Posted in English


I have an evernote page containing interesting and curious sightings of grammar in the wild that I wanted to think about later. I’ll try and make sense of them if I can, but I’m not absiolutely sure what they all mean to be honest, so if you’ve any suggestions I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Cento e tantos degraus de escada é obra, mesmo para quem se apresenta com o cóccix em condições 

I can’t remember where I turned this one up, but it mostly struck me because of the phrase “em condições” which obviously means “in good condition”, so that’s an idiomatic expression to keep in mind. It’s quite a grammatically interesting sentence though really. If I were to try and say that I’d be much more fromal and use more words. I would love to be confident enough to be this relaxed and groovy with my writing. “Cento e tantos” is unusal too. I’ve only ever seen “cento e tal” for “a hundred or so”.

Sabe que eles se podem desligar quando se quer, não sabe?

This sentence by Mario Zambudjal has two instances of “se” which seem to be different. In “se podem desligar” it’s reflexive: they can doisconnect themselves. And in “quando se quer” it’s putting the verb into passive mode, if I’m reading it correctly. “When required”. So putting it all together, “You know they can disconnect at will, don’t you?

Fiz figas para que não me esperassem situações semelhantes às que levaram o Valquerença, sete anos atrás, a riscar-me do quadro do pessoal

I think this is another one from Zambudjal. “Fiz figas” is interesting. It literally means “I made figs” but Gtranslate translates it to “I crossed my fingers”. Fazer figas is more like this in fact, according to the description in Priberam. The meaning is the same as crossing the fingers though: it’s meant to ward off bad luck.

A tua resposta pôs-me a cabeça à roda 

This line from Lúcia Vaz Pedro’s Camões Conseguiu Escrever Muito para Quem Só Tinha um Olho… exemplifies an aspect of grammar that I can never quite get right. I’ve tried to use it a few times but screwed it up every time. It’s got the reflexive pronoun with Pôr but… why? It’s the head that’s spinning so why doesn’t she say “pós a minha cabeça a roda”? Why does it have a reflexive pronoun instead of a posessive pronoun? I asked my wife about this and she just said it’s how it works.

O que lhe passou pela cabeça…

This isn’t reflexive but in other ways, it’s similar to the one above. Why isn’t it just “passou pela cabeça dele/dela?” Why does it need the indirect object “lhe” when it looks like it needs a possessive? The possessive would give you more information. “Passed to him through the head”? Again. my wife just says that how it’s done. It’s a sense of actively passing through the person’s head and it is more grammatically accurate than using the possessive. I might need to sit and meditate on this for an hour or two, I think

Um teste às defesas da sala.

This sentence appears in Z by Manuel Alves. A test to the defences of the room. It’s an example of a preposition that’s used very differently in portuguese than it would be in english.

A perseguição aos Judeus

This one turned up in a history book. I would have expected it to be “dos” instead of “aos” for “The persecution of the Jews

Envolveu-o em operações especulativas tão ruinosas que o atirou para a bancarrota 

This is from Vaticanum by Jose Rodrigues dos Santos. “Para” can be used for “to” in some contexts and “for” in others. In this one, it’s used for someone being thrown to bankruptcy. The guide unhelpfully defines “atirar para” as “lançar para”

Demasiado fatigado para se meter em explicações

Another one from Vaticanum. “meter-se em…” is equivalent to “get involved in”. he was too tired to get drawn into explaining himself to the cops.


Just a data nerd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s