tu estudasses / Você, Ele, Ela estudasse / Nós estudássemos/ Vocês, Eles estudassem Beber => Eu bebesse / Tu bebesses / Você, Ele, Ela bebesse / Nós bebêssemos/ Vocês, Eles, Elas, bebessem
Abrir => Eu abrisse / Tu abrisses / Você, Ele, Ela abrisse / Nós abríssemos / Vocês, Eles, Elas abrissem

Be aware that on the person Nós, you always have to add a stress mark on the accentuated syllable. The other persons do not need the accent.

USE:

Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense

1. To talk about wishes or hopes that are impossible or unlikely to happen

  1. Era bom.
  2. Era melhor.

Era tão bom que me deixassem dormir (it would be good, but for some reason it is not possible).

2. To show doubts about the subject we are talking about (Imperfeito do Conjuntivo shows more intense doubts than Presente do Conjuntivo).

  1. Talvez

Talvez ele devesse ter mais paciência.

3. To use with Conjunctions when the main sentence is in the Pretérito Perfeito or Pretérito Imperfeito do Indicativo

  1. Embora;
  2. A fim de que;
  3. Antes que;
  4. Desde que;
  5. Caso.

Embora os filhos quisessem, os pais não os levaram ao jardim Zoológico.

**** If we change these to conjunctions without queConjuntivo changes to Infinitivo.

Apesar de os filhos quererem, os pais não os levaram ao jardim Zoológico.
Antes de chegarem, eles foram embora.

4. With “If” to talk about something unreal or unlikely to happen

Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense
  1. Se

Se pudesse, comprava/ compraria um carro.

**** The second part of the sentence is either in the Imperfeito do Indicativo or Condicional.

5. To wish or to hope for things that are not real or that are impossible or very unlikely to happen 

  1. Tomara;
  2. Oxalá;
  3. Quem me Dera.

Tomara que o dinheiro ainda fosse suficiente. (The money is no longer enough, we know it for sure – thus, not possible).

6. When we are wishing for something general and unspecific that should have a specific characteristic and the main sentence is in Perfeito or Imperfeito do Indicativo

Precisava de comprar um casaco que me ficasse bem e que fosse quente. (I need any jacket that would fit me and be warm).

**** If you know which object/ person it is – if it is something we already know – then we use Indicativo Encontrou uma casa que era grande e tinha aquecimento. (We know which house it is, thus we use Indicativo).
**** BUT when this comes in the negative form, it also comes with Conjuntivo.
Não encontraram ninguém que o pudesse ajudar. (It is negative, so it is Conjuntivo). **** Refer to number 11 about Presente do Conjuntivo! The same rules apply. However, in this case the main sentence is either in Perfeito or Imperfeito do Indicativocontrarily to what happens when we use Presente do Conjuntivo.

Conclusion

Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense

We use the subjunctive to express ideas, doubts, to give advice, etc. While we use the Present Subjunctive to speak about things that are more likely to happen or more real, we use the Imperfect Subjunctive to express ideas about things that are very unlikely or impossible to happen. We also use the Imperfect tense in cases where the rest of the sentence is in the Perfeito or Imperfeito do Indicativo, or even in the Conditional form.

If you want to learn more about these tenses, you can find them in my previous blog posts. I also speak about the Conditional tense in my Online Course.


How do you feel about Conjuntivo? Do you find it easy? Or difficult?

If you find it difficult, do not despair! It is normal… just keep studying it and completing exercises until you get it! Most importantly, try to pay attention to conversations in Portuguese and try to identify this verb mood!

Tell me all about your experience with the verbs in Portuguese in the comment section below. Don’t be a stranger! =)

Beijinhos,

Mia.

Subjunctive in Portuguese - Imperfect Tense

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4 Comments to “Subjunctive in Portuguese – Imperfect Tense”

  1. Ola! I have lost where I was up to! I paid for the course and was beginning to start, but could not access internet well. I would like to download all the relevant material in the next two days, as I have access to a good fast internet provider, including the lectures, but have forgotten where I need to go to do so. Please advise! Desculpe.

    1. Hi Stephanie!
      Thank you for email. You can download the lectures and slide decks directly in the online course. Please log-in to your account here:
      https://teachable.com/login
      Once you logged-in you can then enter the different lectures. You will find below the video and slide decks a button “download”. Please let me know if you can find it.
      Do not hesitate to ask in case you need further support 🙂
      Mia

  2. Hi Mia!

    Since in spanish we do not use the preterite imperfect as a conditional, I have troubles with its uses in portuguese together with the imperfeito subjuntive

    Here are a few examples:

    EXAMPLE 1. Nós pensamos que era/seria bom que estudasses.

    Ok, I get this. In spanish It makes no sense the use of ‘era’.

    EXAMPLE 2. Va chover hoje! Era/seria preferível que à noite viesses de taxi.

    I get this too. Again, in spanish It makes no sense the use of ‘era’ so I just have to learn that ‘era’ can play that role too. But in the following example, with the verb in preterite, I am positive that in Spanish has different meanings:

    EXAMPLE 3. Em 1996 pensávamos/pensámos que era bom que ela estudasse.

    This means (in a Spanish literal translation) that she was studying and we thought it was good for her.

    EXAMPLE 4. Em 1996 pensávamos/pensámos que seria bom que ela estudasse.

    This means (in a Spanish literal translation) that she was NOT studying but we thought it might be good for her to study in the future

    Therefore the sentence ‘era bom que estudasse’ can have a few meanings depending on the context, as in examples 1 and 3.

    My question is: Are ‘era’ and ‘seria’ always interchangables in Portuguese? And in that case how do you express the different ideas of examples 3 and 4???

    1. Hi CJ!
      About your questions:
      So Example 1 and 2 are clear, that’s good!
      Example 3 in Portuguese can mean both things – that they thought it would be good that she would study (so she was not studying yet) OR that they thought it was good that she was studying (she was already studying).
      Example 4, in fact, is the same as in Spanish and can only have one interpretation – that they thought that it would be good if she would study (but she was not studying yet at the time they thought that).
      So the difference from Spanish lies only in example 3 – because it can have both interpretations; Example 4, however, can only have one interpretation, like in Spanish.
      To answer your question – seria/era are not ALWAYS interchangeable, as seen in Example 4.
      I hope this helps!
      Please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have more questions!=)
      Beijinhos,
      Mia.

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