Posted in English

Oh Se Can You See (Version 4)

This is an updated version of my brainstorm about the four intractable problems (“4 evil exes”) I identified before my first B2 exam, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself. Since I wrote the first version, and then my second my understanding as developed a bit so I thought I’d update this to solidify that knowledge. Just ignore version 3 – it was just like 2 but with some new mistakes. In fact, in general, remember I’m writing this mainly as a way of helping my own understanding and you’d be crazy to believe anything I say. If you’re confused, go and ask a proper teacher.


 

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs, and it isn’t always clear what it’s doing there. Here is a breakdown of its possible uses,

As a word meaning “If”

This is the odd one out, really, and the easiest one to spot. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on. If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

Não sei se na vossa casa sobrou muito chocolate dos ovos de Páscoa?

Or

Se tivesse dinheiro o suficiente, eu encheria a casa de livros

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 beijar to kiss beijar-se to snog each other
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself
 achar to find achar-se to find oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**When I first wrote this article I confidently said that “suicidar” couldn’t exist in a non-reflexive form since you can’t suicide someone else. However, you’ll occasionally come acorss this sort of thing:

https://twitter.com/OhFazFavor/status/774212893189496832?s=09

which my teacher tells me is just crap grammar.

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se* de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

*surprisingly, rir is supposed to be reflexive most of the time. You’re not laughing something, you’re just laughing. There’s nothing on the receiving end of the verb. People often use it non-reflexively but that’s an informal use.

Reflexive pronouns usually go after the verb in european portuguese (but there are exceptions such as negatives, questions and after words like “que”. In Brasil they just whack it in front of the verb, the dirty beasts.

If it’s a compound verb, you have options. With ir+infinitive, the pronoun can attach either to the stem or to the auxiliary

Ele vai-se encontrar com ela.

Ele vai encontrar-se com ela.

but with ter+participle it has to go after the auxiliary

Ele tinha-se separado de sua namorada.

Ele tinha separado-se de sua namorada.

Note that we usually think of reflexive verbs as “bouncing back” to the subject, so the subject and the object are the same person, like when we say in english “I’ve wet myself” instead of “I’ve wet the baby’s head”. This isn’t always true as we can see from the list above, and we can also think of it as having some sort of mutuality

Pedro e Maria deram-se as mãos.

They held each other’s hands, not their own hands.

As an impersonal pronoun

When discussing a generalised situation – like the english “one”, described in this Portuguese grammar article as “sujeito indeterminado” (unknown subject)

One shouldn’t drink too much

It’s not used very often these days because it’s usually felt to sound a bit pretentious, so people will usually use “you”

You shouldn’t drink too much

which of course sounds as if the speaker is admonishing their listener directly to lay off the booze. This is a bit of a loss to the english language, because being able to speak in general terms is useful and avoids a lot of misunderstandings.

The Portuguese haven’t made this mistake and use “se” as an impersonal pronoun, which makes more sense, I think.

Here’s an example that really threw me because it was used with the verb “ser”

Há uma frase inglesa que está sempre presente: “I had to smile“. Significa que se foi obrigado a sorrir

Se foi means “one was”. Some person was obliged to smile.

Similarly

Sabia que é preciso pagar para se ser santo?

I was confused because it looks like “Saint” is a noun and it’s the object of the verb so it shouldn’t need the se, but santo is more like a condition – an adjective. “Did you know that you need to pay to be [holy]” not “Did you know that you need to pay to be [a saint]” Now this seems to be a bit subtle but it seems to be a way of amphasising the verb as a verb. It’s optional, in other words, but it sounds better. Bloody hell…

Ou lá o que se faz no Facebook

Or whatever happens on facebook.

Here’s a nice example that’s a lot harder to translate but pretty.

O êxito do celebre poema de Florbela Espanca deve-se a maneira como trata o verbo amar como intransitivo. Ama-se como chove. Perguntar: “Mas amar quem?” é como perguntar: “Chove quem?”

autorid01231OK, I said it would be hard to translate but I’ll have a go. Amar is normally a transitive verb (X loves Y.) but here Miguel Esteves Cardoso praises  Florbela Espanca for the way she uses it intransitively (X loves.) and he uses “se” to talk about how people in general love.

The success of the well-known poem of Florbela Espanca is owed to the way in which she treats the verb “to love” as an intransitive. One loves like it rains. To ask “but love who” is like asking “rain who?”

Um… well, I hope I’m not too far off the mark there. Incidentally, I think this is the poem he means.

Notice that he also uses “deve-se”, and that brings me onto the next type of se:

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

O êxito do […] poema […] deve-se… means “The poem’s success is owed…” [or “is due to”]

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published”

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)

or

Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

Não se fala Espanhol no Brasil

One context that will be familiar to a lot of portuguese learners is this from the introduction to some of the Diálogos in the Practice Portuguese Podcast:

As conversas que se seguem são baseadas em factos verídicos

“The conversations that follow are based on true facts.”

But which one is it?

Now, it’s not always clear whether a phrase like

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café

should be translated as “a lot of coffee is drunk” (passive voice) or “one drinks a lot of coffee” (imperonal pronoun) but, really, is there a lot difference?

Apparently the key is whether you can replace it with Ir+participle. Passive verbs described in the presvious section are known as “passiva sintética” to distinguish it from “passive analítica” which is where you say something like “Muito café é bebido em Portugal” and that works, so this is a passive voice construction. The only difference it seems to make is that in passive voice, the verb changes with the subject

“Muitos pasteis são comidos em Portugal” => “Comem-se muitos bolos no Brasil”

…which means it’s reflexive, so if many cakes are eaten, it needs to be comem-se, not come-se.

But in the example given on the web page….

“Trabalha-se muito por aqui” can’t easily be transformed in the same way without changing the meaning “É trabalhado muito por aqui.” It doesn’t really work. So it won’t ever need to become “Trabalham-se muito por aqui” or “Trabalhas-te muito por aqui”. We don’t know who the subject is so we won’t ever make the verb agree with the subject.

I think in the more ambiguous cases, it’s best not to worry about translating and just read it as it is, and not think of it as directly equivalent to either english form. The upshot of both sentences is that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in Portugal. This is a good way of training yourself not to automatically translate everything into english but instead just try and absorb the meaning from the portuguese words.

For Emphasis?

I’t’s not quite clear how phrases like “Vou-me embora” fit into this. The subject is known and it’s not really passive. My teacher said it’s to do with emphasis, and the fact that it’s intransitive (ie, it’s a verb that just happens without needing to happen to something) probably helps too.

 

Posted in English

The Corrections

OK, let’s have a look at that homework from the other day about reflexive and non-reflexive uses of verbs and see how badly wrong it all was. Underlinings and crossings out are correctios, red text is just highlighting the bit I was trying to get right

1a) Sabe que é preciso pagar para se ser português? [just missing a preposition]
1b) Quer tenha cidadania quer não, não é possível ser um português verdadeiro se não foi criado lá.
2a) O Cristianismo* incentiva os seus seguidores a se serem mais honestos. [missing a preposition but doesn’t need the “se”]
2b) O Cristianismo* ajuda os seus aderentes a serem pessoas melhores.
*=I wrote “cristandade” but although that exists I think it’s more like “Chistendom” than “Christianity”
3a) A frase que se segue é mais um exemplo [this is right but the “se” is passive voice rather than reflexive]
3b) Esta frase segue a frase passada.
4a) Se ganhar o Euromillions, ficar-me-ei feliz? [I seem to have had some sort of senior moment here and chosen completely the wrong verb, but the reflexive aspect is legit (but optional) to give emphasis to the verb]
4b) Se mudar o meu modo de vida serei uma pessoa mais feliz?
5a) Fiquei desiludido com o iTalki e por isso tornei-me membro do Lingq
5b) Fiquei desiludido com o chuveiro e por isso abri o torneira para tomar banho. [another bad verb but more understandable. Portuguese people open (abrir) and close (fechar) their taps, they don’t turn them. I should also confess that when I originally wrote it, I almost put “tornozelo” instead of “torneira”. Confusing: “I was disappointed with the shower so I turned the ankle”]
6a) Ri-me muitas vezes enquanto li este livro
6b) Riu-se quando pensou na sua primeira tentativa a falar português.

So, not very good, really. I think the explanation I gave and wrote into the last version of “Oh Se Can You See” wasn’t quite right.

Rir is basically an intransitive, pronomial verb according to Priberam, so although it’s often seen in the wild without its pronoun, formally (and in the exam) it’s best to use it with the pronoun, much like “lembrar”

The se in “se ser” in 1a and 4a or in expressions like “ir-se embora” is used when you want to stress the verb but isn’t strictly necessary in either case.

Clearly still some work on prepositions needed. I’m going to do some more work on that later. Obviously the thing I need to stop doing is translating english phrases literally, using the same prepositions I’d use in english.

Posted in Portuguese

Homework

Attempts to grope my way towards proper use/non-use of the reflexive pronouns where the object of the verb is a condition as opposed to a “thing”. (a) answers are the former, and (b) the latter
1a) Sabe que é preciso pagar se ser português?
1b) Quer tenha cidadania quer não, não é possível ser um português verdadeiro se não foi criado lá.
2a) A Cristandade incentiva os seus aderentes se serem mais honestos.
2b) A Cristandade ajuda os seus aderentes serem pessoas melhores.
3a) A frase que se segue é mais um exemplo
3b) Esta frase segue a frase passada.
4a) Se ganhar o Euromillions, ir-me-ei feliz?
4b) Se mudar o meu modo de vida irei uma pessoa mais feliz?
5a) Fiquei desiludido por iTalki e por isso tornei-me membro do Lingq
5b) Fiquei desiludido pelo chuveiro e por isso tornei o torneira para tomar banho
6a) Ri muitas vezes enquanto li este livro
6b) Riu-se quando pensou da sua primeira tentativa falar português.
Posted in English

Oh Se Can You See (Version 3)

This is an updated version of my brainstorm about the four intractable problems (“4 evil exes”) I identified before my first B2 exam, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself. Since I wrote the first version, and then my second my understanding as developed a bit so I thought I’d update this to solidify that knowledge.

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs, and it isn’t always clear what it’s doing there. Here is a breakdown of its possible uses,

As a word meaning “If”

This is the odd one out, really, and the easiest one to spot. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on. If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

Não sei se na vossa casa sobrou muito chocolate dos ovos de Páscoa?

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 beijar to kiss beijar-se to snog each other
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself
 achar to find achar-se to find oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**When I first wrote this article I confidently said that “suicidar” couldn’t exist in a non-reflexive form since you can’t suicide someone else. However, you’ll occasionally come acorss this sort of thing:

https://twitter.com/OhFazFavor/status/774212893189496832?s=09

which my teacher tells me is just crap grammar.

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se* de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

*surprisingly, rir is supposed to be reflexive most of the time. You’re not laughing something, you’re just laughing. There’s nothing on the receiving end of the verb. People often use it non-reflexively but that’s an informal use.

As an impersonal pronoun

When discussing a generalised situation – like the english “one”

One shouldn’t drink too much

It’s not used very often these days because it’s usually felt to sound a bit pretentious, so people will usually use “you”

You shouldn’t drink too much

which of course sounds as if the speaker is admonishing their listener directly to lay off the booze. This is a bit of a loss to the english language, because being able to speak in general terms is useful and avoids a lot of misunderstandings.

The Portuguese haven’t made this mistake and use “se” as an impersonal pronoun, which makes more sense, I think.

Here’s an example that really threw me because it was used with the verb “ser”

Há uma frase inglesa que está sempre presente: “I had to smile“. Significa que se foi obrigado a sorrir

Se foi means “one was”. Some person was obliged to smile.

Similarly

Sabia que é preciso pagar se ser santo?

I was confused because it looks lihe “Saint” is a noun and it’s the object of the verb so it shouldn’t need the se, but santo is more like a condition – an adjective. “Did you know that you need to pay to be [holy]” not “Did you know that you need to pay to be [a saint]” There isn’t really a thing or an object on the receiving end of the verb.

Ou lá o que se faz no Facebook

Or whatever happens on facebook.

Here’s a nice example that’s a lot harder to translate but pretty.

O êxito do celebre poema de Florbela Espanca deve-se a maneira como trata o verbo amar como intransitivo. Ama-se como chove. Perguntar: “Mas amar quem?” é como perguntar: “Chove quem?”

autorid01231OK, I said it would be hard to translate but I’ll have a go. Amar is normally a transitive verb (X loves Y.) but here Miguel Esteves Cardoso praises  Florbela Espanca for the way she uses it intransitively (X loves.) and he uses “se” to talk about how people in general love.

The success of the well-known poem of Florbela Espanca is owed to the way in which she treats the verb “to love” as an intransitive. One loves like it rains. To ask “but love who” is like asking “rain who?”

Um… well, I hope I’m not too far off the mark there. Incidentally, I think this is the poem he means.

Notice that he also uses “deve-se”, and that brings me onto the next type of se:

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

O êxito do […] poema […] deve-se… means “The poem’s success is owed…” [or “is due to”]

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published”

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)

or

Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

Não se fala Espanhol no Brasil

But which one is it?

Now, it’s not always clear whether a phrase like

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café

should be translated as “a lot of coffee is drunk” (passive voice) or “one drinks a lot of coffee” (imperonal pronoun) but, really, is there a lot difference? I think in the more ambiguous cases, it’s best not to worry about translating and just read it as it is, and not think of it as directly equivalent to either english form. The upshot of both sentences is that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in Portugal. This is a good way of training yourself not to automatically translate everything into english but instead just try and absorb the meaning from the portuguese words.

Posted in English

Exam Prep

I’ve got a new exam (or rather the same flippin’ exam I failed last time, dammit!) at the back end of May. I’m making a list of things I want to do between now and then

Speaking Goals

  • Build Confidence: I need to speak clearly and confidently even when I get to a bit I’m not sure about. If I don’t know the word, just guess and keep on going rather than fretting and looking confused.
  • Conversely, don’t be cocky: talk at a sensible speed to give myself time to think, and don’t go off at a tangent that seems interesting if I’m not sure where I’m going with it. Obviously this is in conflict with the point above.
  • Speak portuguese for at least 5 minutes every day between now and the exam.

Listening Goals

  • Listen to videos of people speaking in a range of accents from Alentejo, the rural centre of the country. and the islands (hence that Açoriano video I just posted).
  • Listen to at least 3 video films with subtitles.
  • Get to grips with the Raul Solnado “Guerra de 1908” sketch

Cultural Goals

  • Read at the very least:
      • A Língua Portuguesa (Fernando Pessoa)
      • Mensagem (Fernando Pessoa)
      • Brevíssima História de Portugal (A.H. De Oliveira Marques)
      • Maybe even A construção da democracia em Portugal (Kenneth Maxwell) although that seems a bit ambitious.
  • Make a timeline of portuguese history to get a sense of how it hangs together
  • Write about portuguese landmarks – the Padrão dos Descubrimentos, Torre de Belém, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and so on.

General Language skills

  • I need to build my vocabulary – Memrise and Lingq daily goals
  • I’m getting better at the ver/vir (which was one of the 4 Evil Exes I identified a year or so back) but need to step up my game on some of the other weirder irregulars like Por and Dar
  • Finish the exercise book I’m on now
  • Do a couple of mock exams to get a feel for the speed I need to be working at to get in under the time limit
  • Practice writing legibly. I type so much these days I need to get my hand used to forming letters or I’ll be penalised for spelling errors.
  • Letter format and forms of address
  • Learn – actually learn verbatim – one song
Posted in English

Sauce for the Gender 2: Electric Boogaloo

This is a revisiting of one of my most useful blog posts, based on the criteria of number of times I go back to it! I felt like there were too many exceptions and it was worth looking again to see how safe the rules were and whether I could tweak them. To do this, I have taken the list of the 1000 most popular portuguese nouns I mentioned in that post (published on an extremely useful site called Hackingportuguese but currently only available on the Internet archive site because the original is having technical issues) and I have subjected it to extreme torture in an excel spreadsheet in order to see how many exceptions there were. This work has taken me two days so I hope it will pay off.

My version of the list is available as a spreadsheet here. It is actually modified: I took out a couple of words that I saw that were Brazil-specific and a couple that looked like they were (at least in European Portuguese) only used as adjectives, and replaced them with random nouns from a Memrise deck, to bulk it up to a thousand again.

So I’ve recreated my table (below) in what I hope is a more accurate way. TL;DR: Most of the rules are pretty good, I found a new rule I hadn’t heard of and I decided that nouns ending in e are a wilderness of chaos and despair from which there is no escape. In most cases, more specific rules seem to override more general ones. So for example, “dezena” is masculine because it meets the “all numbers are masculine” rule even though it ends in A. And Avó is feminine because it meets the “Male and Female people” rule even though it ends in an O. I’ll update the Memrise Deck I’ve been working on to reflect this new set of rules tomorrow.

Oh and again, sorry about the colour-scheme, but… well, you know… just trying to harness my cultural stereotypes in a way that makes it easier to follow.

Rule Examples Exceptions
Dependent:
Male and Female animals/people depend on individual’s sex*
  • o touro / a vaca
  • o irmão / a irmã
  • o dirigente/a dirigente
  • o autor, a autora
  • o rapaz
  • o socialista, a socialista
  • o jesuíta
  • o chefe
Dependent:
Ordinal numbers depend what’s being counted, because they are effectively adjectives!
  • o primeiro (dia)
  • a segunda (noite)
Masculine:
Nouns ending in
-o (nb, not -ão though)
-r
-l
-z
-u
  • o lugar
  • o amigo
  • o chapéu
  • o papel
  • o final
  • a tribo
  • a dor
  • a cor
  • a flor
 Variable:
Nouns ending in
-ão
The textbook says abstract nouns are largely feminine and concrete nouns largely masculine Slightly unclear and too many exceptions to list here. See the table below this one.
Masculine:
Names of Lakes, Rivers, Mountains etc
  • o Tejo
  • os Himalaias
  • o Brasil
  • o Atlântico
  • o Tamisa (despite the -a ending!)
Masculine:
Compass points
  • O Leste
  • O Oeste
  • O Norte
  • O Sul
Masculine:
Car brands** & types of wines
  • o Madeira
  • o Ferrari
  • a Mercedes (but only the brand. The car is “um Mercedes”)
Variable:
The seasons obey their last letter rules o=masculine, a=feminine
  • o verão
  • o inverno
  • o outono
  • a primavera
Variable:
Week days obey their last letter rules o=masculine, a=feminine
  • o sábado
  • o domingo
  • a segunda feira
  • a terça feira
Masculine:
Words from greek, usually ending -a: most usually in
-ema
-grama
-eta
  • o programa
  • o problema
  • o sistema
  • o poema
  • o cometa
  • o planeta
  • o mapa
  • o telefonema
“Gorjeta” is the only word with these endings that doesn’t match but Priberam says it’s not greek
Masculine:
Letters
  • o a
  • o p
Masculine:
Cardinal numbers
  • o um
  • o cento
  • o milhão
Feminine:
Most words ending in
-a
  • a dúvida
  • a água
  • a palavra
  • a terra
  • o clima
  • o dia

(likely also greek)

Feminine:
Words ending in -ez
  • a estupidez
  • a gravidez
  • a viuvez
  • a surdez
  • a vez
Feminine: 
Words ending
-dade
-ie
-tude
-gem
-ice
  • a cidade
  • a viagem
  • a garagem
  • a juventude
  • a espécie
  • a velhice
  • o índice
Feminine:
Names of towns & countries
  • A Madeira
  • A Rússia
  • A França
  • A Suiça
  • A Islândia
  • Londres
 Places specifically named after male things:

  • O Rio de Janeiro
  • O Porto

Places consisting of a male noun + adjective

  • O Reino Unido
  • Os Estados Unidos
Feminine:
Names of the Academic Arts and Science subjects
  • a medicina
  • a matemática
  • a biologia
  • a física
  • a geografia

*=Note that some of these change their endings but some – like dirigente, cientista, keep the same ending.

**= Jeremy Clarkson would love this, I’m sure

Nouns ending in -ão

This is a list of all the nouns ending with these two letters (excluding things like “irmão” and “verão” that trigger more specific rules). As you can see, they are largely feminine and largely abstract but with quite a lot of concrete masculine nouns acting as exceptions. Conclusion: the rule is pretty sound but if in doubt, err on the side of feminine.

Masculine Feminine
In theory, these should all be concrete (things you can see and touch) In theory these should all be abstract (ideas, emotions)
o alcatrão
o apresentação
o avião
o cão
o capitão
o cartão
o chão
o cidadão
o coração
o escaldão
o órgão
o padrão
o pão
o patrão
a acção
a actuação
a administração
a alteração
a aplicação
a aprovação
a associação
a atenção
a avaliação
a canção
a classificação
a colecção
a comissão
a competição
a composição
a comunicação
a concepção
a conclusão
a condição
a constituição
a construção
a criação
a decisão
a declaração
a definição
a designação
a dimensão
a direcção
a discussão
a disposição
a distribuição
a divisão
a edição
a educação
a eleição
a emoção
a estação
a evolução
a excepção
a expansão
a explicação
a exploração
a exportação
a exposição
a expressão
a extensão
a federação
a formação
a função
a fundação
a geração
a gestão
a impressão
a inflação
a informação
a instalação
a instituição
a intenção
a interpretação
a intervenção
a investigação
a ligação
a manifestação
a mão
a missão
a nação
a negociação
a obrigação
a observação
a ocasião
a opção
a operação
a opinião
a oposição
a organização
a orientação
a paixão
a participação
a população
a posição
a preocupação
a pressão
a prisão
a privatização
a produção
a profissão
a protecção
a publicação
a questão
a razão
a reacção
a realização
a redução
a região
a relação
a religião
a representação
a resolução
a reunião
a revisão
a revolução
a secção
a selecção
a sensação
a sessão
a situação
a solução
a televisão
a tradição
a transformação
a união
a utilização
a variação
a versão
a visão
a votação

Appendix 1: Not-so-Easy E

The original version of this post stated that nouns ending in -e followed the same pattern as those ending in -ão so I made up a list in the same format as the -ão list. However, as you can see, contrary to the textbook rule, it’s mixed pretty evenly between abstract and non-abstract on both sides. Conclusion: the rule is bollocks, I’m afraid, and we’ll just have to learn these the hard way.

Masculine Feminine
In theory, these should all be concrete (things you can see and touch) In theory these should all be abstract (ideas, emotions)
o acidente
o ambiente
o ataque
o barrete
o breve
o clube
o combate
o continente
o controle
o corte
o costume
o crime
o debate
o dente
o destaque
o empate
o exame
o filme
o gabinete
o golpe
o horizonte
o instante
o interesse
o legume
o leite
o limite
o mestre
o monte
o nome
o nordeste
o padre
o parque
o peixe
o príncipe
o regime
o romance
o sangue
o telefone
o teste
o transporte
o vale
o volume
a análise
a arte
a árvore
a ave
a base
a carne
a chave
a classe
a corte
a crise
a estante
a face
a fase
a fome
a fonte
a frase
a frente
a gente
a gripe
a hipótese
a mãe
a metade
a morte
a noite
a parede
a parte
a pele
a ponte
a posse
a rede
a saúde
a sede
a sorte
a tarde
a torre
a vontade

(NB Corte appears in both sides because it can mean either “The court” or “The cut”, both reasonably common but having differing genders just to be bloody awkward)

Apprendix 2: Mistakes, Mis-Shapes, Misfits

When I’d counted all the words that fit the rules and the exceptions, there was a short list left over of words that met none of the rules. The majority seem to be masculine, apart from fé, lei, ordem and nuvem.

  • a fé
  • o fim
  • o gás
  • o jardim
  • a lei
  • o mês
  • a nuvem
  • a ordem
  • o país
  • o pé
  • o som
  • o tom

Amended 1/2/19 – realised I’d written a “new rule” that was nonsense

Posted in English

Oh Se Can You See (Version 2)

This is an updated version of my brainstorm about the four intractable problems (“4 evil exes”) I identified before my first B2 exam, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself. Since I wrote the first version, my understanding as developed a bit so I thought I’d update this to solidify that knowledge.

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs, and it isn’t always clear what it’s doing there. Here is a breakdown of its possible uses,

As a word meaning “If”

This is the odd one out, really, and the easiest one to spot. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on. If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

Não sei se na vossa casa sobrou muito chocolate dos ovos de Páscoa?

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 beijar to kiss beijar-se to snog each other
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself
 achar to find achar-se to find oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**When I first wrote this article I confidently said that “suicidar” couldn’t exist in a non-reflexive form since you can’t suicide someone else. However, you’ll occasionally come acorss this sort of thing:

which my teacher tells me is just crap grammar.

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

As an impersonal pronoun

When discussing a generalised situation – like the english “one”

One shouldn’t drink too much

It’s not used very often these days because it’s usually felt to sound a bit pretentious, so people will usually use “you”

You shouldn’t drink too much

which of course sounds as if the speaker is admonishing their listener directly to lay off the booze. This is a bit of a loss to the english language, because being able to speak in general terms is useful and avoids a lot of misunderstandings.

The Portuguese haven’t made this mistake and use “se” as an impersonal pronoun, which makes more sense, I think.

Here’s an example that really threw me because it was used with the verb “ser”

Há uma frase inglesa que está sempre presente: “I had to smile“. Significa que se foi obrigado a sorrir

Se foi means “one was”. Some person was obliged to smile.

Here’s a nice example that’s a lot harder to translate but pretty.

O êxito do celebre poema de Florbela Espanca deve-se a maneira como trata o verbo amar como intransitivo. Ama-se como chove. Perguntar: “Mas amar quem?” é como perguntar: “Chove quem?”

autorid01231OK, I said it would be hard to translate but I’ll have a go. Amar is normally a transitive verb (X loves Y.) but here Miguel Esteves Cardoso praises  Florbela Espanca for the way she uses it intransitively (X loves.) and he uses “se” to talk about how people in general love.

The success of the well-known poem of Florbela Espanca is owed to the way in which she treats the verb “to love” as an intransitive. One loves like it rains. To ask “but love who” is like asking “rain who?”

Um… well, I hope I’m not too far off the mark there. Incidentally, I think this is the poem he means.

Notice that he also uses “deve-se”, and that brings me onto the next type of se:

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

O êxito do […] poema […] deve-se… means “The poem’s success is owed…” [or “is due to”]

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published”

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)

or

Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

Não se fala Espanhol no Brasil

But which one is it?

Now, it’s not always clear whether a phrase like

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café

should be translated as “a lot of coffee is drunk” (passive voice) or “one drinks a lot of coffee” (imperonal pronoun) but, really, is there a lot difference? I think in the more ambiguous cases, it’s best not to worry about translating and just read it as it is, and not think of it as directly equivalent to either english form. The upshot of both sentences is that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in Portugal. This is a good way of training yourself not to automatically translate everything into english but instead just try and absorb the meaning from the portuguese words.

Posted in English

Sauce for the Gender

In the third of what I am now definitely thinking of my Four Evil Exes articles, here’s what I can find on the subject of remembering which nouns are masculine and which feminine. It turned out to be easier than I thought, although I’m sure the exceptions will plague me. I wish I’d done it ages ago, actually, but that’s the trouble with the 4 evil exes: they are boring and difficult and don’t have fun workarounds I can use, so it was just a case of ploughing through the literature – in this case, “Portuguese – an Essential Grammar” by Amélia Hutchinson and Janet Lloyd, with some supplemental examples cribbed from Fun With Portuguese and My Five Romances. I also got some tips from Benny the Irish Polyglot and read an entertaining post on the subject by Lady of the Cakes, whose blog is a great deal prettier and better-written than mine. Her post is a bit more pessimistic when it comes to finding patterns in this mess, but on the plus side does have (a) a picture of some cake and (b) rude words.

As you can see, most of the rules have exceptions, so it’s not as if I can be guaranteed to never screw up again if I learn them but if I don’t happen to know a word, it might boost my hit-rate a few percentage points.In most cases, more specific rules seem to override more general ones. So for example, “milhão” is masculine because it meets the “all numbers are masculine” rule even though it’s an abstract noun ending in -ão.

Oh and sorry about the colour-scheme, but… well, you know…

Rule Examples Exceptions
Dependent:
Male and Female animals/people depend on individual’s sex*
  • o touro / a vaca
  • o irmão / a irmã
Dependent:
Ordinal numbers depend what’s being counted
  • o primeiro (dia)
  • a segunda (noite)
Masculine:
Nouns ending in
-o (nb, not -ão though)
-r
-l
-z
  • o lugar
  • o valor
  • o papel
  • o final
  • o rapaz
  • a foto
  • a tribo
  • a gravidez (understandably enough…)
 Masculine:
Concrete nouns ending in
-e**
-ão***
  • o sangue
  • o clube
  • o coração
  • o chão
  • o órgão
  • a fonte
  • a árvore
  • a mão
  • a televisão
Masculine:
Names of Lakes, Rivers, Mountains etc
  • o Tejo
  • os Himalaias
  • o Brasil
  • o Atlântico
  • o Tamisa (despite the -a ending!)
Masculine:
Car brands**** & types of wines
  • o porto
  • o Ferrari
  • a Mercedes
Masculine:
The seasons*****
  • o verão
  • o inverno
  • o outono
  • a primavera
Masculine:
Weekend days
  • o sábado
  • o domingo
Masculine:
Words from greek, usually ending -a: most usually in
-ema
-grama
-eta
  • o programa
  • o problema
  • o sistema
  • o poema
  • o cometa
  • o planeta
  • o dia
  • o mapa
  • o clima
  • o telefonema
Masculine:
Letters
  • o a
  • o p
Masculine:
Cardinal numbers
  • o um
  • o cento
  • o milhão
Feminine:
Most words ending in
-a
  • a dúvida
  • a água
  • a palavra
  • a terra
Feminine: 
Words ending
-dade
-ie
-tude
-gem
-ice
  • a cidade
  • a viagem
  • a garagem
  • a juventude
  • a espécie
  • a velhice
Feminine:
Abstract nouns ending in
-e
-ão***
  • a crise
  • a parte
  • a gente
  • a lição
  •  o norte
Feminine:
Names of towns & countries
  • A Madeira
  • A Rússia
  • A França
  • A Suiça
  • A Islândia
  • A Londres
 Places specifically named after male things:

  • O Rio de Janeiro
  • O São Paulo
  • O Porto

Places consisting of a male noun + adjective

  • Reino Unido
  • Os Estados Unidos
Feminine:
Names of the Arts and Sciences
  • a medicina
  • a matemática
  • a biologia
  • o teatro
  • o cinema
Feminine:
Names of days during the working week
  • a segunda feira
  • a terça feira

*=This rule supersedes all others. So “a mulher” is feminine even though it ends with r, for example

**=When looking for samples of nouns ending in -e as examples to use of concrete (masculine) and abstract (feminine) it was striking how many exceptions there were to this rule on the list. I’ve left it in because it’s in the textbook but, at least with the more common nouns, it seems like feminine outnumbers masculine for most -e nouns, even the concrete ones

***=When looking for samples of nouns ending in -ão as examples to use of concrete (masculine) and abstract (feminine) it was striking that the first twenty or so -ão words on this list were all abstract, feminine ones

****= Jeremy Clarkson would love this, I’m sure

*****=one exception out of four words is pretty shonky though. It’s only one away from a 50-50 split! Maybe best remember these by their endings and pretend the rule doesn’t exist!

Posted in English

Oh Se Can You see?

This is the second of my brainstorms about the four intractable problems I identified last week, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself.

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs. In some cases, it just means “if” and that’s easy enough to spot, but when it’s acting as some sort of pronoun things get a little weirder. Here’s a breakdown of some of the related grammar:

As a word meaning “If”

As I said, this is the odd one out, really. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on. If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 pentear to comb pentear-se to comb oneself
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**suicidar doesn’t seem to exist as a non-reflexive verb, for reasons that are probably pretty obvious….

—update—

Of course, by sod’s law, within hours of publishing this post, I see this:

…and now I’m ready to suicidar(-me) too.

—update to the update–

My teacher says it’s just bad grammar. What lessons do we learn from this? Don’t trust Twitter for lessons in correct use of language. 

———————-

————-

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

As some other kind of pronoun

Hm… Now I was going to write a whole section on “se” being used as another kind of pronoun but I had a look at the examples and decided that they were all specimens of  either those ones *points up* or these ones *points down*. OK, cool, well that’s one piece of confusion that has been expelled by writing this post, so… bonus!

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

In portuguese there are two ways of writing the passive voice and one of them looks a lot like the reflexive verbs I mentioned above:

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published” but you could equally read it as a reflexive verb “the book published itself” which it didn’t of course, but you can see how the connection is made. Another way of expressing the same thing in Portuguese looks much more like an English construction: “O livro foi publicado”

  • Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)
  • Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

  • Não se fala Espanhol no Brasil

 

Posted in English

Infinitive Jest

Last week I identified four stubborn problems that – like Scott Pilgrim and the 7 Evil Exes – I had to battle to the death. One of those was to do with fiddly small words in front of infinitives. A lot of this seems to have to do with compound verbs vs ordinary, run-of-the-mill infinitives.

So let’s dive straight into compound verbs…

Compound Verbs

Compound verbs are verbs that are treated as one action but are made up of two verbs glued together. A familiar example is this harmless Pretérito Perfeito Composto

eu tenho chorrado*

You just take part of the verb “ter” and glue it onto your verb and magic happens. We have the same thing in English: “I have overslept”, “I had forgotten to set my alarm clock”. These are pretty easy to use so I’m not going to write any more about them because I don’t fund them confusing at all. In fact, their easier to use than most types of verbs. If you’re not familiar with them, don’t worry, you’ll meet them soon enough and you won’t have any trouble.

Where it gets trickier is when you have verbs made up of some other verb, followed by a short joining word and then an infinitive. There are lots of different ways of classifying them but I’m going to divide them up into groups according that have similar types in, and crucially, each member of the group uses the same joining words. If you don’t like the way I’ve done it, try this page from Ciberdúvidas instead. It has a totally different approach.

[A] Compound verbs showing an action that’s starting or ongoing:

Estar, Andar, Ficar, Começar or Continuar + a + infinitive

  • Estou a escrever este blog
  • Anda a aprender
  • Ela continua a dar aulas
  • Começo a ler a revista
  • Ficar a olhar

I would think of these as “Starting to do…” or “Continuing to do” so the “a” fits nicely because it means “to”

[DE] Compound verbs describing an action that’s abandoned

Deixar, Acabar or Terminar + de + infinitive

  • Deixa de fumar
  • Acabou de ler o livro
  • Terminar de tocar a guitarra

I would think of these as “leaving off of doing something” and “de” means “of” so that makes sense

[DE] Compound verbs describing something you have to do

Ter or Haver + de + Infinitive. In the case of haver it’s a slightly vaguer and more speculative kind of obligation: something you ought to do at some point rather than something you’ve got to get done right now.

  • Hei-de ler “Matadouro Cinco”
  • Tenho de cozinhar esta noite

I would think of these as “I have to do something”. I want to squeeze an “of” in there to make the “de” fit but I can’t, sorry… By the way, is it just me or is Haver the most freakishly unpredictable and incomprehensible verb in the language?

[] Compound Verbs Describing Potential for Action

Ir, Poder or Dever +[No joining word] + Infinitive

  • Vou ganhar o prémio
  • Posso ajudar?
  • Deve estudar

I would think of these as “I’m gonna do something”, “I could do something” and “I should do something” so no joining word needed.

Things That Look Like Compound Verbs But Aren’t.

Some verbs can take an infinitive as their object and so the joining word will depend on the verb in question. So for example

  • Gosto de ler
  • Preciso de ler

both look a bit compound verby but Gostar and Precisar are the main verbs of the sentence and ler is basically being treated as a noun. Both take a de because the verbs are a bit strange. It’s easiest to understand gostar as meaning “to be pleased” so  Gosto de ler means “I am pleased by reading” and Precisar is more like “Have a need” so precisar de ler means “I have a need for reading”

  • Adoro ler

means the same as gosto de ler but it doesn’t need the de because it’s a bit more direct. “Adorar” means “to adore” and you don’t need to adore of something or adore by something, you just need to adore it.

Likewise in the song Deixa-Me Rir, I asked my teacher** why it wasn’t “Deixa-me de rir” like in the example above: “deixe de fumar” but here he’s not talking about letting go of something, he’s talking about being allowed to do it,so Rir is being treated as an object again

Some of the harder-working irregular verbs can be used with prepositions in a way that changes their meaning and in some cases they can be used with infinitives. These buggers are a law unto themselves

  • Dar + para= to be suitable. Essa caneta não dá para escrever uma carta
  • Ficar + por= to fail to do something: Fiquei por escrever o meu livro
  • Passar + a= to change: Depois do desastre, passei a ser outra pessoa

Other Structures Involving Infinitives

In other situations, infinities can be preceded by joining words but it seems even more random.

Quem me dera falar português como a minha esposa

Who will give me speaking portuguese like my wife? (No joining word)

Estou contente por saber que a sua equipa ganhou o tri-campeonato, seja lá o que isso for.

I am content through knowing….

Or

Estou contente em saber que a sua equipa ganhou o tri-campeonato, seja lá o que isso for.

I am content in knowing…

It’s all a bit play-it-by-ear though.

*=Listed at http://www.conjugacao-de-verbos.com/verbo/chorrar.php

**=I’m grateful to Ana Cristina Silva for helping me understand this… or at least to be less confused!

—–UPDATE—–

I found exercises 48, 49 and 50 of Gramática Activa 1 useful for this – and similar preposition-related confusion.