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The Portuguese Conjugation Guide for Beginners

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Learning about verbs is a crucial step when studying another language. They open up so many possibilities!

With verbs, you can tell stories, understand what’s on the news today, give and follow orders, and imagine the future. Pretty much every interaction needs verbs. But just knowing the verbs by themselves doesn’t do the job. We need to modify them a bit so they can express things like time, the number of people performing an action, and mood. 

That means it’s time to explore the ins and outs of Portuguese conjugation. 

The all-important topic of conjugation is like the spice that brings out the flavors of the Portuguese language. By learning it, you’ll be able to talk about things that have happened, things that could happen, things that will definitely happen, things that are happening…you get the idea. 

group of friends chatting over drinks

Conjugation allows you to tell amazing stories!

Portuguese verb conjugation is a vast world of rules and exceptions. Take it slow and, most importantly, practice a lot. Read, listen to native speakers in conversations, and talk whenever possible. That’s how you’ll really come to understand Portuguese conjugation. 

In this article, we’ll examine how verbs are modified depending on person, number, mood, tense, and voice. It’s a long list, but there are some conjugations that are much more widely used than others, so don’t worry!

Have you noticed that we just mentioned verbs so far? Don’t let this fool you: adjectives and adverbs also have to be modified depending on the word they relate to. This is called agreement. This happens when adjectives and adverbs are changed in order to agree in number (singular or plural) and gender (feminine or masculine). We won’t dive too deep into the nitty-gritty of that, but this article will cover a few examples.

Ready to get familiar with some new rules? Let’s make this ride as enjoyable as possible, with some handy Portuguese conjugation tables for you to study. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand how our rebel irregular verbs and friendly regular verbs behave. In addition, you’ll get plenty of practice and exposure with examples and a Portuguese conjugation quiz to test yourself.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Portuguese Table of Contents
  1. The Three Verb Ending Groups
  2. What Affects Conjugation
  3. Conjugation Charts
  4. Putting Conjugation to the Test
  5. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

1. The Three Verb Ending Groups

Top verbs

If you read our article on the 100 most common Portuguese verbs, you’re already familiar with the verb endings. As a refresher, there are three main Portuguese verb groups:

  • Verbs ending in -AR
  • Verbs ending in -ER
  • Verbs ending in -IR

Knowing these verb endings and how they conjugate is useful, because pretty much all regular verbs within each group behave in the same way. The stem of the verb remains the same, and the endings all do their thing—following the same pattern! 

This means you can learn by heart one verb from each group, and that will serve as a guide on how to conjugate every other regular verb in Portuguese.

2. What Affects Conjugation

More essential verbs

As we said before, verbs can change depending on several factors, like person, number, mood, tense, and voice. In order to keep everything under control, let’s break it down. Shall we?

1 – Person and Number

In Portuguese conjugation, verbs change for each person in the sentence. We can divide the persons into two groups based on the number, which is either singular or plural. 

The table below shows all of the existing persons in Portuguese.

1st person singularEu“I”
2nd person singularTu“You”
3rd person singularVocê / Ele / Ela“You” / “He” / “She”
1st person pluralNós“We”
2nd person pluralVós“You”
3rd person pluralVocês / Eles / Elas“You” (plural) / “They” (m.) / “They” (f.)

Although there are six persons to learn, in Brazilian Portuguese you only need to focus on four: 

  • Eu (“I”)
  • Você / Ele / Ela (“You” and “He/She,” which conjugate in the same way)
  • Nós (“We”)
  • Vocês / Eles / Elas (“You” in the plural, “they” masculine, “they” feminine)

You might have noticed that você and vocês are both second person pronouns, as they translate to “you” (singular and plural, respectively). However, they use the third person conjugation. For this reason, in this article, você is grouped with ele/ela. Similarly, vocês is grouped with eles/elas.

Regional Differences
Tu is also used in some parts of Brazil. In some places, it’s used with the “correct” conjugation, while in others, tu is conjugated as a third person singular pronoun (as você). For this reason, we suggest that you learn how to recognize it, but don’t worry too much about using it. Você will be understood regardless of the region of Brazil you’re in.
In Portugal, however, tu is widely used in informal situations, while você is formal but very rarely used.

2 – Mood

Another thing you need to know: Portuguese verbs are moody. What we mean is that verbs are divided into moods (also called modes). According to Portuguese verb conjugation rules, the verbs can be conjugated in each of the different modes, and hence, convey a different mood. The existing modes are:

  • The Indicative mode, which indicates a fact. 

Example: Eu comi. (“I ate.”) 

  • The Subjunctive mode, which expresses a possible action, a wish, or something that we’re not sure about. It always needs an adverb, another verb, or other particles that help make sense of it. 

Example: Talvez eu coma. (“Maybe I will eat.”)

Example: Fale com ele. (“[You] talk to him.”) 

  • The Conditional mode, which indicates what one could, would, or should do. Some grammar books classify the conditional as part of the indicative mode. 

Example: Eu falaria com ele. (“I would talk to him.”)

3 – Tenses

Tenses refer to the moment in time when the action conveyed by the verbs occur. Each of the modes we saw above has different tenses. 

In Portuguese, some tenses are simple and some are compound. Compound tenses use another verb, called an auxiliary, alongside the main verb. 

There are a lot of tenses to learn—and they often are nightmare topics for Brazilian children in school. But there is some good news! In day-to-day life, you’ll probably stick to just a handful of them. Another piece of good news is that there’s often more than one way to say what you want. That means you can use the tenses that you’re more comfortable with. 

For example, to talk about the future in the indicative mode, you can use the simple future or the compound future. The compound is much more common and, in our opinion, easier to learn. 

  • Simple future: Comeremos cedo hoje. (“We will eat early today.”)
  • Compound future: Nós vamos comer cedo hoje. (“We are going to eat early today.”)

The verb ir is the auxiliary verb in the compound future tense. It’s a verb that you will inevitably learn to conjugate, since it’s so commonly used. Then, by using the compound future form, you don’t have to learn the individual future conjugation for each action verb. Instead, pair the conjugated auxiliary verb with the infinitive form of the main verb. 

The same applies to the pluperfect tense. The compound pluperfect is formed with the auxiliary verb ter (“to have”), and you can use it instead of the simple pluperfect. The compound pluperfect is much more common than the simple form, which is extremely rare in Brazilian Portuguese.

  • Simple pluperfect: Ela vendera o carro. (“She had sold the car.”)
  • Compound pluperfect: Ela tinha vendido o carro. (“She had sold the car.”)

Here are all the basic tenses and moods:

IndicativePresente (“Simple Present”)
Pretérito Perfeito (“Simple Past”)
Pretérito Imperfeito (“Past Imperfect”)
Pretérito Mais-que-perfeito (“Past Pluperfect”)
Futuro do Presente (“Simple Future”)
Conditional
SubjunctivePresente (“Present Subjunctive”)
Pretérito Imperfeito (“Imperfect Subjunctive”)
Futuro (“Future Subjunctive”)
Imperative

In addition to the tenses above, we have some other verb forms that you should be familiar with:

  • The infinitive is the most basic form of a verb, without any conjugation. You might see it coupled with auxiliary verbs. 

Example: Eu vou dançar muito! (“I will dance a lot!”)

  • The past participle is a verb form that can be used with auxiliary verbs to form compound past tenses.

Example: ver → visto (“to see” → “seen”)

Você tem visto seu irmão? (“Have you seen your brother?”)

  • The gerund form, which is very common in Brazil, is the equivalent of the “-ing” ending in English.

Example: estudar → estudando (“to study” → “studying”)

Elas estão estudando inglês. (“They are studying English.”) [f.]

4 – Voices

Finally, conjugation in Portuguese also depends on the two voices that exist in Portuguese: active and passive. 

Use the active voice conjugation when the subject performs the action.

  • Ana serviu o jantar. (“Ana served dinner.”)

Use the passive voice conjugation when the action happens to the subject. In this case, we use the past participle.

  • O jantar foi servido pela Ana. (“Dinner was served by Ana.”)
woman giving a toast

A noiva fez um brinde. (“The bride made a toast.”)

3. Conjugation Charts

Take a deep breath, the theoretical part is behind us. Now, let’s make everything a bit more clear by looking at the actual conjugation and real-life examples. 

In this section, we’ll see the Portuguese verb conjugation for all of the simple tenses of the indicative and subjunctive, as well as for the imperative and conditional forms. By becoming familiar with the simple conjugations now, you’ll be able to conjugate the compound forms later on.

Also, remember what we said earlier: not all tenses and persons are as common in Brazilian Portuguese. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Don’t worry too much about the conjugations for tu and vós.
  • Same applies to the pluperfect tense. 
  • The future tense can also be overlooked for now, if you prefer using the compound future tense.

Be aware that they exist, but you probably won’t need them in daily interactions!

To ease our way into the examples, we’ll begin with the regular verbs. Remember the main idea behind conjugating regular verbs: the stem remains the same, and the ending will be modified. Then, use the following examples to spot the repeating patterns.

1- AR verbs

The first verbal group includes verbs such as:

  • Cantar (“To sing”)
  • Falar (“To talk,” “To say”)
  • Andar (“To walk”)
  • Deitar (“To lay”)
  • Amar (“To love”)
  • Gostar (“To like”)

Falar (“To talk”)

EuTuVocê / Ele / ElaNósVósVocês / Eles / Elas
IndicativePresentfalofalasfalafalamosfalaisfalam
Simple Pastfaleifalastefaloufalamosfalastesfalaram
Imperfectfalavafalavasfalavafalávamosaláveisfalavam
Pluperfectfalarafalarasfalarafaláramosfaláreisfalaram
Futurefalareifalarásfalaráfalaremosfalareisfalarão
Conditionalfalariafalariasfalariafalaríamosfalaríeisfalariam
SubjunctivePresentfalefalesfalefalemosfaleisfalem
Imperfectfalassefalassesfalassefalássemosfalásseisfalassem
Futurefalarfalaresfalarfalarmosfalardesfalarem
Imperativefalafalefalemosfalaifalem
Past participlefalado
Gerundfalando

Examples:

  • Nós cantamos em uma banda de MPB. 

“We sing in a Popular Brazilian Music band.”

  • Os professores falaram que não podemos mudar o dia da aula. 

“The teachers said we couldn’t change the class day.”

  • Espero que minha namorada ame este presente. 

“I hope my girlfriend loves this gift.”

  • Seus primos acordariam muito tarde sem o despertador. 

“Your cousins would wake up very late without the alarm clock.”

  • Se eu andasse até o trabalho todos os dias, estaria em forma. 

“If I walked to work every day, I’d be in shape.”

  • As novas vizinhas estão gostando muito do bairro. 

“The new neighbors are liking the neighborhood a lot.”

Notice the way the adjective novo (“new”) has been modified in the last example. In order to agree with the noun vizinhas, which is plural and feminine, the adjective has to be plural and feminine as well. 
This vocabulary list is a great resource if you want to refresh your memory and practice how to pronounce the most common Portuguese adjectives.

2- ER verbs

The second Portuguese verbal group includes verbs like:

  • Beber (“To drink”)
  • Comer (“To eat”)
  • Viver (“To live”)
  • Correr (“To run”)
  • Escrever (“To write”)
  • Aprender (“To learn”)

Comer (“To eat”)

Examples:

  • Eu comeria todo este bolo delicioso, mas tenho que dividir. 

“I would eat all of this delicious cake, but I have to share it.”

  • Se eles bebessem mais água, não teríam este problema. 

“If they drank more water, they wouldn’t have this problem.” 

[In this case, “they” is in the masculine form.]

  • Corra para não perder o ônibus! 

“Run so you don’t miss the bus!”

  • Nós vamos escrever um livro juntos. / Nós escreveremos um livro juntos. 

“We are going to write a book together.”

  • Você aprendia inglês na escola? 

“Did you use to learn English in school?”

  • Quando ela viver sozinha, vai ver como é difícil! 

“When she lives by herself, she will see how hard it is!”

3- IR verbs

A few verbs in the third and final Portuguese verbal group are:

  • Partir (“To leave,” “To break”)
  • Abrir (“To open”)
  • Dormir (“To sleep”)
  • Assistir (“To watch”)
  • Decidir (“To decide”)
  • Confundir (“To confuse”)

Abrir (“To open”)

The past participle for this verb is irregular. If we take a couple of other examples from the third group, we can see how it differs:
Dormir → dormido (“Sleep” → “slept”)Partir → partido (“Break” → “broken”)Decidir → decidido (“Decide” → “decided”)

Here are some examples of sentences using the third group verbs:

  • Abram os presente pequenos primeiro! 

“Open the small gifts first!”

  • O bebê dormia muito pouco. 

“The baby slept too little.”

  • Vamos assistir esta série hoje. / Assistiremos esta série hoje. 

“We are going to watch this TV show today.”

  • Quando eles decidirem, vão nos ligar. 

“When they decide, they will call us.”

[masculine]

  • Se eu confundisse os nomes, perdia pontos no jogo. 

“If I confused the names, I lost points in the game.”

two old ladies celebrating a birthday together

Minhas avós comemoraram juntas. (“My grandmothers celebrated together.”)

4 – The Most Important Irregular Verbs

As much as we love the regular verbs, we have to devote some time to learning the irregular ones. They are everywhere in Portuguese—and they’re also very useful! 

Here are Portuguese conjugation charts for the four most important irregular verbs, which also act as auxiliary verbs: ser, estar, ir, and ter.

Ser (“To be,” permanent)

Ser is an auxiliary verb when a sentence is in the passive voice, as you can see in the last example.

Examples:

  • Eu serei a pessoa mais velha na festa. / Eu vou ser a pessoa mais velha na festa. 

“I will be the oldest person at the party.”

  • Vocês são engraçados! 

“You are funny!”

  • Sua mãe sempre foi a melhor professora. 

“Your mom was always the best teacher.”

  • Já sabe, se for no Brasil, me avisa. 

“You know already, if you go to Brazil, tell me.”

  • Mesmo que eles fossem mais rápidos, não chegariam a tempo. 

“Even if they were faster, they wouldn’t arrive in time.”

[“they” is masculine]

  • O ator foi reconhecido no supermercado. 

“The actor was recognized in the supermarket.”

Estar (“To be,” impermanent)

Estar is an auxiliary verb in all of the continuous tenses. In other words, when you want to say you “were doing” or “are doing” something, use estar as the auxiliary verb alongside the main verb.

Examples:

  • O policial estava dirigindo muito devagar

“The police officer was driving too slow.”

  • Meus pais estiveram aqui ontem. 

“My parents were here yesterday.”

  • Eu estaria na praia, se pudesse. 

“I would be at the beach, if I could.”

  • Espero que elas estejam em casa. 

“I hope they are home.”

[feminine]

  • Quando o médico estiver pronto, vai chamar vocês. 

“When the doctor is ready, he will call you all.”

Ir (“To go”)

As we mentioned before, ir is an auxiliary verb in the future tense, in the widely used compound future tense.

Examples:

  • Os convidados vão chegar mais cedo. 

“The guests will arrive earlier.”

  • Eu já vou! 

“I’m going!”

  • Talvez ele vá na viagem. 

“Maybe he will go on the trip.”

  • Elas foram para o Rio de Janeiro de férias? 

“They went to Rio de Janeiro for their vacation?”

[“they” is feminine]

  • Vamos logo, antes que chova! 

“Let’s go, before it rains!”

  • É verdade que ele ia pedir demissão? 

“Is it true that he was going to resign?”

Ter (“To have”)

Ter is used to form the perfect tenses. Take a look at the following sentences, as the last ones show some examples of ter as an auxiliary verb.

Examples:

  • Nós tivemos uma boa chance de ganhar. 

“We had a good chance of winning.”

  • Quando ela tiver uma bicicleta, vai se exercitar. 

“When she has a bike, she will exercise.”

  • Tenha paciência, criança! 

“Have patience, child!”

  • Se tivesse sobremesa, eles teriam comido mais. 

“If there was dessert, they would have eaten more.”

[“they” is masculine]

  • Eu tenho tido sorte nas minhas viagens. 

“I have had luck in my travels.”

  • Você tem dormido cedo? 

“Have you been sleeping early?”

a kitten mewling loudly

Nós temos um gatinho fofo. (“We have a cute kitten.”)

Good job! Now you’re familiar with the conjugation for regular verbs, as well as the most important irregular Portuguese verbs. You can put yourself to the test and try to conjugate the verbs in this vocabulary list. As a bonus, you’ll be able to practice their pronunciation!

4. Putting Conjugation to the Test

To keep you on your toes, it’s time to practice with this quick Portuguese verb conjugation quiz. 

Complete the sentence by filling in the gap with the correct conjugation of the verb (shown between parentheses). Afterwards, scroll down for the correct answers and an explanation. Try to fill it in before checking the answers!

  1. Minha filha (adorar) _____________ conhecer vocês.

(“My daughter would love to meet you.”) 

  1. Todos os dias, nós (beber) ______________ um copo de suco de laranja.

(“Everyday, we drink a glass of orange juice.”)

  1. Eles (sair) ______________ de casa quando o telefone tocou.

(“They were leaving the house when the telephone rang.”

[where “they” is masculine]

  1. A casa deve estar limpa quando sua avó (chegar) _____________.

(“The house must be clean when your grandmother arrives.”)

  1. Ele (ser) _____________ a estrela do show.

(“He was the star of the show.”)

Did you write your answers down? Let’s see what the correct conjugations are and why.

1. Minha filha adoraria conhecer vocês. (“My daughter would love to meet you.”) 

Since we’re talking about something that the daughter would love, it’s a possibility. Therefore, we use the conditional
Adorar is a regular verb of the -AR group, so we have to conjugate it in the same way as the verb falar (“to talk”). Another thing to note is that “my daughter” is a third person singular subject. You can see the entire conjugation for the verb adorar, but since it’s a regular verb, you can just substitute the stem of the verb:

Falariaadoraria

2. Todos os dias, nós bebemos um copo de suco de laranja. (“Everyday, we drink a glass of orange juice.”)

In this case, the action happens everyday. Hence, the verb should be in the present tense of the indicative. 

Beber is a regular verb of the second conjugation, and the person in the sentence is nós, the first person of the plural. Once again, you can use the same pattern from the conjugation of the verb comer (“to eat”), and just change the stem.

Comemos bebemos

3. Eles saíam de casa quando o telefone tocou. / Eles estavam saindo de casa quando o telefone tocou. (“They were leaving the house when the telephone rang.”) [masculine]

This is an interesting sentence because there are two ways you could say it. The fact is, the action of leaving the house was happening in the past when it was interrupted. 

In the first answer, we used the past imperfect tense, and the verb is conjugated in the third person plural. Sair is an irregular verb, but its conjugation is fairly similar to that of the -IR group. For effects of comparison, see how the regular verb abrir (“to open”) is conjugated for the same tense and person: 

Abriam saíam 

The second answer uses the past continuous tense, with the auxiliary verb estar (“to be”) and the gerund form of the main verb (sair). It conveys the idea that something was happening when another action occurred. Again, you can compare the gerund form below.

Abrindosaindo

You can listen to this lesson on PortuguesePod101.com for more examples on how to use the past imperfect tense.

4. A casa deve estar limpa quando sua avó chegar. (“The house must be clean when your grandmother arrives.”)

The verb chegar has to be conjugated in the future of the subjunctive, since it implies an action that will happen, but we’re not quite sure when. The presence of the adverb quando (“when”) serves as an indication that the subjunctive mood is used. 

Then, conjugate the verb in the third person singular, exactly as we did with the verb falar.

Falarchegar

5. Ele foi a estrela do show. / Ele era a estrela do show. (“He was the star of the show.”)

This is a tricky one! Depending on the context, the answer changes a bit.

If the show was a one-time event that is already over, we use the simple past tense. In this case, the verb refers to an action that already happened and is done with. 

  • Ele foi a estrela do show.  

“He was the star of the show.”

Now, if the action happened over an indefinite period of time (e.g. during this person’s whole adulthood), we use the imperfect past tense. Let’s say, for example, that the show was running for years, and the subject of the sentence was continuously the star of the show. In this case: 

  • Ele era a estrela do show. 

“He was the star of the show.”

If you want to dive a little bit deeper into the differences between foi and era, there’s a very interesting discussion here.

someone writing in a journal

Vamos continuar a praticar! (“Let’s continue to practice!”)

5. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

Hopefully this guide provided the information you need to understand Portuguese conjugation and progress even further in your language-learning journey. Don’t forget to come back to this article, or the article about the 100 most common Portuguese verbs, whenever you need to practice. 

Ready to go out into the world and put all you learned into practice? Did the examples help you grasp the different ways to use the verbs? If we missed any aspect of Portuguese verb conjugation, tell us in the comments. 

Now, don’t stop learning! There are more free Portuguese resources and a variety of vocabulary lists available on PortuguesePod101.com. Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.
If you want to take your learning experience further, members of PortuguesePod101.com get access to the largest language lesson library in the world, with thousands of real lessons by real teachers. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn from anywhere, feel motivated, and be ready to speak Portuguese with confidence. And in the meantime, continue exploring PortuguesePod101!

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