Geared toward Absolute Beginners, this course gives you a solid start and foundation to build upon. The language of instruction is almost entirely in English.
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.
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This intensive course is for language learners striving toward the A2 level. The language of instruction is English/Portuguese, typically in a 35/65 ratio.
Portuguese language learners often have trouble discerning between Poder and Conseguir. That’s not least the case for native English speakers or anyone using English as a reference since “Can” encompasses both.
So, how do we know when to use Poder and Conseguir?
The Portuguese verbs Poder and Conseguir are used to express that something can or can’t happen.Thus, the concept of Possibility is central to either. However, while Poder relates to the mere possibility for something to take place, Conseguir implies some sort of challenge and the ability to overcome it.
For the most part, the context makes it clear whether we should be using Poder or Conseguir. There are, nonetheless, a few situations where these verbs are used interchangeably.
I invite you to dive into the usage of these and other high-frequency verbs in my course series Portuguese Verb Gems.
When to use poder
Let’s take a brief look at what the irregular* verb poder looks like when conjugated in the present and past simple tenses
Preterite Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect Pretérito imperfeito
present participle gerúndio
* Like poder, there are a few other irregular ones among the most frequently used verbs overall. Here’s a reading that will most likely add to your fluency: Portuguese Must-Know Irregular Verbs.
We use poder to say that something may or may not happen, or that something is possible or not:
Eles podem chegar a qualquer momento. They could come anytime soon.
As previsões do tempo para amanhã são incertas, pode chover. The weather forecast for tomorrow is uncertain, it could rain.
Não pode ser verdade. Ele está a mentir. It can’t be true. He’s lying.
We also use poder to make it clear that something is either allowed or forbidden:
Podemos estacionar o carro aqui. We can park the car here.
Não podes fumar dentro do restaurante! You can’t smoke inside the restaurant!
We use poder to suggest things to do in the immediate future. In that case, we often use the imperfect tense:
Podíamos ir ao cinema mais logo, o que achas? We could go to the cinema later on, what do you think?
When to use conseguir
Here’s the regular * verb conseguir conjugated in the present and past simple tenses:
We also use the verb conseguir to express that something is possible or not possible.
However, conseguir presupposes that someone must overcome a challenge of some sort to fulfill a certain possibility. In other words, something might happen only if someone has the ability to make it happen.
In English, whenever it sounds right to either say be able to or manage to as an alternative to can, chances are that we want to say conseguir in Portuguese.
Here’re a few examples:
Ele tem só 10 meses e já consegue andar! He’s only 10 months old and he’s already able to walk!
Não consegui passar no exame. I didn’t manage to pass the exam.
A Isabel tem 65 anos e ainda consegue fazer a espargata. Isabel is 65 and she’s still able to perform the splits.
Conseguir vs. poder
Now, let me illustrate how conseguir and poder can mean different things when used in the same context:
Eu consigo suster a respiração por mais de 3 minutos. Não acreditam? Posso fazer isso agora se vocês quiserem. I can hold my breath for more than 3 minutes. Don’t you believe it? I can do it now if you wish.
A Sara já consegue executar 25 sonatas de Chopin e está pronta para dar concertos. Agora já podemos assistir a um concerto dela. Sara can already play 25 sonatas by Chopin and she’s ready to perform. We can finally go to one of her concerts.
As you see in the examples above, conseguir directly refers to the skill or the ability to perform something, whereas poder refers to the possibilityenabled by that same ability – something can happen (poder) only because someone makes it possible (conseguir).
When it is practically the same
In some contexts, the difference between using poder or conseguir is subtle or even not perceived at all in practice.
One such context is when someone asks someone else if they can do or help with something:
Podes dar-me uma mão? Consegues dar-me uma mão? Can you give me a hand?
Podes vir cá hoje? Consegues vir cá hoje? Can you come by today?
Hoje posso chegar a casa mais cedo para te ajudar a fazer o jantar. Hoje consigo chegar a casa mais cedo para te ajudar a fazer o jantar. Today I can come home earlier to help you out with dinner.
Reading suggestions! Here’re a few other readings concerning Portuguese verbs that might interest you: