16. infinitivo pessoal

The infinitivo pessoal is an infinitiv with an own subject and a personal ending, that means that the executer of the action described by the infinitivo pessoal is known. The normal infinitivo inherits his subject from the finite verb, but can't have its own subject. One may wonder why a finite form, the infinito pessoal is a finite form, has a personal ending, is called infinite. It is true, that the infinitivo pessoal is not infinite or undetermined, but it can be used as an infinitive, in other words it can be used as a verbal noun, in other words, it can be used like the gerund / infinitive in English, that are as well verbal nouns, with the big advantage that the infinitivo pessoal can be used even in situations where the executer of the action differs from the subject of the finite verb.

The concept of the infinitivo pessoal is a little bit difficult to understand. However there is never an obligation to use it, any construction with a infinitivo pessoal can be substituted with a subordinate clause, but it is necessary to recognise this structure if it appears in a text. In other words. One must understand this structure passively, if it appears in a text or someone use it in a speech, but there is no need to use it actively.

In case that it is unclear what we mean with finite and infinite verbforms, here is a short example.

finite and infinite verb forms
1) to swim
2) swims



1) describes the action of lying in a liquid, in most cases water, and performs mouvements that produce a forward motion.
2) contains much more information. Here we get informet that a single person, not the speaker nor the person he is talking to, performs these mouvement in the present of the speaker.

1) is an infinitive and only describes the action without any context, 2) is a finite verb and contains some information about the context in which this action is performed. A finite infinitive normally doesn't exist. Portuguese is an exception. The infinitivo pessoal, personal infinitive, is not called infinitive because it is infinitive. It is called infinitive because it can have the same syntactical function as the infinitive. The infinitive as well as the English gerund are verbal nouns, can therefore have the function of a noun, can be subject and object of the sentence.

1) Swimming is fun.
2) There is not much money needed to travel.
3) Women are prevented from working by personal or family commitments.

In these three sentences the gerund 1) and the infinitive 2) don't have the syntactical function of a verb. They have the syntactical function of a noun. The most interesting case is 3) because we find the infinitivo pessoal mostly after prepositions. After a preposition only a noun is possible or something that can have the function of a noun and the only verb form in roman languages that can have the function of a noun is the infinifitive and the personal infinitive. (By the way: The gerundio of the roman languages is NOT a verbal noun and cannot be used as a none. The gerund in roman languages correspond to the present participle in English, see infinite verb forms, and is an adverb. There is a confusion in the terms used.)

In 1) the infinitive form is the subject of the sentence. In 2) it is the object of the sentence and in 3) it is a prepositional object, an object added through a preposition.

Wherever we can use an infinitive, we can use an object. (Under the condition that the sentence makes sense, obviously.)

To write a book is not easy.
The task is not easy.

However in all lenguages of the world the verbal noun, gerund or infinitive in English, can't have its own subject. The executer of the action described by the verbal noun is inherited from the finite form and is the subject of the main clause. That is a restriction. If the verbal noun could have its own subject, the verbal noun would be more powerfull, could be used in more cases. This is the strenght of the infinitivo pessoal. Lets have a look at this example.

without own subject: 1) Talvez seja melhor redigir os artigos. *
1) Perhaps it is better to revise the article.
with own subject: 2) Talvez seja melhor redigirem os artigos. *
2) Perhaps it is better that they revise the article.


* In the case of regular verbs the infinitivo pessoal doesn't differ in its form from the futuro do conjuntivo. We will discuss the formation in a few minutes.

In 1) the infinitive has no subject. Automatically we assume that the people who have to revise the article are the people who speak, at least this is the most probable assumption. In two we know that someone else, a group of people, should revise the article, because the infinitivo pessoal has a personal ending, 3rd person plural in this case. Only in the case that the infinitive inherits its subject from the main clause or, as in this case, it is completely unknwon, we can translate with an infinitivo in English. If the subject is different, we have to construct with a subordinate clause in English.

In the sentence "Talvez seja melhor redigirem os artigos" we have no subordinate clause. Redigerem os artigos is an infinitivo pessoal and an object. Instead of the infinitivo pessoal we can put any object: Talvez seja melhor este => Perhaps this one is better. We can construct with a subordinate clause as well, than we have the same construction as in English: Talvez seja melhor redigirem os artigos.

With the infinitivo pessoal we can substitute subordinate clauses introduced by para que (so that), sem que (without), mesmo que (even if), mesmo sem que (even if not), até que (until) etc. If there is a preposition that corresponds to the conjunction, para que (so that) <=> para (for), we can subsitute the subordinate clause with an infinitive construction. If we construct with an infinitivo or an infinitivo pessoal we have to use the corresponding preposition (para que => para, até que => até, sem que => sem etc.). The difference between conjunctions that require the conjuntivo and conjunctions that require the indicativo vanishes in this case.


infinitivo pessoal: Mamãe fará o almoço para comermos.
subordinate clause in conjuntivo: Mamãe fará o almoço para que nós comamos.
translation: Mum is preparing dinner so that we can have dinner.
infinitivo pessoal: Vou esperar até eles venderem tudo.
subordinate clause in conjuntivo:: Vou esperar até que eles vendam tudo.
translation: I wait until they have all sold.

Pay attention to the fact that a subordinate clause is always introduced by a conjunction, in most cases que is part of this conjunction. The corrsponding preposition is without que (para que => para etc..) Corresponding to the compound infinitive (I would love to have done this) there is a compound infinitivo pessoal as well. The sequence of tenses can be respected with the infinitives forms as well. In case of anteriority we use the compound forms, in case of similarity, we use the simple forms, which exist for the infinitivo as well as for the infinitivo pessoal.

compound infinitives: Depois de terem chegado na cabine, o navio começou a virar.
mais-que-perfeito do indicativo: Depois que tinham chegado na cabine, o navio começou a virar.
translation: After they had reached their cabine, the ship began to capsize.

There is no way to translate the English sentence with a verbal noun, because the two actions have different subjects.

If the preposition doesn't have a corresponding conjunction a substitution is only possible by changing completely the structure of the sentence. For the preposition por for instance doesn't exist a corresponding conjunction.

Por não ter uma senha, eles não puderam usar o computador.
Since they didn't have a password, they couldn't use the computer.

We have described until know the basic functions of the infinitivo pessoal. However it seems that even Portuguese / Brasilian professional linguists have problems to describe its use.

Oportuno é refletir sobre o fato de que, após indicar alguns caminhos para o emprego de tal forma verbal, Júlio Nogueira assim conclui sua lição a respeito: "Além das sumárias indicações que aí ficam, difícil será estabelecer regras seguras. É este um dos assuntos que têm dividido os competentes na matéria, dando lugar a fortes dissídios. Em alguns casos a preferência entre a forma invariável e a variável é apenas de intuição natural, por eufonia, orientação perigosa, pois o que a uns parece agradável ao ouvido, a outros soa mal. Nisto, como no mais, os clássicos não são acordes, nem podem, pela prática generalizada, servir de modelo". It is remarkable that Júlio Nogueira, after having given some indications for the use of this verbal form, ends his explanations by saying:"Beside some remarks that are true it is difficult to give stable rules. This is one of the points the experts on the matter can't reach an agreement. Sometimes the preference for non conjugates form is based on pure intuition, on the preference for the sound, what is a dangerous clue, because what sound good to some people, doesn't sound good for other people. Concerning this point the classics (of literature) disagree, as they do in most cases, and can't therefore serve as an example that confirms the theory in practice.
Uso do infinitivo


On the same page we find some basic anotations, that confirm what has already been said.

The infinitivo pessoal has the same syntactical function as the infinitive and can be used whenever the infinitive is used and has to be used

- when the subject of the infinitive differes from the subject of the main clause
- if the the subject of the infinitive is mentioned expresis verbis

If the subject of the infinitive is the same as the subject of the main clause the infinitivo pessoal can be used, but the simple infinitive works as well. If the infinitive doesn't have a subject, the infinitivo pessoal can't be used, because the infinitivo pessoal has always a subject. This is for instance the case, if the infinite form it the subject of the sentence: Reading is fun. Reading doesn't have a subject, it IS the subject.

The following table shows some examples where the infinitivo pessoal can be used. In some of these construction it competes with the simple infinitive.

the infinitvo pessoal after idiomatic expressions
a) É preciso chegarmos a um acordo.
It is necessary that we reach an agreement.
b) E bom fazerem isto rápido.
It is good if they get it done quickly.
c) E melhor saires desse carro.
It is better that you leave the car.


In all these sentences a simple infinitive would work as well, however it would remain unclear who performs the action described by the infinitive form.

The remark we find very often in grammar books that the use of the infinitivo pessoal is wrong if the subject of the main clause differs from the subject of the coordinate clause is not correct. The sentences below are grammatically correct with a normal infinitive, but the meaning is not the same.

with a normal infinitive the meaning changes
aa) É preciso chegar a um acordo.
It is necessary to reach an agreement.
bb) E bom fazer isto rápido.
It is good if it is done quickly.
cc) E melhor sair desse carro.
I is better to leave the car.

a), b), c) as well as h aa), bb) und cc) are grammatically correct. .However the meaning is not the same.


If we transform these sentences in a semantical equivalent sentence with a subordinate clause we will see that the relationships are complicated. Some of these sentences correspond to a subordinate clause, other resemble to a conditional clause.

subordinate clause with conjuntivo
aaa) É preciso que cheguemos a um acordo.
It is necessary that we reach an agreement.
conditional clause
bbb) Seria bom se fizessem isto rápido.
It would be good if they can do that quickly.
ccc) Sería melhor se saísses desse carro.
It would be better, if you leave the car.

Other examples:

infinitivo pessoal after prepositions
d) Estava indeciso antes de chegares.
Before your arrival, I have been indecisive.
e) Para mantermos a forma é preciso fazermos esporte.
To remain fit, we have to do sports.
f) No caso de esqueceres do nome de alguém, estende a mão e diz o teu próprio nome.
In case you have forgotten the name of somebody, shake his hand and present yourself.


In this case as well is valid what has already been said. The assertion often made in grammar books that the infinitivo pessoal is to be used after idiomatic expressions like "it is possible" etc. otherwise the sentence becomes grammatically wrong is not true. We can use the simple infinitive in the case that the main clause has a different subject or an abstract subject, but the meaning is different.

dd) Estava indeciso antes de chegar.
Before his / her arrival, he / she was indecisive.
ee) Para manter a forma é preciso fazer esporte.
To remain fit it is necessary to do sports.


dd) Is unclear, although the sentence is grammatically correct. Since the infinitive inherits his subject from the conjugated verb, the person who is indecisive is the same as the person who comes.

ee) Same problem as in dd).


f) is more complicated. If we have a conjugated form, in this case estende, what is 2nd person imperative, and the subject of the infinitive is the same person, we have to use the infinitivo pessoal, because the normal infinitive makes a general assertion, doesn't have therefore a concrete subject. With a normal infinitive this sentence would be grammatically incorrect. The English sentence would be something like "~ To forget the name of somebody, shake his hand and present yourself". That would be strange indeed. There is no need to figure out the name of somebody, because an abstract subject has forgotten his name. This sentence would be wrong: ~No caso de esquecer do nome de alguém, estende a mão e diz o teu próprio nome.

In the sentences below we can construct with a simple infinitivo, with an infinitivo pessoal and with a subordinate clause. The subject of the idiomatic expression is abstract, but there is no contradiction. It is not a good idea to forget the name of somebody, it is not a good idea that you forget the name of somebody. However we can translate the sentence to English with an infinitive only in the case that the subject is the same.

Não é bom esquecer do nome de alguém. It is not good to forget the name of somebody.
Não é bom esqueceres do nome de alguém. It is not good, that you forget the name of somebody.
Não é bom esquecermos do nome de alguém. It is not good, that we forget the name of somebody.


The same rule is true if the subject is expressis verbis mentioned by, for example, a pronoun.

Isto é para tu fazeres durante o intervalo.
This is what you have to do during break.
Convém vocês irem primeiro.
It is better that you go ahead.

In this case the subject is explicetely mentioned, tu and vocês. The personal pronoun in nominative indicates who performs the action and the personal pronoun has to fit with the verb form. We can't say "We wants". And for the same reason we can't use a personal pronoun together with a verb form that has no subject. The same is true if the subject is explicetly mentioned. For the reasons already mentioned we can't traduce the following sentences with an infinitive. This is only possible if the subject is the same, what is not the case in the following sentences.

O professor deu um prazo de cinco dias para os alunos estudarem bastante para a prova.
The teacher gave the students a delay of five days so that the students could study enough for the exam.
O hotel preparou tudo para os turistas ficarem à vontade.
The hotel prepared everything so that the tourists feel comfortable.


The mere fact that a sentence can possibly have two subjects doesn't require the infinitivo pessoal. If we use an infinitivo instead of an infinitivo pessoal the meaning of a sentence may change, but it is not grammatically incorrect. But if the subject of the infinive is explicetly mentioned, the use of the infinitivo pessoal is compulsory. Sometimes the subject follows the infinitive, but that doesn't matter, the verb form has to agree with the subject, it this subject is explicetly mentioned.

Acreditamos serem eles os causadores de tamanha confusão.
We believe that he is the cause of this chaos.


In English very often there is no difference between the preposition and the conjunction.

conjunction: After he had told us what to do, he went on holidays.
preposition: After dinner he went on holidays.
preposition: After having told us what to do, he went on holidays.

In Portuguese in general the preposition is without que, the conjunction with que. Some examples in Portuguese.

Ela se ofendeu sem eles dizerem nada.
Ela se ofendeu sem que eles dissessem nada.
She was offended although they had said nothing.
Antes de chegarmos, ele já havia ido embora.
Antes que chegamos, ele já havia ido embora.
Bevor we arrived, he had gone.


Verbs, that can have a direct object or prepositional object, an object connected to the verb with a preposition, can in general be followed as well by an infnitivo or an infinitivo pessoal.

infinitivo pessoal instead of an object
with infinitivo pessoal: Acho melhor acabares o trabalho rápido.
subordinate clause: Acho melhor que acabes o trabalho rápido.
I think you should finish this work quickly.
with infinitivo pessoal: Ouvi jurarem fidelidade ao novo rei.
subordinate clause: Ouvi que juraram fidelidade ao novo rei.
I heard them swear loyalty to the king of the animals.
with infinitivo pessoal: Vi maltratarem os trabalhadores sem nenhum motivo.
subordinate clause: Vi que matratavam os trabalhadores sem nenhum motivo.
I saw them mistreating the workers without any reason.


Here as well is true what has already been said. The sentence "Acho melhor acabar o trabalho rápido" wouldn't be grammatically wrong, but the meanig would be different. The meaning would be "I think the work should be finished".

In some cases it is possible to use a simple infinitive without modifying the meaning.

O pai obrigou os filhos a estudar.
The father obliged his children to study.

This construction works in almost any language. If the subject of the infinitive is the direct object of the finite verb, it is clear who is the subject of the infinitive form.

However the question when the infinitivo pessoal is compulsory and when it is optional is not really the relevant question and furthermore this is not a complicated issue. We can keep it very simple. If a sentence becomes unclear when we use the simple infinitive instead of the infinitivo pessoal, than we use the infinitivo pessoal. The real question is when an infinitive form can be used. More or less and as a rule of thumb we can say that anytime in English we can construct with the gerund or an infinitive, we can construct in Portuguese with an infinitivo or an infinitivo pessoal. The exception to this rule of thumb are the cases where the subject of the finite verb is differs from the subject of the infinite verb. In this case we can construct with an infinitive / gerund only in the case when the direct or prepositional object of the finite verb is the subject of the infinite verb form. There is a wide range of subordinate clauses, temporal clauses, conditional clause, concessive clauses etc. that can be subsituted by a infinitivo or an infinitivo pessoal and that works in both cases, whether the subordinate clause requires the subjunctive mood or the indicative mood and the sequence of tenses can be respected as well, because in both infinitives forms we have a compound version that expresses anteriority.


The formation of the infinitivo pessoal is very simple with no irregular verb. We add simply the personal endings -es, -mos, -em to the infinitivo. The 1st and the 3rd person don't have a personal ending. For the 1st and 3rd person singular there is no difference between the infinitivo and the infinitivo pessoal.

However there is a little problem. In the case of a regular verb there is no difference in the form between the infinitivo pessoal and the futuro do conjuntivo. The endings are the same in both cases. We get the steem of the futuro do conjuntivo by leaving out the the personal ending of the the 3rd person plural of the pretérito perfeito simples, falaram => falar and what we get, falar, looks pretty much like the infinitive and therefore in the case of a regular verb there is no difference between the futuro do conjuntivo and infinitivo pessoal. Only in the case of an irregular verb there is a difference. If we have an irregular verb, for instance poder, the pretérito perfeito simples is puderam and by leaving out the personal ending we get puder and that is not the infiinitive.



infinitivo pessoalfalar (for comparison: futuro do conjuntivo) no differenceter (for comparison: futuro do conjuntivo) differenceestar serpôr
eufalar(falar)ter(tiver)estarserespôr
tu falares(falares)teres(tiverers)estaresserespôres
você
ele
ela
falar(falar) ter(tiver)estar serpôr
nósfalarmos(falarmos)termos (tivermos) estarmossermos pôrmos
vocês
eles
elas
falarem

(falarem)terem

(tiverem)estarem

serem

pôrem


Once again: The infinitivo pessoal is formed by adding the personal endings to the infinitivo wherin the 1st and 3rd person singular don't have any ending. The futuro do conjuntivo es formed with the 3rd person plural of the pretérit perfeito simples by leaving out the personal ending. In the case of a regular verb what we get is the infinitive, the steem of the infinitivo pessoal and the futuro do conjuntivo is therefore the same in the case of a regular verb. In the case of irregular verbs the steem is different and the infinitivo pessoal differs from the futuro do conjuntivo.

Falar therefore can be infinitivo, infinitivo pessoal 1st and 3rd person singular and 1st and 3rd person singular futuro do conjuntivo. Sometimes it is necessary to see what it actually is, the exercise 16.1.

Philosophical remark: Most grammar books have a very different approach from the one followed here. Either they describe a language without refering to any other language and without comparing one language with another language or they focus on the differences between one language and the other. Here we try to do the exact opposite. We try to prove that the verbalisation of the reality is similar in any language and furthermore we would say that if that were not the case, nor a foreign language could be learned, nor the mother tongue. It makes sense to discuss about grammar problems and to analyse them, but at the end of the day we do a lot of things right intuitively and we can memorize all these structures, because they are similar to the structure in our mother tongue. The infinitivo pessoal seems a strange structure at first glance, but something similar exists in English as well. In a sentence like "I believe him being an expert on this subject" we have a similar structure as the infinitivo pessoal. We can substitute "him being" by anything that can have the function of an object, "I believe it". The gerund is a verbal noun and can have the syntactical function of a noun. In the English structure we don't use a personal ending to assign the subject to the infinitive, but a personal pronoun, what is a very similar procedure. If some structure emerge independently and spontaneously in different regions, we can't they that this is pure casuality. Perhaps this is not the best example to illustrate that the way the human brain wants to verbalise the world is very similar everywhere, there are indeed better ones, however it is another example. There is no need for this structure in English, a normal subordinate clause, "I believe that he is an expert", does the job as well, but for the human brain a construction with an infinitive seems to be natural.





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