Posted in English, Portuguese

To Tu or Not To Tu, That is the Desmond

I’m not sure whether making this pun in the week when the anti-apartheid hero died will be taken as offensive, but I needed to write about when to use “tu” in a sentence and the pun was just there waiting to be made and I’m not made of wood, people. I once almost walked into him in… Cambridge, I think, after a group of us made a pilgrimage from Norwich to attend his speech in about um… 1989? He was very good-natured about it.

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Here’s the question I asked yesterday.

Why (according to the C1 course I’m doing) is the word “tu” necessary in this sentence:

Tu vais ter mais experiência de vida. Nessa altura, vais compreender-me.

But absolutely wrong in this sentence, which is my attempt to rewrite the first using different tenses.

Quando tu tiveres mais experiência de vida, vais compreender-me

The gist of the answers I got was that the course’s model answer was wrong, or at least not unambiguously right. Although you don’t need it in the second sentence, you don’t need it in the first either, and since the exercise was to rewrite the sentence, it made sense to retain it if it was already there. The “tu” is superfluous because the conjugation of “vais” and of “tiveres” tells you you’re in the second person singular. If I had been changing “vai ter” into “tiver” then it would have been necessary to add a pronoun (ele or ela, probably) because “tiver” is ambiguous in a way that “vai ter” is not. Sometimes these things are just done on what sounds better so it might have been down to the personal sensibilities of the person setting the questions. It’s not very consistent though. Minor irritation.

Anyway, one of the respondents gave me some feedback that made me swell with pride:

So here is the question in the original Portuguese as a record of the most-praised Portuguese text I have ever written!

Uma das minhas dúvidas recorrentes é quando usar e quando não usar pronomes com verbos. Regra geral, não se usam tanto quanto em inglês mas por exemplo no meu curso, tenho de rescrever a seguinte frase começando com uma palavra específica e fazendo as alterações necessárias:

Q) Tu vais ter mais experiência de vida. Nessa altura, vais compreender-me.

R) Quando ____

Respondi assim:

Quando tu tiveres mais experiência de vida, vais compreender-me

Falhei. A resposta certa é exactamente igual mas tirando o "tu". OK tuga, mas... Porque? Porque é que o "tu" é necessário no modelo mas desnecessário - até errado - na resposta? Ambos exprimem a mesma ideia. Eu sei que a forma de "tiverES" assinala que estamos na segunda pessoa mas isso é igualmente verdade de "vaiS".

Desculpem o tom irritado. É ligeiramente frustrante fazer um curso que não explicam estas coisas. 🤷🏼‍♂️


Just a data nerd

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