Lição 2 ~ Second Lesson
Não posso
I can't

>>Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese

This is the second in the series of online Lições Lessons. These lessons are written for moderate beginners who have already taken something like the Para começar courses offered on this site. You must first have a solid understanding of basic phrases and pronunciation and have completed lesson 1. Please enjoy!

*When you see "B "P, this means that you can click to hear how the word or phrase sounds in Brazil (Brazilian dialect) and Portugal (European dialect).



João, after a rude interruption by a stranger, has finally made it to the café for his encontro (m.) a date, a meeting, a rendez-vous with his friend Joaquim, who used to work at the same escola (f.) school as he does. Joaquim has since moved to another city, and hasn't been back in a while. Their encontro starts at 1:30. They are going to meet at a saída (f.) the exit of o hotel (m.) do Joaquim Joaquim's hotel, right next to um restaurante (m.) a restaurant and the café.

(When writing the time, note how Portuguese-speakers can use 1h30 for 1:30).

Let's check on João as he realizes that it's already 2:00 and his friend hasn't arrived yet:

João  (thinking to himself) O que posso fazer? São duas! Onde está? Posso esperar mas não quero. Não, tenho que esperar... Espero, sim.
  Depois de dez minutos, às 2h40, o Joaquim chega.
Joaquim Como você vai? Desculpe, mas é uma cidade muito grande.
João Muito bom, vamos para o café!
Joaquim Não quero.
João Você não quer ir comigo?
Joaquim Não, não quero. Onde é o clube?
João Então você vai ao clube?
Joaquim Sim, vou. Adeus!
João Adeus!

This dialogue does pull out a few new tricks, but please don't let that scare you. It is not beyond you. Let's take it piece by piece to see what they're saying.

Read through the dialogue outra vez again and see what you get out of it this time. Make an English translation, using the explanations above as a guide. Then go put on some new roupa clothes and meet some pessoas people.* You'll understand everything much better agora now.

* The Portuguese word for clothes roupa (f.) is singular, so you say onde está a roupa? where is the clothes?
* Pessoa (f.) person has the regular plural form pessoas people. There is also a separate word for talking about "the people" or "a people": a gente (f.) the people. Like roupa, gente is singular, so you must use a gente é/está the people are.


Practicing the language in action

First, let's review. You're talking to João, and he asks you a question: Fala português? You think for a minute about the question. He could be saying, does he speak Portuguese?, does she speak Portuguese?, does it speak Portuguese?, or do you speak Portuguese?. Seeing that there is no one else around, you rule out he and she. You know it can't be it unless João is really losing his mind, so how do you?

You say: falo (o) português, sim. Try it again. This will come in very handy when you're a tourist in Brazil, Portugal or, well, somewhere, and you want to let someone know that you speak Portuguese. Imagine that you need some help, and someone's trying to speak English unsuccessfully to you. You can interject a helpful falo português. Say it again and again:

Falo português! Sim!
Sim, falo.
Falo, sim
Sim, falo
Falo, sim.

You should hear the phrase bom dia, você fala português? in your sleep, and even then you'll respond falo português or sim, falo (roughly yes, I do). That's right, você fala português. Tem que falar português You have to....

Well, that's our transition from falo português to ter que. When você tem que fazer something you have to do it. This is another useful phrase, especially for people who like to complain (but I bet you're not one of them, are you?).

You're working on a tedious job that you've been meaning to do for months, but you think it's a waste of your valuable time. João approaches you and asks - Porque você faz isso? Why is it that you're doing that?

Already so frustrated with this task, how do you respond?
TENHO QUE FAZER I have to do it! MAS NÃO QUERO But I don't want to!

Then you snap, and you scare us into stopping our brain drilling for this lesson (but leaving you with a few very useful phrases that you'll never forget):



>>Understanding the Language 

The previous lesson showed you how to form a noun, an adjective, and a present-tense verb. Now that we understand the basic ideas behind these, we should try and put them together in a sentence. There are three basic sentences: ones that end in . (called declarative; you're stating or declaring something), ones that end in ? (called interrogative; you're asking or interrogating (Latin rogare to ask for)), and ones that end in ! (called exclamatory; you're exclaiming something).

The Portuguese declarative begins with one word: the verb. All you need is a verb (Falo. I'm speaking; falar = to speak, to talk). You can have a subject, and this often emphasizes the subject (Eu falo. I'm speaking.). You can have just the verb with an object (Falo português. I speak Portuguese.). Or you can have a complete simple sentence (Eu falo o português. I speak Portuguese). So the whole simple sentence would be subject + verb + object.

The exclamatory is just a declarative with an exclamation mark: Eu falo português! I speak Portuguese! To emphasize the subject even more, we can even place it after the verb: Falo eu! I'm speaking! (and no one else!).

The interrogative is open to more variation. You can use the same word order that you had in the declarative sentence. This tends to restate an answer ([Eu] falo português? I speak Portuguese?). You can put the subject after the verb, but this is clumsy and archaic (Falo eu português? or Falo português eu? Speak I Portuguese?). Or you can make it a lot easier on yourself and forget the subject altogether (Falo português? Do I speak Portuguese?).

All in all, the word order is much more relaxed than English, so you can be a bit more varied.


You might have noticed a heavy emphasis on irregular verbs in the dialogue, since we met six of them there. Unfortunately, many of the most common verbs in the Portuguese language are irregular. Irregular means that verb does not follow the regular pattern of endings (the nice chart we made in the last lesson). Take ter to have as an example. From what we learned in the last lesson about the present indicative, we might expect the following ending: eu to, tu tes, ele/ela/você te, nós temos, vós teis, eles/elas/vocês tem. But most of those words don't exist. Compare the actual endings of this verb to the ones it would have in the present indicative if it were regular:

If it were regular... Pronoun ...since it's not
to eu I tenho
tes tu  you (familiar) tens
te ele/ela/você he/she/you tem
temos nós  we temos
teis vós  you (archaic) tendes
tem eles/elas/vocês  they/they/all of you têm

Another verb that conjugates almost exactly like ter is the verb vir. Vir means to come, and its forms are venho, vens, vem, vimos, vindes, vêm. Except for the nós form (simply because it's an -ir verb and not an -er verb like ter), you can replace t- with v- and reproduce vir's correct irregular forms!

There are quite a few verbs like ter, but let's focus on five of the most important in this lesson: ter to have (the verb we conjugated above), ser to be [permanently], estar to be [temporarily], querer to want, and ir to go. Here are ser, estar, and ir (all irregular forms in bold and blue):

Pronoun Ser Estar Ir
eu sou estou vou
tu és estás vais
ele/ela/você é está vai
nós somos estamos vamos
vós sois estais ides
eles/elas/vocês são estão vão

Note that, despite their differences, there endings follow a sort of regular pattern: -ou, -s, -(vowel), -mos, -s, -ão. These are three of the most irregular verbs in the language, perhaps even the most irregular. You can't stick with any sort of pattern, so that's why we've learned parts of each of them in context. Use these verb charts as a reference, but choose practice over memorization (unless you're a linguistic genius). This means that when you say sou estudante I am a [male/female] student you shouldn't be thinking ofser, but rather of sou. It should sound right. In other words, it just comes out naturally. Think of this: you should never be asking yourself alright, what's the Portuguese word for I am?... let's see, to be is ser, so... Think in your new language. Think Portuguese. Think of sou as the only way you know how to say it.

I know that we were a bit sidetracked with a good helping of language-learning theory, but let's go through the uses of some of these verbs:

Ser = use it for saying be when talking about something permanent. Describe what someone or something is like (>example (você) é baixo you are short). Tell the time (são nove (horas) it's nine (o'clock)). You can use it instead of estar to tell where something is if it exists permanently [almost always a place] (a estação é aqui the station is here). Whenever you use it over estar, you give an air of permanency.

Estar = use it to say how something seems or is like. It is a temporary be (está baixo he seems short [now], you (você) seem short [now]). Use it to say where something is (like a lost shoe; something that moves or is not permanent) or someone is (because no one stays in one place an entire lifetime) (>example está aqui he/she/it is here, you (você) are here). You can also use it instead of é if you want to for permanent places (a estação está aqui the station is here). In many cases you can use it over ser to show what something or someone is like at the moment, and the two are sometimes interchangeable (though you should not use them carelessly, for, in these instances, each gives a different shade of meaning to what is said).

Ir = usually parallels the English use of to go. You can call up your friend and say vou pra a praia, queres ir? I'm going to the beach, wanna come? Note that you can use ir followed by our friendly infinitives to say I'm going to... (something you'll do in the near future), in this case let's say já vou estar aí I'm going to be there soon. This is often called the compound future because we compound two verbs to form it. Portuguese also has a formalized future tense that we will see later, meaning I will... rather than I'm going to...

Then we have querer to want. This one's related to the Spanish querer, although its conjugation is different. All of irregularities don't show up in writing (listen for the e), a phenomenon we'll deal with later:

O Sujeito Subject Querer to want
eu quero
tu queres
ele/ela/você quer
nós queremos
vós quereis
eles/elas/vocês querem

Portuguese speakers used to write an e after quer, making a regular form quere. This has happened to several verbs (we used to say você faze you do, you're doing, but now we prefer você faz, as in o que você faz What are you doing?).

You can use querer to order something, to complain (think of the way children whine for something that eles querem they want), and to wish for something.

There's also another verb for to wish or to desire, but this one's completely regular (whew!). It's desejar to wish, to desire, and here are its formasregulares regular forms in the present tense indicative:

O Sujeito Subject Desejar to wish, to desire
eu desejo
tu desejas
ele/ela/você deseja
nós desejamos
vós desejais
eles/elas/vocês desejam

This is also a good verb to use when telling what you would like, or sharing a dream or ideal, but you could also use it interchangeably with querer to want. Be careful, because desejar is often more formal or literary like the English equivalents to wish and to desire tend to be.

It's time for something a bit easier to swallow than irregular verbs. Since you haven't yet had a proper introduction, I'd like you to meet the prepositions. These are words that describe the position or direction of a subject's action upon an object. In other words, you can go to the restaurant, outside of the house, behind the car, on top of the roof (be careful, it's slippery sometimes!), and get something for a friend. These might all have different meanings, but they show how one person's or thing's action relates to another's. There are many of these words, and they can get nasty if you don't stay on top of them. Here are some basic prepositions:

de = of, from
a = to, at
em = in, inside, on
para = for, for the benefit of, in order to, informally can also be to (action towards or in favor of one noun such as the gift is for him)*
por = by, for, in return for (mutual or return action such as thank you [in return] for the gift)*
com = with

*Para and por, both meaning for, are foreign concepts to an English speaker and they will cause you some trouble. Para has direction - para mim for me (directed at me). Por is reciprocal - obrigado por thanks for (in return for, in exchange for). Para's direction allows it to mean to - para o café to the café, heading for the café.

On the other hand, look at em. This one word means in and on, meaning that English speakers find it easy to use (a two-for-one deal). The words in and on are where Portuguese speakers who learn English run into a sort of por/para problem.

You will find that most of the prepositions you just learned contract with many smaller words (remember our adventure with ao clube in the dialogue?). The major contractions occur with the articles (
o, a, os, as, um, uma, uns, umas) as well as some common words like aqui here and ali there. Here's a chart that you should reference and perhaps print out if you want to become familiar with this fundamental quirk of your new language.

  de of, from a to, at em in, on por by, for
o do ao no pelo
os dos aos nos pelos
a da à na pela
as das às nas pelas
um dum [a um]¹ num² pelum
uns duns [a uns] nuns peluns
uma duma [a uma] numa peluma
umas dumas [a umas] numas pelumas

¹ The bracketed forms are all regular.
² You will also find em um, em uns, etc.; they are perfectly acceptable:
Sou estudante em uma (ou numa) universidade respeitada. I am a student at (lit. "in") a respected university. Note the adjective "respected" follows the noun, something we discussed in lesson one!
Sou estudante na USP. I am a student at the (lit. "in the") U. of São Paulo.

Com with only contracts with these object pronouns:

com with
comigo com + mim = with me
contigo com + ti = with you (informal)
consigo com + si = with him, her, it, you
conosco (Portugal connosco) com + nós = with us
*convosco com + vós = with you
*Don't you remember that this form is archaic?

De, em, and por commonly combine with other small words here and there, notably: aqui here, ali/aí there ( when close to the person being spoken to [= right there], ali when near neither the speaker nor the person spoken to [= over there]), isto this, and isso that, aquilo that over there.

>never fails
You may find further contractions in your studies of Portuguese, such as d'água of [the] water, a contraction of da + água, itself a contracted form of de of/from + a the + água water,  but these are infrequent and optional (da água is just as Portuguese (or Brazilian) as its contracted counterpart).



Before we complete this lesson, let's try two exercises:
First, João wants some more chá (m.) tea.
He says:             Vou para o café outra vez again. Quer ir comigo?
You say:            ___, ______________. Yes, I want/desire to go.
He responds:      Está bem! Vais trazer to bring seu dinheiro your money?
You reply:          Claro of course. ________ _____ ___ ___, I'm having/I'll take a coffee.
He finishes:         Fico com um chá. Venha come [on]!

Your responses should resemble the following (no peeking!):
First response:          Quero ir, sim. / Eu quero ir.
Second Response:    Vou ficar com um café. / Fico com um café. / Eu fico com um café.

You leave João in the café and head home, where you have an e-mail waiting for you. It's someone asking for help with their Portuguese homework (you are, of course, a reknowned scholar of the language on the internet). He has an especially hard time with contractions, and wants you to make them where he forgot them:

Não vou a a estação amanhã porque because tenho que trabalhar (m.) to work. Em a escola onde trabalho, leio os temas(m) papers/writings, themes de uns estudantes. Obrigado muito por a ajuda(f.) help de os professores!

Here's the Answer (hey, stop peeking!):

Não vou à estação amanhã porque tenho que trabalhar. Na escola onde trabalho, leio os temas duns estudantes. Obrigado muito pela ajuda dos professores!

Remember that can also say "não vou para a estação", especially in informal dialogue (where we even like to say and write pra).

B. Provas
Quizzes (yes, two of them!)

This is a short, ungraded test on the material presented above. You will choose the answer that best fits each question. Please take the short tutorial to see how the quiz will work.

The next quiz is a very quick checkbox quiz. Be sure to pay close attention to the directions, checking the boxes that você quer you want to check.


>>O Mundo Luso
The Portuguese-speaking World

Brasil (m.) Brazil is an extremely large country (é muito grande). Over half of all of the world's Portuguese speakers live there. Even before the Portuguese colonizers arrived in 1500, the country had a diverse cultural makeup that included several separate groups of people speaking distinct languages and living in environments as varied as the Amazon river basin and the southern coast. The most well-known native language still spoken today is Tupi. Brazilian Portuguese has borrowed many words from that language, and several have even made it across the sea into European Portuguese and even English!

Race and identity play a crucial role in modern-day Brazil. The import of African workers and slaves for centuries during the colonial period added a vibrant African element to the country's culture, and, to this day, there is no country in the Americas that has adopted as much music, dance, and other cultural elements from the African continent as its own as Brazil.

The superculture is, of course, the colonial European heritage. Portuguese settlers gave the country its language, literature and politics. Much of traditional Brazilian history recounts the story of Portugal and its famed explorers that sailed to the Americas, Africa, India, China, and elsewhere.


>>What Should I Have Learned Here?
Final Review & Key Points

You should have danced to the rhythm of these beats:

Now that your enthusiasm for the language is at an all-time high, take a little break, reveiw this lesson a few times, and use your Portuguese as much as you can. We'll see you in the next lesson...

ATÉ À PRÓXIMA! Until next time!

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