Even the basic verb to be can be
difficult for someone learning
Portuguese since there are two forms of the verb in Portuguese.
But, the biggest problem you will probably have is the notion of
masculine and feminine nouns. ‘It’ unfortunately does not exist in
Portuguese. People, things and animals are either ‘ele‘ or ‘ela‘.
SER or ESTAR?
Even the most basic of verbs to be, can cause considerable difficulties for those beginning to learn the Portuguese language. This is because there are two forms of the verb to be in Portuguese –
ser, which describes a permanent state and estar which describes a temporary state. Learn off the simple tense for each verb and take a look at the examples below.
Ele / Ela é
Ele / Ela está
He / She is
Eles / Elas são
Eles / Elas estão
Eu sou advogado – I am a lawyer (a permanent state)
Ela é bonita – She is beautiful (always)
Ela está bonita – She looks beautiful (today)
Eu estou cansado – I am tired (at this moment)
Eu estou feliz – I am happy (right now)
Ele é chato! – He is annoying (always)
Ele está chato! – He is annoying (today)
Note: Probably the biggest problem you will have as an English speaker trying to learn Portuguese, is the notion of masculine and feminine nouns. In English this is simplified by the use of ‘it‘, which unfortunately does not exist in Portuguese. Instead people, things and animals are either masculine or feminine and you will use ‘ele‘ or ‘ela‘ accordingly. The general rule is that if the noun ends in ‘a‘, it is probably feminine…but don‘t bet your life on it, there are lots of exceptions.
Onde está sua caneta?
Ela está em cima da mesa?
Note the use of sua (feminine) as opposed to seu (masculine) and ela (feminine) as opposed to ele (masculine) in the above example. This is of course because caneta (pen) is a feminine noun. It is very important that pronouns agree in gender with the nouns they qualify.
Is your Portuguese here, there, everywhere?
A very common mistake by foreigners learning Portuguese is to confuse the words Lá, Aí, Aqui and Ali. In English, it’s simple, you have here referring to things beside you, and there for things, places etc. away from you. In Portuguese, it’s not so simple.
Let’s start with the easy one. Aqui means here, and is basically the same as in English, referring to things, places beside or in the direction of the person speaking.
Você pode passar aqui para me buscar?
Can you come here (where I am) to pick me up?
The main problem is with lá and aí, which in English both mean there.
We use aí to refer to the place where the person you are speaking to is located, while we use lá to refer to a place where neither of you are.
Como eu chego até aí?
How do I get there (where you are)?
Como eu chego até lá?
How do I get there (another place, not where you are)?
Finally ali is the very same as lá, so you can interchange them as you like. Have a look at the following phone conversation.
Rose: Oi James, a Rita está aí?
Hi James, is Rita there (where you are)
James: Sim, ela está aqui, um momento, por favor.
Yes, she’s here, just a moment please.
Rose: Oi Rita, você vai à festa hoje à noite?
Hi Rita, are you going to the party tonight?
Rita: Vou sim, onde é?
Yes, where is it?
Rose: É lá/ali na Vila Madalena, na rua Girassol.
It’s over there (where neither of you are at the moment) in Vila Madalena, on Girassol street.
Rita: Legal, nos vemos mais tarde, tchau.
Cool, I’ll see you later then. Bye.
The words aqui, lá, aí and ali do not vary according to the noun or place they are qualifying i.e. there are no singular, plural, masculine, feminine forms.
Note: This is a simplified explanation of the words above in relation to their usage referring to position or place. Some of the words can be used in other forms, which we will go into in a more advanced lesson.
Why, oh Why, oh Why?
This lesson basically explains the difference between the following four words: Porquê, Por que, Porque and Por quê, which all sound the same but have different spellings and different uses. The basic meaning in English is ‘Why’, but the spelling will depend mostly on where the word is positioned in the sentence.
“Por que” – is generally used at the beginning (or towards the beginning) of direct and indirect questions. It is similar to ‘for what reason’
Por que você não fica aqui?
Por que chegou atrasado?
Diga-me por que chegou atrasado.
Explicou-me o motivo por que não conseguiu cumprir o prazo.
Essa é a razão por que não aceitei a proposta.
“Porque” – is used for replies, to give an explanation or reason for something.
Não fui, porque estava doente.
Ele foi embora porque estava chovendo.
“Porquê” – is used as a noun and is the same as “reason” or “motive”
Não entendo o porquê das tragédias da natureza
Gostaríamos de explicar o porquê disso tudo, mas não podemos.
“Por quê” – used at the end of sentences or questions.
Você não disse nada. Por quê?
Estava muito triste sem entender por quê.
Ele não faz o que eu digo, por quê?
Prof. Rose writes a weekly column for
www.gringoes.com. She is available for individual or group lessons in Sao Paulo and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org