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Basic Portuguese Verbs Any Beginner Should Learn

By Edited May 29, 2015 1 0
Learn Brazilian Portuguese
Credit: mjpyro

Learning a foreign language is not easy once you reach adulthood, but there are methods you can use to make the learning process a little easier.

When it comes to the Portuguese language, I would say it is one of the more difficult languages for English speakers to learn because it is very verb centric. There are entire books on nothing but verbs in the Portuguese language. And with each verb comes different verb endings depending on the pronoun being used such as you, I, he, she, we or they. 

There are three basic types of verb endings: -ar, -er, -ir

What that means is the majority of all verbs in the language end in one of those three ways. And this is critical because it provides an excellent starting point to get your mind around verb basics.

If you can learn how to conjugate just one –ar verb, one –er verb and one –ir, you will know how to conjugate 90% of all of the verbs in the entire language just by following those models. 

However, there are twists and turns which I will talk about later. You did not think it was going to be that easy right, or “Né? “ as Brazilians would say.

Verbs Ending in -ar

With verbs ending in –ar, take the verb and drop the -ar off the ending. Then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu, drop the -ar and add -0 in its place
  • For você, drop the -ar and add -a
  • For ele/ela, drop the -ar and add -am
  • For nós, drop the -ar and add -amos
  • For eles/elas, drop the -ar and add -am

You probably notice that the end for he/she and they is the same. Well, that is just one less thing to remember, right? Let us begin with a simple –ar verb and conjugate that through in the present tense so you can see this in action.

Morar – to live

Pronoun

Present Tense

 eu (I)

 moro

você (You)

 mora

 ele/ela (he/she)

 moram

nós

moramos

eles/elas (they)

moram

Simple. Well, that is just one verb type and one verb tense. There is still the present, the future and about 20 other forms of verb endings for -ar verbs. I will confess though, I only memorized the major tenses and just wing it on the rest. As long as you get close, Brazilians will understand you.

Next up, -er verbs.

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Verbs Ending in -er

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Verbs ending in -er are conjugated in the same manner. First, take the verb and drop the -er off the ending. Then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu, drop the -er and add -0 in its place
  • For você, drop the -er and add -e
  • For ele/ela, drop the -er and add -e
  • For nós, drop the -er and add -emos in its place
  • For eles/elas, drop the -er and add -em

Now let us conjugate one of my favorite -er verbs through in the present tense so you can see this in action.

Comer - to eat

Pronoun

Present Tense

 eu (I)

como

você (You)

 come

 ele/ela (he/she)

 come

nós

comemos

eles/elas (they)

comem

Again, that is just one verb tense of comer. Also, you probably noticed that the ending for you and he/she is the same. In that instance, you could not simply say "come" without there being some question about whether you were talking about you or he/she. You would have to put você or ele/ela in front of that so the listener to fully understand the context.

With other conjugations such as "I eat" or "eu como" you could simply say "como" within context in a conversation and the listener would automatically know you are saying "I eat" without you saying "I" or "eu" in front of it. That is an important point to remember. It took me years to finally get that. For instance, I would ask some where they lived, and they would reply "moro em Rio de Janeiro". Since moro is the conjugated form for "I" that is what they are saying without saying "I" in front of it. If you are trying to learn Portuguese and you take nothing else from this lesson, remember that important point.

Next up, -ir verbs.

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Verbs Ending in -ir

Verbs ending in -ir are conjugated in the same manner. First, take the verb and drop the -ir off the ending. Then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu, drop the -ir and add -0 in its place
  • For você , drop the -ir and add -e
  • For ele/ela, drop the -ir and add -e
  • For nós, drop the -ir and add -imos
  • For eles/elas, drop the -ir and add -em

 Abrir - to open

Pronoun

Present Tense

 eu (I)

abro

você (You)

 abre

 ele/ela (he/she)

 abre

nós

abrimos

eles/elas (they)

abrem

Again, you probably noticed some similarities with the previous two verb types and that the ending for you and he/she is the same.  See, it is not so hard.

Past Tense of Verbs Ending in -ar

For verbs ending in –ar, drop the 'ar', then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu , drop the -ar and add -ei in its place
  • For você , drop the -ar and add -ou
  • For ele/ela, drop the -ar and add -ou
  • For nós, drop the -ar and add -amos
  • For eles/elas, drop the -ar and add -amam

Notice that the ending for ‘you’ and ‘he/she’ in the past tense is the same. Also, if you remember, the present tense of –ar verbs for the pronoun ‘we’ is also -amos so nothing changed there from present to past. That is one less thing to remember. As we go through these verbs, you will find that there are similarities in the conjugations so it can seem overwhelming at first, but after the initial panic, you will see patterns.

Now let’s conjugate our –ar verb from the previous lesson in the past tense.

Morar – to live

Pronoun

Past Tense

 eu (I)

 morei

você (You)

 morou

 ele/ela (he/she)

 morou

nós

moramos

eles/elas (they)

moramam

Next up, we will look at -er verbs in the past tense.

Past Tense of Verbs Ending in -er

Verbs ending in -er are conjugated in the same manner but with a different ending. First, take the verb and drop the 'er', then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu, drop the -er and add -i in its place
  • For você, drop the -er and add -eu
  • For ele/ela, drop the -er and add -eu
  • For nós, drop the -er and add -emos in its place
  • For eles/elas, drop the -er and add -eram

Notice that the ending for ‘you’ and ‘he/she’ in the past tense is the same. Also, as with our previous –ar verb above, the present tense of –er verbs for the pronoun ‘we’ is also -emos so nothing changed from present to past.

Now we will conjugate our –er verb from Part I into the past tense.

Comer - to eat

Pronoun

Past Tense

 eu (I)

comi

você (You)

 comeu

 ele/ela (he/she)

 comeu

nós

comemos

eles/elas (they)

comeram

Next up, -ir verbs.

Past Tense of Verbs Ending in -ir

Verbs ending in -ir are conjugated in the same manner. First, take the verb and drop the 'ir' off, then add the following endings in its place depending on the pronoun.

  • For Eu, drop the -ir and add -i in its place
  • For você , drop the -ir and add -eu
  • For ele/ela , drop the -ir and add -eu
  • For nós, drop the -ir and add -imos
  • For eles/elas, drop the -ir and add -iram

Once again, the ending for ‘you’ and ‘he/she’ in the past tense is the same. Also, as with our previous verbs above, the present tense of –ir verbs for the pronoun ‘we’ is also -emos so nothing changed from present to past.

Now we will conjugate our –ir verb from Part I into the past tense.

Abrir - to open

Pronoun

Past Tense

 eu (I)

abri

você (You)

 abreu

 ele/ela (he/she)

 abreu

nós

abrimos

eles/elas (they)

abriram

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By now you probably have a good grasp on how this conjugation process works for each verb. We are covering three basic verb tenses in the first three lessons: present, past and future.

There are 14 other types of verb tenses that are used in spoken and written form such as “I may speak” or “I might have spoken”. This is not unusual though for any language. Obviously English has these types also, we just never think about them in that way. I always tell my Brazilian friends that English is much easier to learn than Portuguese for several reasons but primarily because our present and other tenses of verbs do not necessarily change based on the pronoun before it.

For instance, the verb “to go” in English is:

  • I go
  • You go
  • We go
  • They go

As we saw earlier, in Portuguese, every single instance changes based on the pronoun. So there is much more to remember for someone just starting out and it can seem daunting.

But in this series we are continuing to focus on the basics that will give you the foundation to continue your studies in the future.

To review, there are three basic types of verb endings in the Portuguese language:

-ar, -er, -ir

The majority of all verbs in the language end in one of those three endings which makes it easier to learn as many verbs as you can simply by following the same rules for each.

Now let us continue with verbs that end in –ar and conjugate one of those into the future tense. You will notice that the method we use is going to be a little different that the present and past tense conjugations.

Future Tense of Verbs Ending in -ar

For verbs ending in –ar, we will simply be adding an ending onto the existing verb called the infinitive. Again, we are not dropping the ‘ar’ before adding these endings.

Morar – to live         

Pronoun

Future Tense

 eu (I)

 morarei

você (You)

 morarás

 ele/ela (he/she)

 morará

nós

moraremos

eles/elas (they)

morarão

So as you can see, the infinitive of the verb morar (to live) is still present in its entirety, and we have simply added the appropriate ending to it.

Next up, we will look at -er verbs in the future tense.

Future Tense of Verbs Ending in -er

Verbs ending in -er are conjugated in the same manner but with a different ending. Again, we will not be dropping the –er before appending the ending.

Comer - to eat

Pronoun

Future Tense

 eu (I)

comerei

você (You)

 comerás

 ele/ela (he/she)

 comerá

nós

comeremos

eles/elas (they)

comerão

Next up, -ir verbs.

Future Tense of Verbs Ending in -ir

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You know the drill by now. Verbs ending in -ir are conjugated in the same manner as the first two in this lesson. We do not drop the ‘ir’ before adding  the ending.

Abrir - to open

Pronoun

Future Tense

 eu (I)

abrirei

você (You)

 abrirás

 ele/ela (he/she)

 abrirá

nós

abriremos

eles/elas (they)

abrirão

Summary

Learn Basilian Portuguese
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Portuguese is a difficult language to learn because of all of the verb conjugations. Having said that, I can already hear all of my Brazilian friends screaming, "english is so difficult".

Not only do you have verb conjugation that vary, but then you have the masculine and feminine items that are common in Latin languages. Again, that is just something you have to memorize and I still get those wrong. Basically, I just guess most of the time whether an object is considered male or female.

There is actually another way you can use the future tense in Portuguese with any verb and that is by using the conjugated form of the verb ‘to go’ or ‘ir’ ahead of the infinitive of the future tense verb. What am I talking about?

Well, to explain that, I would need to show you the conjugated form of ‘to go’ and remember, it is what is called an irregular verb and I did not get into any of those in this article but they are a whole class of verbs with various endings that are conjugated in irregular fashion, with no rhyme or reason. But that is beyond the scope of this article.

If you are serious about learning Portuguese, you should start out with some CDs or mp3s and listen and read Portuguese learning books. I started out with the Pimsleurs series and have 7 or 8 different Portuguese learning books in my home. A lot of these rules will eventually become second nature to you, but at first it can seem overwhelming. Do not give up.

Eventually you will start to recognize patterns and you will begin to use your new verbs to impress all of your Brasilian friends with all of the slang you will inevitably pick up along the way.

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