Introduction to Portuguese
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Portuguese Lessons (!)
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The Lusophone World
Portuguese : Verb Tense Usage
The Portuguese verb is initially difficult to handle
for English speakers because it leans toward inflection
rather than compound constructions (compare
virei to I shall come).
Inflections are the dozens of specific
endings you see in the table of Regular
Verb Endings (although there you see that Portuguese also has a
number of compound tenses). On the other hand, regular verbs in English
only inflect in the present indicative -s (he/she/it
talks), past tense/past participle -ed
(talked), and present participle/gerund -ing
(talking). That's quite a contrast!
The most troublesome verb forms tend to be the preterite
and imperfect tenses in the indicative, and the subjunctive mood, either
because of the high numbers of irregular verbs (especially the preterite)
or because there is simply no strong parallel in English (notably
the imperfect indicative and the imperfect, present, and future subjunctive).
Remember that the inflected indicative is unique to Portuguese,
and must be used carefully. Lastly, and perhaps the most basic rule
of Portuguese verbs in the context of a sentence, remember that Portuguese
verbs rarely take a pronoun as their subject except for clarification
or emphasis (falo I speak; eu falo
I speak, I do speak).
For a more detailed look at Portuguese verbs, please see
the site's Quick Grammar reference guide.
|Tense or Form
||The most basic verb form that either
complements a conjugated verb or stands alone to reflect no subject
||fazer = to do
|Inflected (or Personal) Infinitive
||No exact English equivalent. It mainly
serves one of three purposes: 1) to shade the verb as a polite indicator
(ex.: não fumar
no smoking rather than não fuma
don't smoke), 2) to show that the infinitive
is tied to a subject (pede para fazermos
o favor he asks us to do
the favor), 3) to replace any tense or mood with an infinitive
(pede para fazermos o favor he asks
us to do the favor rather than pede
que façamos o favor he asks that we
do the favor).
||eu fazer = I do, I
might do, (that) I do
||Denotes an action taking place in the
present time frame.
||faço = I do, I am
||The verb in the present attributed
to an action that is desired, suggested, needed, expected, or gives
a vague description of something or someone that may exist or happen.
||(...que) faça = (...that)
I [might] do
||Commands that something be done.
||faz = do!
|Past Historic or Preterit
||Denotes a one-time action that occured
in the past.
||fiz = I did
||Denotes a habitual action, consistent
circumstance, or surrounding factors in the past (fazia
frio por isso fechei a janela It was getting cold,
so I closed the window).
||fazia = I used to
do, I was doing
||Often coupled with se
if and the conditional tense, it expresses a past action
that could or might have happened.
||(se) fizesse = (if)
I did, had done
||A tense that is now considered archaic
or literary, the pluperfect remains limited in use and the complex
imperfect indicative of ter
+ past participle is preferred.
||fizera = I have done
||Expresses future actions that shall,
will, or should happen (with only a limited possibility of expressing
some caution or uncertainty, e.g. farei
amanhã I will/should get [it] done tomorrow
versus vou fazer I am going to
||farei = I will do,
||Shades an action with the quality of
being done in the near future or even started in the present; its
English parallel is to be going to.
||vou fazer = I am going
||Expresses a completely uncertain action
in the present or future. The exact English equivalent is the word
||faria = I would do
||Denotes an expected future action that
is not certain to take place. It is usually expressed in English
with the present indicative (When I [might] arrive in Paris... =
Quando chegar a Paris...). Note that this
tense is mainly confined to certain expressions, particularly quando
when and se
if when referring to uncertain future events.
||fizer = I might do,
I will do
||Consists of ter (in
the present) + past participle and denotes an
action taking place prior to an event in the present.
||tenho feito = I have
|Pluperfect Indicative (compound)
||ter + past participle,
but used with ter to have
in the imperfect. It expresses an action that has been
done before another event in the past.
||tinha feito = I had
||Ter + past participle;
this time with ter in the future indicative
tense. This expresses an action prior to an event in the future.
||terei feito = I will have done
|Present Participle or Gerund
||Expresses present action. When preceded
by estar to be, it acts as an invariable
part of the compound present progressive (action taking
place at the exact time of the speaker's words).
||fazendo = doing; estou
fazendo = I am doing
||Expresses past action; otherwise it
serves as a noun or adjective.
||feito = done