Geared toward Absolute Beginners, this course gives you a solid start and foundation to build upon.
This is an introductory course to the Portuguese language as spoken in Portugal. Throughout the course, we will focus on the Portuguese sound system and basic Portuguese grammar.
You will also learn how to introduce yourself and day-to-day, useful phrases. Finally, we will discuss learning resources and strategies to support your learning journey.
After the course, you will have a basic understanding of European Portuguese pronunciation and grammar. You will also be capable of engaging in simple, short oral interactions. Last but not least, you will be aware of a variety of learning resources and strategies to help you succeed at learning the language.
I will keep you updated on upcoming course seasons
This intensive course is for language learners striving toward the A2 level.
As you start off on your Portuguese learning journey, some questions might pop into your mind: Is Portuguese grammar hard to learn?How different is it from that of my own tongue?
As to whether or not Portuguese grammar is challenging to learn, there isn’t an absolute answer – it certainly hinges on what your first language is. For instance, if your mother tongue is another Romance language, or even if you’ve learned one before as a second language, then you are likely to feel relatively at ease with it.
On the other hand, if your first language is, say, a Scandinavian language, you are likely to struggle a little more to come to grips with Portuguese grammar than you would with English.
One thing is for sure, the fact that you are familiarised with English (and I am assuming that you are since you are reading this post) will help you to make sense of Portuguese grammar, as these two languages share more in common than you might think.
In the examples above, all the words ending with an a are feminine, whereas those ending with an o are masculine. Helpful.
However, there are also those nouns ending in letters other than a or o, like the words pente (comb) or telemóvel (mobile).
Although there are other spelling patterns to help you out with these, you’ll often have to learn them by heart. Nothing impossible, really, only you are patient enough and committed for the long haul*.
Even words ending with the vowels a or o can diverge from the abovementioned pattern. As the old saying goes: there’s no rule without exception. Consider, for instance, the masculine nouns cinema (cinema) or dia (day).
But let me tell you about a trick to know for sure if a noun is “girly” or “boyish” – trust determiners.
In Portuguese, like in English, the most common way to form plurals is by adding an s at the end of words – the so-called s-plural. Let’s us compare the same sentence in its singular and plural variants:
singular O meu carro é escuro. My car is dark.
plural Os meus carrossão escuros. My cars are dark.
As we’ve seen before with gender, here too, the articles, pronouns, and adjectives change endings to agree in number with to the noun they refer to.
To avoid consonant clusters at the end of words (that’s exceptional in Portuguese), words ending in a consonant other than –m or -l will form plural with an -es rather than the solitary -s:
Um Português, dois Portugueses. One Portuguese, two Portuguese.
Um aluguer, dois alugueres. One rental, two rentals.
The verb ter, like have in English, is used as an auxiliary verb to form compound conjugations (perfect tenses):
Eu tinha aprendido Português antes de vir para Portugal. I had learned Portuguese before I moved to Portugal.
As you see above, the verb structure is similar to that of English: the auxiliary tinha (had) is followed by the Portuguese equivalent to the past participle of the main verb, that is, aprendido (learned).
Two “To Be” Verbs
There are, in Portuguese, two verbs corresponding to the English verb to be, namely verb ser and estar:
So, what’s the difference between ser and estar?
Overall, you can see it this way: ser is used in conjunction with permanent states, whereas estar with temporary:
Ser O clima do Pólo Norte é muito frio. The North Pole’s climate is very cold.
Estar Hoje está um dia bonito. It is a fine day today.
You’ll probably agree that the first sentence above implies a permanent state, whereas the second relates more to the circumstantial.
Note, however, that the use of ser and estar is not always straightforward as in the examples above – you might come across contextual nuances that make things less obvious.
When it comes to expressing future time, you’ll often hear the Portuguese equivalent to be going to – you’ll then need the auxiliary verb ir:
Here’s an example:
Euvou fazer compras. I am going to do some shopping.
As you see above, the auxiliary verb ir is followed by the main verb, fazer (do), in the infinitive form.
Portuguese Subjunctive Mood
The subjunctive mood is used to express desire and uncertainty.
In Portuguese (as in other Romance languages), the subjunctive mood has its own set of tenses and verb forms. Yes, you’ll have to mind other verb conjugations in addition to those of the indicative mood.
Let’s look at an example contrasting the use of the indicative and subjunctive moods:
Indicative Hoje sinto-me bem. Today I feel good.
Subjunctive Espero que te sintas bem. I hope that you feel good.
Further reading! Learn more about the uses of the subjunctive mood → Present, Past, and Future subjunctives.
Omission of the subject/pronoun
In Portuguese, we often leave out personal pronouns and jump straight to the verb form.
This is hardly surprising if your first language is, say, Spanish. Yet, it can be disconcerting for native speakers of other tongues other than Romance languages.
In general, it is optional to write out personal pronouns. The reason for this is that the verb form already implies the person it refers to, thus making the use of the pronoun redundant.
Tu (you) Vais ao supermercado? (Tu vais ao …) Are you going to the supermarket?
Nós (we) Vamos começar um novo curso. (Nós vamos começar …) We are starting a new course.
Also, we often leave out the subject when it doesn’t comprise someone in specific:
Dizem que vai estar bom tempo amanhã. (As pessoas dizem que …) People are saying that fair weather is coming tomorrow.
The subject in point – as pessoas (people) – is generic and, thus, can be left out.
It is …
Finally, there isn’t any third-person neutral pronoun equivalent to the English it. Accordingly, those sentences that in English start with itis will, in Portuguese, start straight away with either the verb estar or ser:
Está a sol! It is sunny!
É mau comer em demasia. It is unwise to eat too much.
Portuguese prepositions and their contracted forms
Prepositions are words used to express a relationship between different elements of a sentence.
For example, in the sentence Miguel is going to the grocery store, the English preposition of movement to is indicating that someone (Miguel) is movingtowards somewhere (the grocery store).
Portuguese prepositions in particular tend to merge with other words, namely articles and pronouns. Let’s start by getting acquainted with some plain prepositions first.
Here’s a usage-summary of the five most common Portuguese prepositions:
Often used as a preposition of place, em corresponds to either on, in, or at:
Estou no restaurante > I am at the restaurant Ela vive em Portugal > She lives in Portugal
De can be used as a preposition of origin:
Venho dos Estados Unidos > I come from the United States
It is also used to indicate possession:
O carro da Isabel > Isabel´s car
Mainly used as a preposition of movement, the preposition a indicates motion:
A Sofia foi ao cinema > Sofia went to the cinema.
Para, like the previous, indicates motion, though with a directional emphasis:
Este comboio vai para Lisboa > This train goes to Lisboa
What’s more, compared to the preposition a, para implies a longer-term. Let’s compare these two sentences:
Vou ao Brasil > I am going to Brazil(implies a short stay) Vou para o Brasil > I am going to Brazil (implies a longer stay)
Por often denotes itinerary and passage::
Vou passarpelo supermercado (a caminho de casa) > I will pass by the supermarket (on my way home)
Final Thoughts: Do I Need to Study Portuguese Grammar?
While developing a general understanding of Portuguese grammar can be beneficial to your language learning, you don’t necessarily need to bother too much about it to become fluent in Portuguese (or any other language for that matter).
See, each student has their own learning style and preferences. Maybe you are keen on coming to grips with the sets of rules and patterns governing Portuguese. Others, however, might prefer to learn it more organically, namely through listening, reading, and drilling their talking.
So, don’t feel obliged to study grammar if you don’t resonate with it. As a matter of fact, grammar can be quite intimidating and discouraging, and in that way, it can easily put you off.
If that applies to you, it is probably more productive to start approaching the language by means of a more natural, organic approach. Only then, when you can already make some sense of it, should you consider peeking at grammar more systematically in order to solidify your language skills
You may get the impression that I am not keen on grammar. Not necessarily. I do think that grammar has its place in language learning (second language). However, I also know that, too often, too much of it can make you more ill than good.
Here’s the thing, those learning a second language with too much emphasis on grammar are more likely to become self-conscious and insecure when speaking the language. In this way, grammar actually gets in the way.
Above all, you don’t need to look at it as an either-or choice. Just find your own balance and the right grammar dosage that works for you.
For instance, if you get a kick out of grammar drills, and if that keeps you motivated and on track, then keep at it.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way.