5. Conjugation of the verbs in present

A sentence always has a verb. Therefore we can't form any sentence without a verb and since we can't explain anything without illustrating it with examples, we must be able to conjugate the verbs, at least in present. We have to see that in English there is almost no conjugation at all, in other words, the verbform doesn't change: I go, you go, he / she / it goes, we go, they go. Only the third person singular have a special form, we add an s. This author doesn't know any other language where it works like that. Normally the verbform changes depending on the person, the tense and the mood.

In Portuguese we have three different typs of verbs. Those whose infinitive ends in -ar, those whose infinitive end in -er and those whose infinitive ends in -ir.

The forms of the 1,2,3 person singular and plural (I make, you make, he / she / it makes, you make, they make) are formed by leaving out the endings of the infinitive, -ar, -er, -ir and by adding to what is left the corresponding personal ending. However there is a simplification. The second person plural doesn't exist any more. You can still find this form in scientific grammar books, but this form is irrelevant todoay. Therefore you have only five forms and not six like in other languages.

Furthermore the second person singular, you bring / speak / buy etc., has disappeared in Brasilian Portuguese. In Brasilian portuguese we have therefore only four verbforms.

The whole picture looks like this.

personal pronounfalar ending to speakentenderending to understand partirending to leave
eu Ifalo-o speak entendo -o understandparto-o leave
tu 1 youfalas-as speakentendes-esunderstand partes-esleave
ele hefala-a speaksentende -e understands parte-e leaves
ela shefala-a speaksentende -e understands parte-e leaves
o senhor 2 you fala-a speakentende -eunderstand parte-eleave
a senhora 2 youfala-a speakentende -eunderstand parte-e leave
você 3 you fala-a speakentende -eunderstandn parte-eleave
nós wirfalamos-amos we speakentendemos -emos we understandpartimos -imos we leave
os senhores 4 youfalam-am speakentendem-emunderstand partem-emleave
as senhoras youfalam-am speakentendem-emunderstand partem-emleave
vocês youfalam-am speak entendem-emunderstand partem-emleave
eles theyfalam-am speak entendem-emunderstand partem-emleave
elas theyfalam-am speakentendem -emunderstand partem-emleave

1) The personal pronoun tu is not used in Brasil any more, if we refrain from Rio Grande do Sul, the state that limits with Uruguay and the north-east of Brasil, and has been replaced by você.

2) O senhor a senhora is used on both sides of the Atlantic in formal contexts if there is no intimacy or familiarity.

3) Você is something in beetween polite form, similar to the peninsular Spanish usted / ustedes, used when there is no familiarity at all and the peninsular Spanish tú, which is used between friends, relatives and so on. It seems that in Portugual the only way to avoid any kind of frictions is not to use it all, although the discussion is a little bit unclear. For friends, better known colleagues, relatives etc. tu is the best option and if there is no intimacy at all the best option is o senhor / a senhora. In Brasil você can be used everywhere.

We don't know who is the author of the following paragraph, because he doesn't introduce himself. However we suppose, since it is a blog that deals with linguistic problems, that the author is a sensitive speaker. Apart from that his or her assertion agrees with other statements on many other websites.

Você: este termo é considerado, pelo português europeu, uma forma de tratamento menos respeitosa, de nível mais popular. Situa-se entre o tu e o senhor. Por outro lado, em determinados ambientes (citadinos, classes mais altas), o uso de você é considerado elegante, sendo usado entre iguais, ou como forma de tratamento íntimo. Porém, nos estratos socioculturais mais populares de determinadas regiões, o pronome você ainda é usado de inferior para superior como sinal de respeito, de deferência. Pelo contrário, nos estratos mais cultos, este tratamento é entendido como muito deselegante e a sua utilização ofensiva. Já no que diz respeito ao português do Brasil, o você é de utilização corrente e familiar. Você: This notion is considered in European Portuguese a not very kind form of adressing someone, belonging more to colloquial speech. It is located between tu and o senhor. On the other side the use of você is considered in some social classes (in cities and upper class) elegant, used between persons of the same class or if there is a greater degree of intimacy. However in other most popular social-cultural classes of certain regions the pronoun você is used in a relationship de inferior to superior expressing respect and appreciation. But in the classes most educated it is considered very little elegant and its use offensive. Concerning the use in Brasil, você is the most common way to adress someone.
Registos formal e informal - Formas de tratamento

To resume all that: In brasilian Portuguese você is the standard, whether there is an intimacy / familiarity or not. There is therefore no difference between a situation of intimacy and more formal situations.

In European Portuguese the situation is more confusing. The best thing to do is to not use it all in Portugal. If there is intimacy, we can use tu, otherwise o senhor / a senhora. However this author assumes that given the dominant position of Brasil the Portuguese know very well that people who uses você doesn't have bad intentions. Furthermore he assumes that it is a global trend that people address each other with a form that was originally reserved for friends, relatives, good collegues etc.. Even in German the polite form is vanishing more and more.

Reading comments on the internet one can get the impression that in Portugual there are, as in any country, complicated people. Here, Tu, você ou senhor?, an English woman described her experience with Portuguese and describes between other things the somehow unclear use of você and vocês opening this way a real Pandora's box. That's a comment to the statement of the English woman.

Acho a palavra "você" horrível. Você quer café?? Porque não - O senhor quer café?- Ou - O Manuel quer café?- O Inglês é o Inglês, Português é Português e Português brasileiro é o que é. Parece-me que já chega de modernices e querer assassinar a nossa língua. Quanto ao tu, uso com quem tenho confiança suficiente para o fazer, os meus pais, os meus tios mais novos, irmãos, primos e amigos. Não me parece tenhamos que mudar o que quer que seja, aliás a mudar, sugiro que se anule o acordo ortográfico, que é uma aberração de todo o tamanho. I find the word "você" horrible. Você quer café? (Do you want a coffee?). Why not "O senhor quer café?" (Do you want a coffee?) or Manuel wants a coffee? English is English and Portuguese is Portuguese and brasilian Portuguese is what it is. I think there are enough mondernism and that our language will be destroyed. Concerning the tu (you) I use it if I am sufficiently familiar with someone to do that, with my parents, my younger uncles, my brothers and my friends. I don't think that we should change something, I propose to cancel the spelling reform, that is in any aspect a complete desaster. *

*She refers to the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement of 1990, where all the Portuguese speaking countries agree that the spelling follows the same standard and rules in any Portuguese speaking country.

This woman is obviously from the dispersed all over the world group of something-is-changing-and-this-is-the-end-of-the-world. However we can learn from this comment that in some regions and social classes the use of você and vocês is problematic and expressing a hierachical order. In this social classes and regions você / vocês don't express familiarity, but a hierarchical gap. The simplest way to avoid any kind of misunderstanding is not to use it in Portugal. In case of a closer relationship, the best pronoun is tu, in formal situation o senhor / a senhora. The situation in Brasil is very simple. Você corresponds to the English you and in English you is used in a formal and informal context.

In theory você can be used with the second or third person, but it is used with the 3rd person. (você fala and not você falas). The use with the second person form of the verb doesn't comply with the standard.

Os senhores, for men, as senhores, for women is used in a formal context. The question is how mixed groups, with both women and men, are to be addressed. There is a broad discussion on the internet about this issue and the author assumes that the answer given in the statement below leads to conflicts.

The question was about the right form of addressing in an email that is sent to a woman and a man.

Frage: Gostaria de saber qual é a construção adequada quando a mensagem é dirigida simultaneamente a um homem e a uma mulher. Neste caso, vale o tratamento "Prezados Senhores? Question: I would like to know the correct construction in the case that the message is directed to a man and a woman. Is "Prezados Senhores" (Dear Sir) correct in this case? ton
Antwort: Em português, o masculino é um gênero não marcado, o que significa que admite seres de ambos os sexos, enquanto o feminino é um gênero marcado, o que implica que abrange apenas seres do sexo feminino. Por isso, quando se diz "O homem é mortal", no vocábulo homem se incluem seres de ambos os sexos (ou alguém acha que a mulher vai ficar para semente?). Já quando se diz "A mulher teve grandes conquistas nas últimas décadas", está claro que o vocábulo quis abranger tão-somente seres do feminino. É por essa razão – e não por machismo multissecular – que, quando se juntam seres do masculino e do feminino, a resultante será o masculino plural: "Prezados Senhores", os ouvintes, os telespectadores, os candidatos. Answer: In Portuguese the gender masculinum is neutral, that means that it embraces both men and women, wheras the feminine is specific and embraces only female persons. Therefore if we say "All men are mortal", [the novel of Simone de Beauvoir] the word men embraces persons of both sex (or someone believes that women live eternally?) But is we say women obtained a lot in the last decades it is clear that the term refers only to female persons. For that reason, and not beause of centuries old machismo, we get to the result "Dear Sirs", hearer, spectators, candidates if persons of both sex are mixed up. ton

This analysis is obviously complete nonsense from a linguistic point of view and the example with the novel of Simone de Beauvoir is wrong. It is true that in roman languages and in English all human beings are men, and therefore the translation is "All men are mortal". In other languages, German for instance, the human beings are called Mensch and the male human beings Männer and the novel of Simone de Beauvoir is translated with Mensch. Estudante (student), biólogo (biologist), físico (physicist) etc. can be considered a generic, embracing both sex, although there are feminine forms bióloga, física etc.. However senhor, Sir, is not generic. If that were the case, we could address a group of women as well with "O senhores", what is definitely not possible. Not generic as well is Gentlemen. If someone starts a speech with "Gentlemen" only instead of "Ladies and Gentlemen" it is to suppose that he will run into problems, if there are women in the audience. It is indeed true that some nouns doesn't distinguish between female and male, or the distinction is only made by the article, os estudantes / as estudantes, the students. If there is no male / female form, we can say that it is generic, and both sex are embraced, although there is a tendency to address students with "os estudantes, as estudantes" in other words to name explicetely both sexes. This is still more true, if there is a female and male form, as in German for instance "Studentinnen und Studenten". In English however it is simple. If there are no female and male form, the noun is generic, refers to both sexes. (For the simple fact that there is no way to address only women or only men.) In the case mentioned in the paragraph the situation is simple, we have to address both, "Prezada Senhora, prezado Senhor". Problems can always be avoided by addressing both sexes in the case that this is possible.

In some grammar books you will find a personal pronoun for the second person plural and the verbform in the second person plural as well (vós falais = you speak, vós comeis = you eat, vós partis = you leave). Neither the personal pronoun second person plural nor the verbform second person plural is used nowadays. (It exists in Spanish, although it had been abolished in some areas of South America, in Bolivia and Costa Rica for instance.Perhaps for the same reason it disappered in Portuguese.) Vós falais has become Vocês falam in present and the other verb tenses follows the same logic: Vocês + respective verbal tense in 3rd person plural.

If there is no intimacy and a group of peoples is to be addressed it is os senhores / as senhoras with the 3rd person plural on both sides of the atlantic. However it is useful to know passively, when reading a text, these forms because they show up in literature. It is therefore useful to know what vós falais is.

The table above can be reduced therefore to this.

personal pronoun comprar (to buy) vender (to sell) cumprir (to accomplish)
eu comprovendocumpro
tu comprasvendescumpres
ele / ela / o senhor / a senhora / vocêcompravendecumpre
eles / elas / os senhores / as senhoras / vocêscompram vendemcumprem

Those who speak Spanish have to learn nothing. Apart from the 3rd person plural the endings are the same. Instead of an n there is an m in Portuguese. (However, obviously, the pronunciation differes from Spanish.)

In all languages of the world the most important verbs are irregular and in any language the most important verb is completely irregular. To be in English is I am, you, are, he / she / is, we are, you are, they are. There is no steem at all and nothing that resembles to the infinitive of this verb. Common sense would suggest the opposite, that everybody knows how a frequent verb is conjugated and that it doesn't change. Unfortunately the opposite is true. Below a list of very frequent words.

Você, o senhor / a senhora has the same verbform as ele / ela and vocês, os senhores / as senhoras the same verbform as eles / elas.

In case of the verb ser, to be, there is nothing left from the steem.

personal pronouns ser to be* querer to want ir to go saber to know ver to see vir to come ter to have poder can estar to be*
eu souquerovou seivejovenhotenhopossoestou
tu ésqueresvais sabesvêsvenstenspodesestas
ele / elaéquervaisabevem tem podeesta
nóssomosqueremosvamossabemos vemosvimostemospodemosestamos
eles / elassão queremvão sabemvêemvêmtêm podemestão

In Portuguese there are two verbs corresponding to the english verb to be, ser and estar. Ser is used to describe an inherent property, "She is a girl", estar is used to describe a transitional state, "She is angry".

That allows us to form our first simple sentences.

Eu falo português.
I speak portuguese.
Eu sou alemão.
I am German. (masculine, singular)
Eu sou alemã.
I am German. (feminine, singular)
Eles vêm amanhã.
They come tomorrow.
Elas sabem ler.
They can read.
A cadeira é azul.
The chair is blue.
As crianças têm fome.
The children are hungry. (~The children have hunger.)
Você sabe bailar.
You can dance.
Ela fala muitas linguas.
She speaks many languages.
Vocês consertam o carro.
They repare the car.

Since we know already that the direct object is not marked in Portuguese, the indirect object is marked with the preposition a and the genitiv with the preposition de and the negation is not very complicated, we can even form more complex sentences. The personal pronoun I, you, he / she / it etc. can be left out in Portuguese. In front of possessive pronouns can stand an article, see

The reflexive pronoun se can be an indefinite pronoun. (One never knows, what he wants.) We use se, if the author of the action described by the verb is unknown or irrelevant. We will study this issue later, see 17.1.

Eles não têm dinheiro.
They not have money.
They don't have money.
Não compramos um carro.
Not buy a car.
We don't buy a car.
Dou o livro ao menino.
Give the book to the boy.
I give the boy the book. (I give the book to the boy.)
A porta da casa é vermelha.
The door of the house is red.
The door of the house is red.
A menina vai à (= a +a) escola.
The girl goes to the school.
The girl goes to school.

As crianças brincam no jardim.
The children play in the garden.
É o carro do meu pai.
Is the car of the my father.
It is my fathers car.

A sua mãe é muito linda.
The his mother is very beautiful.
His mother is very beautiful.
Nos (em + os) países desenvolvidos se vive bem.
In the countries developped one lives well.
In developped countries one lives well.

Quero um café com leite.
Want a coffee with milk.
I want a coffee with milk.
Preciso estudar mais para passar no (em +o) exame.
Need to study more for pass in the exam.
In order to pass the exam I have to study more.

Poucos alemães falam o português.
Few Germans speak the Portuguese.
Few Germans speak Portuguese.
Gosto de ouvir musica.
Like of hear music.
I like hearing music.
Não gosto de acordar cedo.
No like of get up early.
I don't like to get up early.

In general the presente do indicativo Portuguese is used in the same context as the english present tense.

- general assertions: The earth revolves around the sun. <=> A terra gira ao redor do Sol.
- actions that are true at the moment of speaking: He smokes too much. <=> Fuma demais.
- description that are true at the moment of speaking: The problem is unsolvable. <=> O problema é sem solução.

However this author would say that there is a difference between the English present and the Portuguese presente do indicativo, we will discuss this issue in 18.1.2. It is true that in both languages the present competes with the present continuous.

1) I drink coffee every morning.
2) I'm drinking too much coffee these days because I'm so busy at work.

In 1) we have a general assertion. He doesn't do that at a certain moment, but always. In 2) he does it in a certain moment. There is a strong preference for the continuous form in English in this context, possibly it is even compulsory. In roman languages the use of the continuous form, formed with estar + a + infinitivo (Portughal) or estar + gerundio (Brasil) is not compulsory in this context.

In Roman languages the use of to be + gerund or a corresponding construction is only compulsory if the fact, that the action is performed in a concrete moment is the main assertion of the sentence. It doesn't happen very often, that the use of a construction corresponding to to be + gerund is really compulsory in Roman languages. That explains as well that English native speakers make an excessive use of the construction estar + a + infinitivo or estar + gerundion. (Not only in Portuguese, but in Spanish and Italian as well.) Below some examples where this construction, or a similar one, is compulsory even in Roman languages. (In German something similar doesn't exist. In the case that an action has to be described as ongoing an adverb is needed.)

Hör mir jetzt zu! Ich rede mit dir!
In German the simple present is used and there is no alternative verbal form.
Listen to me! I am speaking to you!
not: I speak to you.
Escúchame! Te estoy hablando!
not: Te hablo.
Écoute-moi! Je suis en train de te parler!
not: Je te parle.

Ascoltami! Ti sto parlando!
not: Ti parlo.

Esculta-me! Estou-te falando.
not: Falo-te.

The differences become more evident, if we talk about the tenses of the past. Roman languages have a time that is reserved for ongoing actions, actions that are interrupted by another action. Therefore the cases where the to be + gerund, "I was sleeping, when the robbers entered the house", is necessary are rare.

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