Portuguese Grammar

By OptiLingo

This post is going to talk a bit about the structure of the Portuguese language. Strictly speaking, it’s not a guide on the Portuguese Grammar, but I’ll cover a bit about Portuguese verbs, and also Portuguese pronouns. You can also check out this post on the Portuguese alphabet.

Portuguese Nouns

Portuguese nouns all have a grammatical gender (masculine or feminine), even those that denote an inanimate object or abstract concept. Certain other words that relate to the noun (e.g. articles, adjectives and pronouns) must agree with its gender.

As a rule of thumb, nouns ending in -o, -l, -r or -z are typically masculine: o gate cat, o papel paper, o bar bar, o juiz judge. Categories of nouns that are masculine include those relating to geographical features such as lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, mountain ranges and seasons (except a primavera spring).

Most nouns ending in -a, -ade, -ice or -gem are feminine: a aula lesson, a cidade city, a velhice old age, a viagem trip. Categories of nouns that are feminine include the names of sciences, arts and the days of the week (except o sabado Saturday). Nouns are an important part of Portuguese grammar, which gets us to our next sub-topic, Portuguese verbs.

Portuguese verbs

There are three main verb groups in Portuguese, which conjugate in slightly different ways:

First conjugation: verbs in which the infinitive ends in -ar

Second conjugation: verbs in which the infinitive ends in -er

Third conjugation: verbs in which the infinitive ends in -ir.

There are different verb forms for tense, which indicates when the action took place (e.g. past, present or future).

There are also different verb forms for mood, which indicates how likely the action is. The indicative mood is used to express something as a fact, the subjunctive is used to convey something subjective or uncertain, the conditional is used to express hypothetical or contingent actions, and the imperative is used to give commands.

Simple tenses

A simple tense is a one-word verb modified through conjugation. Regular verbs are formed by adding an ending to an unchanged verb stem (or in some cases the infinitive). Irregular verbs undergo spelling changes in the stem or the conjugation endings.

The tenses/moods of Portuguese verbs that are simple include the present, preterit, imperfect and future tenses (in the indicative mood), the conditional mood, the present, imperfect and future tenses (in the subjunctive mood) and the imperative.

Compound tenses

A compound tense is a tense formed with an auxiliary verb and a participle (so the full verb has more than one word).

There are two main types of Portuguese compound tenses: perfect tenses and continuous (progressive) tenses, and both are formed in a similar way as in English.

Portuguese pronouns

A personal pronoun is used to refer to someone or something without specifically naming it. A pronoun has different forms, depending on how it is used in the sentence. A subject pronoun (e.g. I) is used as the subject of the sentence. A direct object pronoun (e.g. me) indicates who is being acted upon (she kissed me). An indirect object indicates who (usually a person) receives the direct object (she gave a gift to me). Portuguese also makes frequent use of reflexive pronouns, which can refer back to the subject (e.g. myself) or convey the meaning of each other. There is also a form of personal pronoun that is used after prepositions (e.g. atrás de mim behind me).

Here is a summary of the Portuguese personal pronouns:

  Subject Direct object Indirect object After a preposition
Sing. eu I me me me me mim me
tu* you te* you te* you ti* you
você you

ele he, it (m.)

ela she, it (f.)

o him, it, you (m.)

a her, it, you (f.)

lhe* him, her, it, you você you

ele him, it (m.)

ela her, it (f.)

Pl. nós we nos us nos us nós us
vós** you vos** you vos** you vós you
vocês you

eles they (m.)

elas they (f.)

os them, you (m.)

as them, you (f.)

lhes you, them vocês you

eles them (m.)

elas them (f.)