Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and articles are moderately inflected: there are two genders (masculine and feminine), two numbers (singular and plural), diminutive and augmentative inflections, and a superlative inflection for adjectives. The case system of Latin has been lost, but personal pronouns are still declined (with three main types of forms, subject, object of verb, and object of preposition). Adjectives usually follow the noun.
Verbs are highly inflected: there are three tenses (past, present, future), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, imperative), three aspects (perfective, imperfective, and progressive), two voices (active and passive), and an inflected infinitive. Most perfect and imperfect tenses are synthetic, totaling 11 conjugational paradigms, while all progressive tenses and passive constructions are periphrastic. As in other Romance languages, there is also an impersonal passive construction, with the agent replaced by an indefinite pronoun. Portuguese is basically an SVO language, although SOV syntax may occur with a few object pronouns, and word order is generally not as rigid as in English. It is a null subject language, with a tendency to drop object pronouns as well, in colloquial varieties. It has two copular verbs.
It has a number of grammatical features that distinguish it from most other Romance languages, such as a synthetic pluperfect, a future subjunctive tense, the inflected infinitive, and a present perfect with an iterative sense. A unique feature of Portuguese is mesoclisis, the infixing of clitic pronouns in some verbal forms.
There are also several small closed classes, such as pronouns, prepositions, articles, demonstratives, numerals, conjunctions, and a few grammatically peculiar words such as eis ("here is"; cf. Latin ecce and French voilà), cadê ("where is"), tomara ("let's hope"), and oxalá ("let's hope that").
Within the four main classes there are many semi-regular mechanisms that can be used to derive new words from existing words, sometimes with change of class; for example, veloz ("fast") → velocíssimo ("very fast"), medir ("to measure") → medição ("measurement"), piloto ("pilot") → pilotar ("to pilot"). Finally, there are several phrase embedding mechanisms that allow arbitrarily complex phrases to behave like nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
A clause will often contain a number of adverbs (or adverbial phrases) that modify the meaning of the verb; they may be inserted between those components. Additional nouns can be connected to the verb by means of certain prepositions, which turn them into adverbs:
In Portuguese, the grammatical person of the subject is generally reflected by the inflection of the verb. Sometimes, though an explicit subject is not necessary to form a grammatically correct sentence, one may be stated in order to emphasize its importance. Some sentences, however, do not allow a subject at all and in some other cases an explicit subject would sound awkward or unnatural:
Imperative sentences use the imperative mood for the second person. For other grammatical persons and for every negative imperative sentence, the subjunctive is used.
Yes/no questions have the same structure as declarative sentences, and are marked only by a different tonal pattern (mostly a raised tone near the end of the sentence), represented by a question mark («?») in writing. Wh-questions often start with quem ("who"), o que ("what"), qual ("which"), onde ("where"), aonde ("where... to"), quando ("when"), por que ("why"), etc. Quem, o que and qual can be preceded by any preposition, but in this case o que will most times be replaced by que. In oral language, but often also in writing, these words are followed by the interrogative device é que (literally, "is [it] that"; compare French est-ce que). When é que is omitted, the verb may come before the subject.
Wh-questions sometimes occur without wh-movement, that is, wh-words remain in situ. In this case, o que and por que are to be replaced by their stressed counterparts o quê and por quê / porquê (Brazilian spelling / European spelling). For example:
The word sim ("yes") may be used for a positive answer, but, if used alone, it may in certain cases sound unnatural or impolite. In Brazilian Portuguese, sim can be used after the verb for emphasis. In European Portuguese, emphasis in answers is added with the duplication of the verb. In both versions of Portuguese, emphasis can also result from syntactical processes that are not restricted to answers, such as the addition of adverbs like muito ("much") or muitíssimo ("very much").
It is also acceptable, though sometimes formal, to use yes before the verb of the question, separated by a pause or, in writing, a comma. The use of sim before the verb does not add emphasis, and may on the contrary be less assertive.
|indefinite article||um||uma||uns||umas||a, an; some|
Unlike some other Romance languages or English, the written form of the Portuguese articles is the same, independently of the next word. The noun after the indefinite article may be elided, in which case the article is equivalent to English "one" (if singular) or "a few ones" (if plural): quero um também ("I want one too"), quero uns maduros ("I want a few ripe ones").
The definite article may appear before a noun in certain contexts where it is not used in English, for example before certain proper nouns, such as country, and organization names:
There are two genders, masculine and feminine, and two numbers, singular and plural. Articles and adjectives are usually inflected to agree in gender and number with the nouns or pronouns they refer to. There are no cases; only personal pronouns are still declined. Diminutive and augmentative forms exist for nouns.
The agreement rules apply also to adjectives used with copulas, e.g. o carro é branco ("the car is white") vs. a casa é branca ("the house is white").
The gender and number of many nouns can be deduced from its ending: the basic pattern is "-o" / "-os" for masculine singular and plural, "-a" / "-as" for feminine. And, indeed, casa ("house"), mala ("suitcase"), pedra ("stone"), and inteligência ("intelligence") are all feminine, while carro ("car"), saco ("bag"), tijolo ("brick"), and aborrecimento ("annoyance") are all masculine. However, the complete rules are quite complex: for instance, nouns ending in -ção are usually feminine, except for augmentatives like bração ("big arm"). And there are many irregular exceptions. For words ending in other letters, there are few rules: flor ("flower"), gente ("folk"), nau ("ship"), maré ("tide") are feminine, amor ("love"), pente ("comb"), pau ("stick"), café ("coffee") are masculine.
The gender of animate beings often matches the biological sex, but there are many exceptions: autoridade ("authority"), testemunha ("witness"), and girafa ("giraffe"), for example, are always feminine regardless of their sex, and so are all respectful treatments such as Vossa Excelência ("Your Excellency"); whereas peixe fêmea ("female fish") is strictly masculine.
On the other hand, the gender of some nouns, as well as of 1st and 2nd person pronouns, is determined semantically by the biological sex of the referent: aquela estudante é nova, mas aquele estudante é velho ("this (female) student is new, but that (male) student is old"; or eu sou brasileiro ("I am Brazilian", said by a man) and eu sou brasileira (the same, said by a woman).
Also, many animate masculine nouns have specific feminine derivative forms to indicate female biological sex: lobo ("wolf" or "male wolf", masculine gender) → loba ("she-wolf", feminine), conde ("count", m.) → condessa ("countess", f.), doutor ("doctor" or "male doctor", m.) → doutora ("female doctor", f.), ator ("actor", m.) → atriz ("actress", f.), etc.. The feminine noun derivations should not be confused with the adjectival gender inflections, which use different (and more regular) rules.
The most common diminutive endings are -inho and -inha, replacing -o and -a, respectively. Words with the stress in the last syllable generally have -zinho or -zinha added, such as café and cafezinho. In writing, a "c" (but not a "ç") becomes a "qu" in some words, like "pouco" (few or a few) and "pouquinho" (very few), in order to preserve the /k/ pronunciation. Popular diminutives may have different forms: e.g., "poucochinho" (very few, a very small portion).
Possible endings other than -inho(a) are -ito(a) (e.g. "copo/copito" - glass), -ico(a) (e.g. "burro/burrico" - donkey), -(z)ete (e.g. "palácio/palacete" - palace), -ote (e.g. "saia/saiote" - skirt), -oto (e.g. "lebre/lebroto" - "hare/leveret"), -ejo (e.g. "lugar/lugarejo" - place), -acho (e.g. "rio/riacho" - river), -ola (e.g. "aldeia/aldeola" - village), -el (e.g. "corda/cordel" - rope). It is also possible to form a diminutive of a diminutive, e.g. "burriquito" (burro + -ico + -ito)
Portuguese is somewhat peculiar in that the diminutive endings are often used not only with nouns but also with adjectives (e.g., tonto/tontinho, meaning silly or, perhaps, "a bit silly", or verde/verdinho, meaning "green" and "nicely green") and occasionally with adverbs (e.g., depressa/depressinha, "quickly") and some other word classes, as, e.g., obrigadinho, which is a diminutive for the interjection obrigado ("thanks"). Even the numeral um ("one") can informally become unzinho. The same happens with pouco ("few" or "a few"), as in the second paragraph in this section.
The most common augmentatives are the masculine -ão and the feminine -ona, although there are others, like -aço(a) (e.g. "mulher/mulheraça" - woman) or -eirão (e.g. "voz/vozeirão" - voice) less frequently used. Sometimes, the masculine augmentative can be applied to a feminine noun, which then becomes grammatically masculine, but with a feminine meaning (e.g. a mulher "the woman", o mulherão "the big woman").
They are inflected for gender and number, and have also a superlative inflection ("lindo", beautiful; "lindíssimo", very beautiful). Other types of comparison are made analytically, with the help of conjunctions.
The rules for inflecting adjectives for gender and number are the same as those for nouns. There are a few basic patterns, including:
There is no simple correspondence between English and Portuguese prepositions; the following table is a rough approximation:
The English possessive case has no systematic counterpart in Portuguese (or, for that matter, in any other Romance language except Romanian and Latin). Portuguese generally uses de ("of") to indicate possession or, indeed, any relation (which must be deciphered from the context).
Several prepositions contract with the definite article.
|para||prò1, pro1||prà1, pra1||pròs1, pros1||pràs1, pras1|
The contractions in the first four rows (with de, em, por, a) are mandatory in all registers. The grave accent in à/às has phonetic value in Portugal and African countries, but not in Brazil (see Portuguese phonology). In Brazil, the grave accent serves only to indicate the crasis in written text. The contractions in the last row are common in speech, but not used in formal writing. They may, however, appear when transcribing colloquial speech, for example in comic books. In the latter case, the grave accent is often omitted in Brazil, and it is also often mistakenly replaced with an acute accent elsewhere.
The prepositions de and em may also contract with the indefinite article, and with some pronouns that begin with a vowel:
Across clause boundaries, contractions may occur in colloquial speech, but they are not done in writing, for clarity sake:
The English concept of phrasal verb (like "set up", "get by", "pick out", etc.) does not exist in Portuguese: as a rule, prepositions are attached to the noun more strongly than to the verb.
For a list of contracted prepositions in Portuguese, see Contração gramatical.
Personal pronouns are inflected according to their syntactic role. They have three main types of forms: for the subject, for the object of a verb, and for the object of a preposition. In the third person, a distinction is also made between simple direct objects, simple indirect objects, and reflexive objects.
There seem to be differences in usage between aqui and cá, with the latter being used more often after prepositions: e.g. estamos aqui ("we are here") and vem para cá (lit., "come to here"). Differences also happen in the meaning of ali, lá and acolá (especially, lá seems to be farther than ali), but they are not quite distinct degrees of separation.
In colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, esse is often used interchangeably with este when there is no need to make a distinction. This distinction is usually done only in formal writing or by people of a higher culture.
The noun after a demonstrative can be elided: quero esse também ("I want that one too"), vendi todos ontem ("I sold all of them yesterday").
Demonstratives which start with a vowel contract with some prepositions, like the articles: de + ele = dele ("of him"), de + esse = desse ("of that"), em + aquilo = naquilo ("in that thing"), a + aquela = àquela ("to that").
Demonstrative adjectives are identical to demonstrative pronouns: cf. Aquele carro "That car" with Aquele "That one."
In the demonstratives and in some indefinite pronouns, there is a trace of the neuter gender of Latin. For example, todo and esse are used with masculine referents, toda and essa are used with feminine referents, and tudo and isso are used when there is no definite referent e.g. todo livro or todo o livro, "every book"; toda salada or toda a salada, "every salad"; tudo "everything", and so on:
In terms of agreement, however, these "neuter" words function as masculine: both todo and tudo take masculine adjectives.
The distinction between ser and estar is perhaps a little more of a concept of permanent versus temporary, rather than essence versus state. This makes Portuguese closer to Catalan than to Spanish.
The word meaning "made" is in square brackets here, as it is usually omitted.
The same applies in sentences such as the following, which use ser for the passive voice, with no special exceptions for prohibitions and the like:
Portuguese counts location either as fundamental or not, and accordingly uses ser or ficar and estar:
Note: Questions often include the interrogative structure é que (literally "is that"). The two last examples would probably be uttered as Onde é que é/está/fica...
With adjectives referring to beauty and the like, ser means "to be", and estar means "to look".
As in Spanish, the differentiation between "nature" and "state" makes sense when talking about the states of life and death: Está vivo (He is alive). Está morto (He is dead).
Ser is used with adjectives of fundamental belief (Não sou católico, "I'm not Catholic"), nationality (És português, "You are Portuguese"), sex (É homem, "He's a man"), intelligence (Somos espertos, "We are smart"), etc.
Due to Catholicism being the main religion in most Lusophone countries the use of católico ("Catholic") with estar has a figurative meaning:
With this exception, estar is not used for fundamental belief, nationality, sex, or intelligence. One can nevertheless say Estou abrasileirado. ("I'm Brazilian-influenced." — state) or Estás americanizado. (You are Americanised — state).
A distinctive trait of Portuguese grammar (shared with Galician and Sardinian) is the existence of infinitive verb forms inflected according to the person and number of the subject:
Each conjugation class has its own distinctive set of 50 or so inflection suffixes: cant/ar → cant/ou ("he sang"), vend/er → vend/eu ("he sold"), part/ir → part/iu ("he left"), rep/or → rep/ôs ("he put back") . Some suffixes undergo various regular adjustments depending on the final consonant of the stem, either in pronunciation, in the spelling, or in both. Some verbal inflections also entail a shift in syllable stress: 'canto ("I sing"), can'tamos ("we sing"), canta'rei ("I will sing"). See Portuguese verb conjugation.
There are a couple hundred verbs with some irregular inflections, and about a dozen or so that are very irregular, including the auxiliaries ser ("to be"), haver ("there to be" or "to have"), ter ("to possess", "to have", "there to be" - in Brazilian Portuguese), ir ("to go"), and a few others.
The participle of regular verbs is used in compound verb tenses, as in ele tinha cantado ("he had sung"). It can also be used as an adjective:, and in this case it is inflected to agree with the noun's gender and number: um hino cantado ("a sung anthem", masculine singular), três árias cantadas ("three sung arias", feminine plural). Some verbs have two distinct forms (one regular, one irregular), for these two uses. Additionally, a few verbs have two different verbal participles, a regular one for the active voice, and an irregular one for the passive voice. An example is the verb matar (to kill): Bruto tinha matado César ("Brutus had killed Cesar"), César foi morto por Bruto ("Cesar was killed by Brutus").
The conditional tense is usually called "future of the past" in Brazilian grammars, whereas in Portugal it is usually classified as a separate "conditional mood". Portuguese grammarians call subjunctive "conjuntivo"; Brazilians call it "subjuntivo".
In regular verbs, the personal infinitive is identical to the subjunctive future tense; but they are different in irregular verbs: quando formos ("when we go", subjunctive) versus é melhor irmos ("it is better that we go").
There are also are many compound tenses expressed with inflected forms of the auxiliary verbs ser and estar (variants of "to be"), haver and ter (variants of "to have").
The basic auxiliary verbs of Portuguese are ter (originally "to hold", from Latin tenere, but nowadays meaning "to have"), haver ("to have", from Latin habere; tends to be replaced with ter in most constructions), ser ("to be", from Latin esse), estar ("to be", from Latin stare "to stand"), and ir ("to go", Latin ire), which have analogues in most other Romance languages. Thus, for example, "he had spoken" can be translated as ele havia falado or ele tinha falado. Other auxiliary verbs are ser (also "to be", from Latin essere), ficar ("to remain", "to become"), and ir ("to go").
Tenses with ter/haver + past participle (composed tenses):
With no inflexion:
A present perfect also exists (normally called pretérito perfeito composto), but it has a very restricted use, denoting an action or a series of actions which began in the past and are expected to continue into the future. For instance, the meaning of "Tenho tentado falar com ela" may be closer to "I have been trying to talk to her" than to "I have tried to talk to her", in some contexts. This iterative sense of the present perfect is quite exceptional among Romance languages. It seems to be a recent construction, since it only allows the verb ter as auxiliary, never haver, and is absent from Galician.
Sometimes, other tenses of haver are used, though it is infrequent. Example: Quem houver de ficar com a casa, há-de vir para aqui.
The only other tenses commonly used are the conditional/future and their meaning is approximately the same of the present/preterit imperfect described herein.
In EP, a hyphen is put between the monosyllabic forms of haver and de (hei, hás, há, heis and hão).
There are, however, differences of meaning between this construction and the future of the indicative/conditional. The former usually conveys a sense of obligation/necessity (be it logic, circumstantial, of convenience, natural or moral law, ...), duty, certainty or resolution, rather than simple futurity, although that would depend on the context. This is somewhat comparable to the use of shall outside the first person.
It has also acquired other meanings - for instance, O que está cá dentro? Dinheiro! O que havia de ser?! could be translated into What is in here? Money! What else?!.
Tenses with multiple auxiliaries:
As in Spanish, there is also a synthetic passive voice, in which the agent is replaced with the pronoun se, when its identity is not relevant:
The same construction extends to some intransitive verbs, in which case the pronoun se denotes the subject (impersonal passive voice):
Portuguese subjunctive mood is used mainly in certain kinds of subordinate clauses. There are three synthetic subjunctive inflections, conventionally called "present", "past" and "future". The rules of usage are rather complex, but on a first approximation:
More on the subjunctive mood in Portuguese can be found at Wikibooks: Variation of the Portuguese Verbs
However, those adjectives were not always derived from the corresponding Portuguese verbs. Most of them were directly derived from the accusatives of the present participles of Latin verbs, a form which was not retained by Portuguese. Thus, for example, Portuguese mutante ("changing", "varying") does not derive from the Portuguese verb mudar ("to change"), but directly from the Latin accusative present participle mutantem ("changing"). On the other hand, those pairs of words were eventually generalized by Portuguese speakers into a derivation rule, that is somewhat irregular and defective but still productive. So, for example, within the last 500 years we had the derivation pï'poka (Tupi for "to pop the skin") → pipoca (Portuguese for "popcorn") → pipocar ("to pop up all over") → pipocante ("popping up all over").
Similar processes resulted in many other semi-regular derivation rules that turn verbs into words of other classes. For example,