Those who speak Spanish and learn Portuguese will believe for a long time that the portuguese ficar corresponds to the Spanish quedarse what is actually true in most cases. However if he or she stumbles over a sentence like "Percebi como ele ficou nervoso quando o interroguei", "I realised that she got nervous when I asked her", he will realise that ficar can be used in contexts where quedarse can't be used. With ficar for instance we can describe a change. Apart from that ficar has a very broad range of meanings.
1) Ele fica em casa. <=>
She stays / remains at home.
2) Ele esta em casa. <=>
He is at home.
In this case the difference is the same as in Spanish between quedarse (ficar = to stay) and estar (estar = to be). In 1) the central assertion is that he or she doesn't want to go out. In this case someone stays at home as a result of a decision. There is no need to go there and ask her whether she wants do go to the cinema, because she doesn't want to go out. 2) is a neutral description of a state. He haven't taken any decision. He is at home accidentally. If someone calls in and asks him to go to the cinema, perhaps he will do it.
However if ficar can be translated as well with to be located, "Rio de Janeiro is in Brasil <=> "Rio de Janeiro is located in Brasil" it loses this original value. In this case ficar means to be located or to be.
1) Lisboa fica em Portugal. <=>
Lisbon is located in Portugal.
2) Lisboa esta em Portugal. <=>
Lisbon is in Portugal.
In this context we can't translate with to stay or to remain. To stay and to remain can only be used if there is an alternative. However as long as nobody has the intention to dismantle Lisbon and reconstruct it somewhere else, there are no alternatives.
There are four copulative verbs in Portuguese with a similar meaning, although in general they are not interchangeable. Copulative verbs are verbs like to be, to become, to get that assign a property to the subject of the sentence: He is / gets / become rich assign a property to the subject of the sentence. The Portuguese and Spanish system of the copulative verbs is a little bit sophisticated.
Estar is used to describe transitional psychical or physical states, ser is used if these states arer permanent and definitive and ficar is used to describe a shift from on state to another. There is a very big difference between "É louco" (He is mad and will remain mad) and "Esta louco" (He is mad, but not definitely). Fica louco doesn't describe a state, but a shift from one state to another.
1) Ele esta louco.
<=> He is mad. (temporarily)
2) Ele fica louco.
<=> He gets mad. (change)
3) Ele é louco.
<=> He is mad. (definitively)
1) is a simple description of a temporary, reversible state. 2) describes a definitive, irreversible change. 3) Just describes a definitive state.
The 4th verb copulative verb is tornar-se. Ficar describes a spontaneous, reversible change. Tornar-se describes a process that finally led to a certain result. Very often tornar-se is used if the subject made a lasting effort to obtain a certain result. This distinction is not made in English.
spontaneous process: He got mad.
long process: He got / became rich by working hard.
The difference between the sentences below is subtle. Tornou-se claro describes a long process. If for instance we have a chaotic situation and it took time to figure out what happened we can say "Tornou-se claro". If the clouds suddenly disappear and suddenly the sun comes out one can say "Ficou claro". In this case we don't describe actually the change, but the result of a change. This distinction is hard to translate to English and requires an adverbe or an adverbial.
1) Tornou-se claro.
<=> It became more and more clear.
2) Ficou claro.
<=> It became clear.
Portuguese native speakers would understand by 1) that the truth was discovered after a long investigation, whereas in 2) someone gave an explanation and everything was clear. In the sentence below a substitution of tornou-se by ficar does not only change the meaning of the sentence, but is simply wrong.
1) O filho do lavrador tornou-se médico.
<=> The son of the worker became a physician. .
2) not: O filho do lavrador ficou médico.
2) is grammatically wrong. The son of the worker did not become suddenly and by chance a physician. He made a long effort to achieve this goal.
Choose the correct options in the following sentences. Sometimes several option are possible. In this case the meaning of the sentences may differ depending on the verb used, but they are grammatically correct. Any option that is correct is alright, whatever the sentence mean. But if the sentence becomes grammatically incorrect, it is not possible. The English translation is just one possible option. Explain your choice. To see the answers click on the eye.