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In Portuguese, we use the past participle to form perfect tenses as well as the passive voice. In addition, we use past participles as adjectives.
In what follows, I will walk you through the Portuguese past participle’s usage in greater detail while providing you with concrete examples.
Let’s get started.
- Forming Portuguese past participles
- Forming compound tenses with past participles
- Forming the passive voice with past participles
- Past participles as adjectives
! Of course, there’s also the present participle, or gerúndio as we call it in Portuguese. Read the following article to learn more about how we use this verb form: Portuguese Gerund: Progressive Tenses and Beyond.
Conjugating Portuguese past participles
Regular past participles
In general, the Portuguese past participle is formed by replacing the suffixes –ar, -er, and -ir* of the infinitive verb forms with either –ado or –ido. Here’s an example for each of the 3 regular conjugation groups:
|1st conjugation group (-ar)||2nd conjugation group (-er)||3rd conjugation group (-ir)|
* Note that the verb pôr (put) and its derivatives (repor, transpor, impor, etc. ) exceptionally end in -or, which deviates from all other verbs that end either in -ar, –er, or –ir.
Irregular past participles
Here are a few verbs with irregular past participles:
|fazer * (do)||feito|
* The Portuguese verb fazer is extremely versatile. Learn more about its idiomatic riches in this post: The Portuguese Verb “Fazer” and All the Things You Say with It.
Shifting past participles
Some verbs have two past participle forms, one regular and the other irregular. The regular form is used in connection with the auxiliary verbs ter and haver, whereas the irregular one is used with ser or estar :
Here’s an example with the verb eleger:
O povo tinha elegido * o Marcelo para presidente em 2016.
The people had elected Marcelo for president in 2016.
O Marcelo foi novamente eleito presidente agora em 2021.
Marcelo was again elected president now in 2021.
* While textbooks continue to insist on the use of regular/irregular participles according to the principles stated above, in practice, you often hear people using the irregular form with ter/haver. For instance, if we were to rewrite the sentence above to O povo tinha eleito o Marcelo …, that wouldn’t hurt anyone’s ears (apart from those of a few puritans). There are, nonetheless, a few verbs (for example morrer or prender) where it would sound wrong. Stick to textbooks’ guidelines when in doubt.
Forming compound tenses (perfect tenses)
Compound tenses in Portuguese are formed with the auxiliary ter followed by the past participle of the main verb:
|Eu tenho feito desporto todos os dias. (v. fazer)|
I’ve been working out every day.
A Lúcia tinha-se esquecido de tomar o comprimido. (v. esquecer-se)
Lúcia had forgotten to take the medicine.
We can also use haver * instead of ter, especially in the imperfect tense:
|A Lúcia havia-se esquecido de tomar o comprimido.|
Lúcia had forgotten to take the medicine.
* The use of haver as the auxiliary verb is somewhat more common in the Brazilian standard. Here’s a couple of reading suggestions to learn more about (1) haver and (2) how the Brazilian and European standards compare:
1. The Portuguese Verb “Haver” and All the Things You Say with It
2. European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They, Really?
Forming the passive voice
In Portuguese, as in English, the passive voice is formed by the verb ser (to be)* followed by the past participle:
|Esta música foi composta por mim. (v. compor)|
This song was composed by me.
O João foi salvo pelo nadador salvador. (v. salvar)
João was saved by the lifeguard.
* Portuguese, like other Romance languages, has two verbs “to be”, namely ser and estar. Learn when to use one and the other: Portuguese Verbs Ser and Estar: How and When to Use Either.
Past participles as adjectives
Past participles often act as adjectives when they follow linking verbs such as ser, estar, ficar, sentir-se, or andar. In that case, they agree in gender and number * regarding the noun they refer to:
|Eu sou interessado em política. (v. interessar)|
I am generally interested in politics.
A Isabel está cansada. (v. cansar)
Isabel is tired.
O Mário ficou ** surpreendido quando me viu. (v. surpreender)
Mário was surprised when he saw me.
Sentimo-nos desanimados quando perdemos o jogo. (v. desanimar)
We felt low spirited when we lost that game.
Vocês andam muito aborrecidos ultimamente. (v. aborrecer)
You’ve been quite bored lately.
* Learn more about Portuguese gender and number with the articles below:
1. Disentangling Gender with Portuguese Masculine-to-Feminine Spelling Patterns.
2. Forming the Plural in Portuguese: Singular-to-Plural Conversion Patterns You Need to Care About.
** The Portuguese verb ficar is widely used and means different things in different contexts. Learn about using ficar to its full potential: Making the Most of the Portuguese Verb “Ficar”: Verb Usage and Conjugation.
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