The regular past preterite tense

Olá! Como vai? The next tense I want to look at is the preterite tense – the simple past. And yes, that does mean there is more than one past tense. But don’t let that bother you now – it’s pretty straight forward.  

This tense is used to talk about something that happened in the past which has finished. For example – Yesterday I bought a dress. However, it is also used to translate the past perfect tense (I have done, you have bought, he has finished).

Let’s look at the endings which we will add to the stem of the infinitive.

-Ar verbs: -ei, -aste, -ou, -ámos, -astes, aram

-Er verbs: -i, -este, -eu, -emos, eram

-Ir verbs: -i, -iste, -iu, -imos, -iram

It might look like a lot but with practice, you will be conjugating without even realising!

Falar (to speak)

falei  (I spoke)  /fal-ay/

falaste  (you spoke)  /fa-lash-te/

falou (he/she/it spoke) /fa-loo/

falámos (we spoke)  /fa-la-moosh/

falaram (they spoke)  /fa-la-ram/

And now let’s try the -er verbs.

Comer (to eat)

comi (I ate) /ko-mee/

comeste (you ate) /ko-mesh-te/

comeu (he/she/it ate) /ko-mayoo/

comemos (we ate) /ko-me-moosh/

comeram (they ate) /ko-mer-ram/

And finally the -ir verbs…

Partir (to leave, depart)

parti  (I left) /part-ee/

partiste (you left) /par-tish-te/

partiu (he/she/it left) /par-tee-oo/

partimos (we left) /par-tee-moosh/

partiram (they left) /par-teer-ram/

And finally, once you’ve got the hang that, some more useful time expressions to aid you with your conversation.

Ontem – yesterday

O ano passado – last year (literally – the passed year)

O fim de semana passada – last weekend

Ontem à noite – last night

So how would you say to your cool Brazilian friend, ‘We didn’t dance enough last night!’

Belleza…ontem à noite não dançámos bastante!

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Regular verbs in the present tense: -IR verbs

Ok, and finally the last verb type – ‘-ir’ verbs. This is the smallest group of regular verbs, the largest group is the ‘-ar’ group. Again, ‘-ir’ verbs follow the same easy-peasy principal.

Decidir (to decide)

Eu decido (I decide) /de-cee-doo/

Tu decides (you decide) /de-cee-dush/

Vocé/ele/ela decide (you sing. polite, he, she decides) /de-cee-de/

Nós decidimos  (we decide)  /de-cee-dee-moosh/

Vocés/eles/elas/ decidem  (you pl. pol, them)  /de-cee-deym (nasal) /

But the endings are the same as for ‘-er’ verbs, I hear you cry! Well, apart from the ‘nós’ form, you’re right – which makes regular Portuguese verbs a piece of bolo….

-ir verb endings: -o, -es, -e, -imos, -em

Other regular -ir verbs:

  • abrir (to open)
  • partir (to leave – think depart)
  • existir (to exist)
  • permitir (to permit, allow)
  • dividir (to divide)
  • garantir (to guarantee)
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Regular verbs in the present tense: -ER

Tudo bem? The second verb type I want to look at is ‘-er’ verbs. They work to the same principal as ‘-ar’ verbs i.e. the verb endings follow a simple pattern allowing you to conjugate with ease…aaah!

Let’s take the verb comer (to eat)

Eu como  (I eat)    /ko-moo/

Tu comes  (you eat)     /ko-mush/

Vocé/ele/ela come  (you sing. polite, he, she, it eats)    /ko-me/

Nós comemos  (we eat)     /ko-memoosh/

Vocés/eles/elas comem  (you pl. polite, they eat)   /ko-meym (nasal) /

Perhaps you can see some parallels with the ‘-ar’ patterns?

Other regular ‘-er’ verbs include:

  • beber (to drink)
  • escolher  (to choose)
  • vender  (to sell)
  • aprender  (to buy)
  • escrever  (to write)
  • conhecer (to know a person or place)

Practice conjugating them and put them in a sentence. Read it to your friend. Or your dog.

Eu aprendo muito quando escrevo, mas aprendo mais quando falo! 

(muito – a lot, quando – when, mas – but, mais – more)

-er verb endings: -o, -es, -e, -emos, -em

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Regular verbs in the present tense: -AR

Olá tudos! If the word ‘verb’ makes you want to run for the hills in terror – relax! Verbs are the building blocks of language and once you have practiced them and got a few under your belt, you will find your capacity to express yourself in Portuguese will explode!

Conveniently Portuguese verbs are arranged into 3 main categories according to the letters they end with: +ar, +er and +ir. You will notice that the verbs we’ve already looked at – ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ fit in the first 2 categories.

Unfortunately, ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ are both irregular, but the best thing about regular Portuguese verbs is that they follow a really easy-to-learn pattern according to the letters they end with.

Let’s look at the verb ‘to speak’ – Falar

Eu falo   (I speak) /fahloo/

Tu falas  (you speak)  /fahlash/

Vocé/ Ele/Ela fala  (you polite/he/she/it speaks) /fahla/

Nós falamos  (we speak) /nosh fahlamoos/

Vocés/ Eles/ Elas falam (you plural/they speak)   /fahlam/*

*Note the ‘-am’ sound is nasal – like the ‘-ow’ in estão.

The great thing is that once you have learnt these endings -o, -as, -a, -amos, -am, you will be able to conjugate any other regular -ar verb! For example:

Comprar (to buy) compro, compras, compra, compramos, compram

Pintar (to paint) pinto, pintas, pinta, pintamos, pintam

Why don’t you try with these common verbs?

  • dançar (to dance)*
  • jogar (to play – sports/games)
  • almoçar (to have lunch)

Note that the ‘ç’ is pronounced like the soft ‘c’ in ‘ice’.

Here are some useful time expressions so you can start to use these verbs even more expressively.

sempre (always) /sem-pre/

cada dia (every day) /kada dee-ya/

às vezes (sometimes) /ash vez-esh/

nunca (never) /noon-ka/

For example:

Ele sempre compra flores para mim – he always buys flowers for me (lucky girl!)

-ar verb endings: -o, -as, -a, -amos, -am

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‘Estar + a + verb’ – present continuous (‘to be +ing’)

Now let’s have a look at one of the easiest tenses in Portuguese – the present continuous. This tense is used to express an action which is happening at the time of speaking – ‘I am knitting’, ‘she is eating’ etc.

It is really simple to form. All you do is take ‘estar’ (estou, estás, está, estamos, estão) and add ‘a’ and then the infinitive of the verb. Look at the grammar glossary if you don’t know what the infinitive is.

First, let’s look at some common verbs in the infinitive form:

ir (to go)  /eer/

comer (to eat) /koomair/

falar (to speak) /fahlar/

vir (to come)  /veer/

Now let’s have a go at the present continuous.

I am going – estou a ir

She is eating – está a comer

They are speaking –  estão a falar

He is coming – está a vir

So as you can see it is super easy! Now when your neighbour wants to know Que está a fazer? (What are you doing?) you can reply in Portuguese! Perfeito!

Estar + verb (infinitive)

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Verb ‘to be’ – ‘estar’ and some expressions

Olá belleza! Let’s look at the other verb ‘to be’ – estar… 

eu estou (I am)    /eh-oo esh-tooh/

tu estás (informal, singular you are)    /too esh-tash/

vocé está  (polite, singular you are)    /voh-say esh-tah/

o senhor/a senhora está (ultra-polite, singular you are)  /oo sinyhoor, ah sinyhoora esh-tah/

ele/ ela está (he/ she is)   /eh-leh, eh-lah esh-tah/

nós estamos (we are)    /nosh esh-ta-moosh/

vocés/o senhor/a senhora estão (polite and ultra-polite plural you are)   /…esh-tow (nasal)/

eles/elas estão (they masculine/feminine are) /esh-tow/

So that’s ‘estou, está, estás, estamos, estão’! The other ‘to be’ verb – ‘ser’ is for expressing permanent states. ‘Estar’ on the other hand, is used for expressing temporary states.

  • temporary location/position
  • changeable or temporary states and characteristics
  • feelings and emotions
  • illness
  • weather

It is also vital to some simple, everyday expressions which will really improve your Portuguese, for example:

If you find yourself in Lisbon in August you might want to say…. Estou com calor! (Literally ‘I am with hot’, meaning ‘I am hot’)

Substitute ‘calor’ with ‘frio’ – and you have ‘I am cold’.

Or if you’re feeling peckish… Estou com fome! /fohme/ (Literally ‘I am with hunger’, meaning ‘I am hungry’.) I like to remember ‘fome’ with ‘famished’.

If you’re desperate for a cool beer after a hot day out, try… Estou com sede! (I am thirsty)

And when you finally arrive home after a typically long Portuguese Friday night, you might like to say: Estou como sono (you got it! ‘I am sleepy’, literally ‘I am with dream’)

Have fun!

Useful Vocab

Estar com + calor/frio/fome/sede/sono – I am hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, sleepy

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Subject Pronouns and the Verb ‘ser’ – to be

Olá, tudo bem? I want to have a quick look at subject pronouns today. Subject pronouns are the words which show who ‘does’ the action i.e. speak, you eat, he dances, she sits, we ask, they sing. You know them in English and here they are in Portuguese…..

Eu (I)   /eh-oo/

Tu (informal, singular you)    /too/

Ele (he)      /eh-leh/

Ela (her)    /eh-lah/

Vocé (formal/polite, singular you) /voh-say/

Nós (we)    /noohsh/

Eles (masculine they)   /eh-lesh/

Elas (feminine they)   /eh-lash/

Vocés (plural, polite/formal, you)    /voh-saysh/

As you can see, in Portuguese, as in other romance languages, there are many more subject pronouns than in English. This is because 1. grammar is responsible for dictating register – whether what you are saying is polite, informal or formal. 2. they differentiate between masculine and feminine, and plural and singular.

In European Portuguese there exists 2 more subject pronouns in addition to ones we have already seen:

o senhor (equivalent ‘sir’ – literally meaning ‘the sir’)   /oo sinyoor/

a senhora (equivalent madam – ‘the madam’)   /ah sinyoorah/ 

These are the most polite form of ‘you’ and would be used in formal situations, particularly if you are addressing someone older or more qualified than you. In Brazil, I believe, this form of address is considered quite archaic. (to pluralise i.e. if you’re speaking to a group of ‘a senhoras’ – add -s.)

Subject pronouns are not used as frequently as they are in English. It is not necessary in Portuguese to put them before every verb because unlike in English, in Portuguese the ending of the verb lets you know who/what the verb is referring to.

For example: in English we say ‘I am’ not just ‘am’. In Portuguese you can say both – ‘eu sou’ or more commonly just ‘sou’.

In fact, when the Portuguese do use the subject pronoun, it is for emphasis – as in ‘SHE’s happy’.

Now let’s have a look at the whole verb ‘to be’ – ‘ser’

Eu sou (I am) /eh-oo sooh/

Tu és (informal, singular you are)  /too esh/

Ele/Ela/Vocé é  (He, she, it is / polite singular you are)   /eh-leh, eh-lah, voh-say eh/

Nós somos (We are)   /noosh soh-moosh/

Eles/Elas/Vocés são (They are/ polite plural you are)   /eh-lesh, eh-lash, voh-saysh sow*)

*Note that ‘são’ is a nasal sound and must be made through the nose.

So the verb ‘ser’ (to be) :  sou, és, é, somos, são….. pretty easy. However, ‘ser’ is one of two main verbs which mean ‘to be’ in English and it is used to express specific types of ‘being’.

  • nationalities
  • professions
  • possession
  • marital status
  • dates, time, days
  • origin of people/things
  • what something is made of
  • characteristics and nature (permanent)
  • geographical locations
  • climate

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself – ‘It is permanent? Does it change infrequently?’ If the answer is ‘no’, you are probably safe to use ‘ser’.

Have fun practicing e boa sorte!

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