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The Verb Ter in Portuguese

In short, the verb Ter is the Portuguese equivalent of Have in English as both share the same basic meaning and are used to form Perfect tenses:

Tenho três filhos.
I have three kids.

Ela já tinha estado no Canadá.
She had been to Canada already.

Let’s look into it in more detail.

Idiomatically Rich Verbs


Ter is one of the most commonly used verbs and, as is the case with several other high-frequency verbs, it has an irregular conjugation:   

Pretérito Perfeito
Pretérito Imperfeito
Ele, ela
Eles, elas

Usage you’d expect

Expressing possession

As already mentioned, ter shares the same basic meaning of the English verb have:

Tenho 3 filhos.
I have 3 kids.

Eles têm muito tempo livre.
They have a lot of free time.

Forming Perfect tenses

Like have, ter is used as an auxiliary verb to form Perfect tenses*:

Ela já tinha estado no Canadá.
She had already been to Canada.

* It is also possible to form perfect tenses with haver: Verb ‘Haver’ in Portuguese.

Expressing a must

The phrase ter de is the Portuguese equivalent of having to, which expresses a must or an obligation: 

Tens de parar de beber se quiseres salvar o teu casamento.
You have to stop drinking if you are to save your marriage.

Usage that might surprise you

Talking about age

We use ter in contexts where English calls to verbs other than have. For instance, when talking about age:

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Olá! This is Pedro and I'm the founder of Portuguesepedia, a platform created to support and accelerate your Portuguese learning journey. Até já, p

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