Info and tips on Portuguese verb conjugation


Portuguese conjugation pitfalls

Most of the Portuguese verbs have one of the three endings: -er, -ar or -ir and follow conjugation rules specific to each group of verbs. To conjugate a regular verb in Portuguese, you have to add to the verb root different terminations upon the person, mood, tense. There are also irregular verbs in Portuguese, like "dar", "fazer", "ir", which modify even their root, during conjugation.

Besides the irregular verbs, a Portuguese learner may find it difficult to understand the differences in verbs conjugation between Portugal and Brazil, plus other particularities of the Portuguese verbs:

Several alternatives for the 3rd person pronouns

Depending on the region and register of speech, Portuguese has developed several alternatives for indicating the 3rd person, singular and plural, besides the forms including personal pronouns.

  • When being very polite and formal, you may use "a senhora/o senhor; as senhoras/os senhores" instead of "vôce/vôces".
  • When you want to use a generic 3rd person (translated in English by “one” or “you” or “we”), you can use "a gente" or in a more colloquial Portuguese, "uma pessoa", "um gajo", "um individuo".
    • e.g. A gente sabe como resolver o problema

Personal infinitive

If in most of the languages the infinitive is a one-form mode, in Portuguese, the infinitive can be personal or impersonal. The impersonal infinitive is the base form of the verb, like in any other language. The personal infinitive is often used after prepositions like “ao” or “para” to indicate more clearly to whom the action expressed by the verb refers.

  • Ao ouvir isso, eles ficaram felizes
  • Ao ouvirem isso, eles ficaram felizes

“Ser” and “estar”

Both verbs mean “to be,” but each of them is used in particular conditions and they are rarely interchangeable. Choosing between “ser” and “estar” can be confusing for learners speaking a mother tongue where there is no such differentiation.


indicates a state, situation or condition which is permanent or unlikely to change in the long-term (like nationality, profession, behavior)

  • Sou Americano
  • A Torre Eiffel é em Paris


indicates a temporary state, situation or condition (mood, health situation, sensations, location, etc).

  • Estou muito cansado
  • Ele está em casa

The multitude of auxiliary verbs

The Portuguese language uses many nuances to show the progress of an action or how it occurred and that's why many verbs serve as auxiliaries.

Portuguese auxiliary verbs can be split into 3 categories:

  • Main auxiliaries – ter, haver and ser. Ter and haver are used to form the compound tenses forms. “Ser” is specific to the passive voice.
    • Eu tenho dormido OR Eu hei dormido
    • Ele foi visto na rua
  • Auxiliaries used to indicate the progress of an action: começar, andar, ir, vir, continuar; tornar, voltar, costumar, acabar, deixar. They are used with a verb conjugated in gerund or infinitive:
    • Acabei de escrever o trabalho de casa. - I just finished writing my homework
    • Deixou de chorar – He/She stopped crying
    • Ele anda organizando a gala - He is organizing the gala
  • Auxiliaries used to indicate more precisely aspects related to how an action occurs, like whether it is or not mandatory desired, intended, possible: dever, poder, querer, conseguir, pretender, tentar, chegar. They are also used together with the gerund or the infinitive.
    • Não consegue entender
    • Eles querem aprender inglês