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The use of the subjunctive in Portuguese is way more frequent than in English. That alone can be a stumbling block for many language learners as they may lack the feel for when to use it.
In general, the present subjunctive in Portuguese is used to express uncertainty, doubt, will, and opinion, among others.
Here’re a few examples:
|É possível que hoje chegue tarde a casa.|
It might come back today.
Talvez tenhas sorte.
Maybe you’ll be lucky.
Quero que sejas feliz.
I want you to be happy.
In what follows, I will walk you through the present subjunctive’s conjugation and usage in greater detail.
Let’s dive right into it.
- When to use the present subjunctive
Concerning regular verbs, the present subjunctive is easy to form. You take the stem from the infinitive form and add the conjugation-endings according to each group:
(1st group –ar)
(2nd group –er)
(3rd group –ir)
* Learn more about Portuguese regular verbs: Portuguese Regular Verbs and Conjugation Patterns in the Present Tense.
Note that a handful of regular verbs need to have their spellings tweaked to conform to Portuguese pronunciation patterns*, namely verbs whose infinitive forms end in -car, -gar, -cer, and -çar:
* Learn more about Portuguese’s spelling-pronunciation patterns and phonology: European Portuguese Pronunciation: A Helpful Guide to Its Elemental Sounds and Spelling-Pronunciation Patterns.
Going from the first-person of the indicative-mood
There are several irregular verbs where you can still apply the conjugation patterns above. However, you get the stem from the first-person of the indicative-mood (present tense), and not from their infinite form:
|PODER||poss||possa; possas; possa; possamos; possam|
|FAZER||faç||faça; faças; faça; façamos; façam|
|VER||vej||veja; vejas; veja; vejamos; vejam|
|VIR||venh||venha; venhas; venha; venhamos; venham|
|TER||tenh||tenha; tenhas; tenha; tenhamos; tenham|
Know it by heart
For a few other irregular verbs, you don’t have any reference stem to go from – you’ll have to learn it by heart. Still, many of them take the same familiar endings of the present subjunctive:
|SER||seja; sejas; seja; sejamos; sejam|
|ESTAR||esteja; estejas; esteja; estejamos; estejam|
|IR||vá; vás; vá; vamos; vão|
|DAR||dê; dês, dê, dêmos; deem|
|QUERER||queira; queiras; queira; queiramos; queiram|
|SABER||saiba; saibas; saiba; saibamos; saibam|
When to use the present subjunctive
The present subjunctive in Portuguese is often used in complex sentences and placed inside the dependent clause (right after a linking word or expression). In this section, I will guide you through several such structures.
! We often use the personal subjunctive in structures where we could also use the present infinitive instead. In that sense, they are closely related and whether we use one or the other often depends on the linking word/expression being used. Here’s a reading that goes hand in hand with the present article: Portuguese Personal Infinitive: What Is It and When to Use It.
Verbs expressing will, desire, emotion, and doubt
We often use the present subjunctive when the verbs in the main clause express either will, desire, emotion, or doubt, and are followed by the linking word que*.
* que corresponds to that in English – it is a linking word* that introduces dependent clauses and is often followed by subjunctives.
Here’re a few such verbs:
|desejar (desire); duvidar (doubt); querer (want); esperar (hope); preferir (prefer); gostar (like); recear (fear); ter pena (feel sorry); ter medo (feel afraid); exigir (demand), mandar (order), proibir (forbid)|
And here are some examples of sentences:
|Eu quero que tu vás falar com o Mário.|
I want you to speak with Mário.
Ela duvida que eu consiga emagrecer.
She doubts that I can manage to lose weight.
Eu espero que ele entre na universidade.
I hope that he gets admitted to the university.
Ela exige que eu saia de casa.
She demands that I leave the house.
Tu receias que ela te deixe?
Do you fear that she might leave you?
* Learn more about Portuguese linking words (conjunctions): Portuguese Conjunctions: A Practical Guide Anchored to English.
Expressing doubt with “talvez”
We use the present subjunctive when expressing doubt with the adverb talvez (maybe):
|Talvez vá hoje à praia.|
Maybe I’ll go to the beach today.
However, there are other adverbs equivalent to talvez that call to the indicative mood instead:
|Se calhar vou hoje à praia.|
Possivelmente vou hoje à praia.
Provavelmente, vou hoje à praia.
We use the indicative mode when we express our opinion and beliefs * in affirmative sentences. In negative sentences, however, we use the present subjunctive:
|Indicative / affirmative sentences|
(1) Eu acho que este filme é muito mau.
I think this movie is really bad.
(2) Ela acredita que o tempo vai melhorar amanhã.
She believes the weather will improve tomorrow.
Subjunctive / negative sentences
(1) Eu não acho que este filme seja tão mau.
I don’t think this movie is that bad.
(2) Ela não acredita que o tempo vá melhorar amanhã.
She doesn’t believe the weather will improve tomorrow.
* To express opinion and beliefs, we often use the verbs pensar, achar, acreditar, and crer among others.
é + adjective + que + subjunctive
We often use the present subjunctive after the structure é + adjective + que:
|É importante que percebas a situação.|
It is important that you understand the situation.
É melhor que vás para casa.
It is better if you go home.
É possível que ela chegue hoje à noite.
It’s possible that she will come this evening.
Note! In situations expressing facts and certainty, the verb of the dependent clause is normally in the indicative mood. But as soon as that certainty is negated, the subjunctive shows again:
|Indicative / affirmative sentences|
(1) É óbvio que ele está contente.
It’s obvious he’s happy.
(2) É claro que ela vai gostar do presente.
I am sure she will like the present.
Subjunctive / negative sentences
(1) Não é óbvio que ele esteja contente.
It’s not so obvious he’s happy.
(2) Não é certo que ela vá gostar do presente.
I’m not so sure she will like the present.
Há + quem + subjunctive
We use the present subjunctive after the impersonal expression há quem *:
|Há quem ache que fumar não faz mal à saúde.|
There are those who think that smoking is not bad for your health.
Há quem diga que o Bin Laden continua vivo.
There are people who believe that Bin Laden is still alive.
* Haver is a very special verb and we use it all the time. Learn more about it in this article: The Portuguese Verb “Haver” and All the Things You Say with It.
The present subjunctive often follows exclamative (and frequent) expressions such as Oxalá, Deus queira que, and Tomara que:
|Oxalá ela recupere!|
I hope she will recover.
Deus queira que ele consiga superar as dificuldades!
God help him overcome these trying times!
Tomara que ela saia do hospital já amanhã!
I hope she leaves the hospital already tomorrow!
We often use the present subjunctive in concessive clauses*. In Portuguese, common linking words introducing concessive clauses are mesmo que, ainda que, or embora, among others:
Here’re some examples:
|Sou muito poupado embora tenha muito dinheiro.|
I am thrifty, even though I have a lot of money.
Ainda que goste muito de comida, tento não comer em demasia.
Even though I love food, I try to not eat too much.
Vou trabalhar mesmo que esteja doente.
I go to work even if I am sick.
* Concessive clauses express an idea that is in opposition to the main clause. In English, concessive clauses are often introduced with the linking words although or even though.
We use the present subjunctive in time clauses*. In Portuguese, common linking words introducing time clauses are logo que, antes que, or até que. A few examples:
|Liga-me logo que chegues a Lisboa.|
Call me as soon as you arrive in Lisbon.
Vamos para casa antes que comece a chover.
Let’s go home before it starts raining.
Não saio do trabalho até que termine este relatório.
I am not leaving the office until I am done with this report.
*In English, time clauses are often introduced with linking expressions as soon as, before, or until, among others.
We use the present subjunctive in final clauses*. In Portuguese, final clauses are often preceded by linking expressions such as para que or a fim de que:
|Eu estou a estudar para que consiga arranjar um bom trabalho.|
I am studying so that I can find a good job.
Comprei um guarda chuva a fim de que não me molhe.
I bought an umbrella in order to avoid getting wet.
* Final clauses express the intention or purpose in relation to the main clause. In English, final clauses are often introduced by linking words such as in order to or so that.
We often use the present subjunctive in conditional clauses*. In Portuguese, the present subjunctive often follows the linking expressions caso, desde que, and a não ser que:
|Caso não haja tinto, bebe-se branco.|
If there isn’t red wine, weäll drink white.
Empresto-te dinheiro desde que me pagues de volta.
I can lend you money provided that you will pay me back.
Hoje vou jogar ténis a não ser que chova muito.
I am playing tennis today unless it rains a lot.
* Conditional clauses express contingency in relation to the main clause. In English, conditional clauses are often introduced by if, in case, and unless, among others.
We use the present subjunctive in completive clauses* when the latter follow verbs that express doubt, emotions, orders, or wishes. In this case, these clauses are invariably introduced by que:
|O Carlos exige que nos casemos até ao final do year.|
Carlos is demanding that we get married by the end of this year.
Eu receio que ele me deixe.
I am afraid that he will leave me.
* Completive clauses, also known as complement clauses, complete the idea of the verb in the main clause. In English, they are often introduced by the linking word that.
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