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Compound Verbs

Hard Mode Homework. From Português Outra Vez: using verbs with prepositions. Often the meanings of the verbs can change so radically with the choice of preposition that it basically acts as a compound verb. The base verbs it offers are these

  • Andar
  • Fazer
  • Ficar
  • Ficar-se
  • Vir
  • Voltar
  • Voltar-se

Each can use a variety of prepositions and I’m using the Guia Prático de Verbos com Preposições by Helena Ventura and Manuela Caseiro to pin down which is which. I often use some of these without quite realising why and it’s useful to spell it out.

Quite often, I’ll come across a feature of Portuguese and think it’s weird and unlike anything in English and then I realise that, no, we do have them, we just don’t notice them because nobody draws attention to their existence. Think of the difference between “Stick to”, “Stick out” and “Stick around” for example – or “Pass by”, “Pass over”, “Pass for” and “Pass out”.

Andar

  • Andar a (+inf) = to progressively achieve something (ando a ler Fernando Pessoa)
  • Andar com = to feel (anda com dor de dentes) OR to live with (ele agora anda com gente muito esquisita) OR to have something with you (ela anda sempre com o telemóvel)
  • Andar de = to use some form of transport (ando de bicicleta)
  • Andar em = to frequent (ela anda na Faculdade de Direito) OR to achieve (ela anda em grandes obras na casa de praia)
  • Andar para = to have an intention to do something (ando para ir ao cinema)
  • Andar por = to approach (o preço do carro anda por dez mil euros) OR to visit, pass through, hang out in (gosto muito de andar pelos parques)
  • Andar sem = to be without something (o Pedro anda sem atenção)

Fazer

  • Fazer com (que) = to force (fizeram com que o ministro aceitasse as reivindicações) OR to have a consequence (a avaria na EPAL fez com que alguns lisboetas ficassem sem água durante muitos dias)
  • Fazer de = to act like (o Pedro fazia de palhaço) OR to transform (os E.U.A. disseram que queriam fazer do Iraque uma pátria livre)
  • Fazer… Por… To do something for (or on behalf of) someone (a Patricia fez o trabalho pelo colega)
  • Fazer por (+inf) to make an effort (ela faz por gostar de bacalhau mas não consegue)

Ficar

  • Ficar a =to be in a place (Lisboa fica a cerca de 300 quilómetros do Porto) OR to stay somewhere (não fiquei a assistir ao espectáculo ao final)
  • Ficar com = to get, or keep hold of (fico com a blusa verde) OR to continue to feel (fico sempre com medo quando ouço barulhos estranhos)
  • Ficar de (+inf) =to promise to do something (ele ficou de passar por minha casa às nove horas)
  • Ficar em = to stay, to be situated – similar to ficar a (o Hospital fica em Lisboa, a atleta Rosa Mota ficou em primeiro lugar)
  • Ficar para =to be destined for something (o colar de pérolas fica para ti) OR to be deferred (a nossa conversa fica para amanhã)
  • Ficar por =to support (nas discussões ela fica sempre pelas mulheres) OR to substitute for someone (o meu colega ficou por mim) OR to cost (o fato ficou por cem euros) OR to remain uncompleted (as camas ficaram por fazer porque ela teve de sair à pressa) OR to stop (hoje ficamos por aqui)
  • Ficar sem =to lose or be deprived (ficamos sem água toda a tarde)

Ficar-se

  • Ficar-se por =to limit oneself to (na reunião com os seus apoiantes, o presidente ficou-se por um discurso breve)

Vir

  • Vir a =to attain an objective (se vice estudar muito, pode vir a falar português corretamente)
  • Vir de =to finally do something (era minha intenção saudar os alunos que vinham de chegar)

Voltar

  • Voltar a =to repeat an action (o telefone voltou a tocar)
  • Voltar para =to turn something toward (voltaram os olhos para o céu)

Voltar-se

  • Voltar-se para =to turn toward (voltei-me para ele e disse-lhe tudo o que oensava

The book lists several other combinations of verbs and prepositions but I don’t think they are different enough from their original meanings to bother defining like this. For example, vir normally means “come” and you can come to, come from, come by and so on. Voltar means return, and you can return to, from, whatever. It’s not rocket science.

OK, here we go… I’ll put my answers in brackets. When I get it wrong, I’ll cross out my answer and replace with the corrected version.

A Teresa (anda para ficou de) passar por minha casa hoje à noite para estudarmos juntas, espero que não falte. [hm, I don’t think my answer was too bad. Maybe not the best one, but doesn’t seem wrong either…]

Após muitos anos no estrangeiro p Zé, cheio de saudades, (voltou para) Portugal

Lisboa (fica a) cerca de 300km

O excesso de açúcar é de álcool (faz com) que as pessoas fiquem obesas

Quando eu morrer, o meu colar de pérolas (fica para) a minha neta Joana*

Para cá chegares mais depressaa, sugiro-te que (vir venhas pela) autoestrada.

De repente (voltou-se para) o chefe e disse-lhe tudo o que lhe ia na alma.

Costumas (andar de vir a) pé ou (andar vir de) autocarro para (andar vir para ) a faculdade? [The word “para”, just after “autocarro” is missing from the book but it doesn’t make any sense without it, so I’m not 100% sure but I think it should be there]

Porto Covo (fica na) costa vicentina, (fica ao no) litoral alentejano

Não gostava de (andar de) transportes públicos sobretudo, detestava (andar de) metro

Se estudares muito, podes (vir a) falar português fluentemente no futuro**

Eles (virão de ficaram de) pagar as dívidas às Finanças no prazo de seis meses, caso contrário vão a tribunal [OK I can see that makes sense]

Eu (ando a) ler um livro de Mário de Carvalho***: “A Arte de Morrer Longe”

Ele (fazia por) agradar ao chefe mas era sempre um esforço em vão.

O ministro, lacónicamente (ficou-se por) um breve discurso na tomada de posse

(Andamos para) fazer um passeio no Douro, já há dois anos, mas ainda não nos foi possível fazê-lo.

Depois da queda do muro de Berlim, muitos imigrantes da Europa de leste (vieram para) Portugal.

A empregada é incompetente: limpou mal a casa e as camas (ficam ficaram por) fazer. [I was umming and ahhing over the tense for ages and it looks like I plumped for the wrong one]

Carlos, (voltou voltaste a) casar? Não desistes, é a terceira vez!

Os lisboetas (ficaram sem) água durante toda a manhã. Foi o caos!

Por vezes, convém-me (fazer de) surda, para não ter de responder a certas pessoas

*Woah, this question from Português Outra Vez is almost exactly the same as the one in a the Guia Prática.

**Another one! Oh right, I’ve just realised Helena Ventura is a co-author of both so she’s probably recycling her own material

***Coincidentally, I have a different book by the same author, Ronda Das Mil Belas em Frol, on the arm of the sofa as I write.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Grammar Practice

Verb conjugations and prepositions from Português Outra Vez. The conjugations are easy enough, the prepositions, as usual, are confusing.

Não consigo tratar a Adelaide por “tu” (I can’t call Adelaide “tu”)

Os polícias caíram sobre os assaltantes que foram apanhadas em flagrante (The police fell upon the thieves, who were caught red handed)

A notícia correu em todos os jornais.(The news ran in all the papers)

As traseiras do prédio dão para o cemitério (The rear of the building faces the cemetery)

O Zé é tão parecido fisicamente com o pai. E em matéria de teimosia também sai ao pai. (José is so physically similar to his dad. And as for stubbornness too, he takes after his dad)

Costumo tratar com carinho as minhas empregadas, para que se sintam à vontade (i usually treat my employees with kindness so they feel at ease)

O estudante coreano saiu-se muito bem na prova oral de língua portuguesa (The Korean student did very well in the spoken Portuguese test)

Depois daquele escândalo, o político caiu em desgraça e foi esquecido por todos (After the scandal, the politician fell into disrepute and was forgotten by everyone)

Tento convencer-te mas vejo que não consigo levar-te a gostar de jazz. (I try to convince you but I see that I can’t make you like jazz)

Não resisti àqueles bombons de ginja: acabei com eles em dois tempos (I couldn’t resist those sour cherry sweets: I polished them off in two goes)

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Queria? Já Não Quer?

I’ve just written a brief text in Portuguese about this which will probably end up being a blog post soon but I thought I’d expand on it in English in the meantime because it’s interesting!

So apparently there’s this joke that gets made a lot in Portuguese cafés. If you ask for a coffee by saying “queria um abatenado” (an abatenado is a kind of coffee) the waiter might reply “Queria? Já não quer?” if they are a bit of a smartarse. Why?

In English we don’t usually say “I want a cup of tea” because it sounds too blunt, so we go for something gentler like “I would like a cup of tea” instead. In the same way, the Portuguese have a fondness for tweaking the tense to sound more polite. They do this by saying “I was wanting a coffee”. And so, if you are a bored waiter you might decide to interpret this in the most literal way possible and reply with “Oh, you were wanting one, we’re you? So you don’t want one any more?” I know, hilarious, right?

I quite like it actually since it is both amusing and instructive for us learners but I think some people find it irritatingly pedantic, especially when it is repeated often. A recent article on Timeout Lisboa has taken waiters to task for this and for another literalism – namely when they reply to a request for a glass of water (“um copo de aqua”) by replying that they don’t have any glasses made of water, only glasses made of glass but if you want, they can give you a glass with water in (“um copo com água”). Marco Neves, in his blog, Certas Palavras, takes up the baton and gives a few other examples of nonstandard uses of verb tenses as well as some of his pet peeves. It’s a good read if you are at intermediate level or above.

Of course, as with most things, as soon as you noticed some weird feature of Portuguese, you realise English has exactly the same weirdness. I’ve already mentioned “I would like” as a politer version of “I want” but here are some other examples of verb tenses being used in weird ways in everyday English that are completely fine but would be confusing if you took them at face value.

Present tense for future events: I hope I don’t catch covid because I’m visiting my parents at the weekend.

Conditional tense for past events: When he was depressed he would spend his evenings drinking Drambuie and watching repeats of Peep Show with his cat.

Future perfect tense for things you assume to be true: Ah, Hamish, you’ll have had your tea

Present tense for historic events (the so called “historic present” or “narrative present” which was briefly both trendy and controversial a few years ago and basically dominates podcasting): “The Romans invade the Iberian Peninsula in the third century and are met with fierce resistance, not least from the Lusitanian tribes, led by Viriatus”

Studying another language has given me a new appreciation of my own.

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The Sempei of Sempre

When I was about 11 or 12 and learning Latin at school, my mum told me a rhyme she had for remembering the meaning of the word “semper”, meaning “always”: She’d say “Semper, semper, always keep your temper”.

It still works, most of the time, for the latin-derived word “sempre”. It usually means “always”, but there are exceptions. The first one you learn is “Sempre em frente”, meaning “straight ahead”, and there are a few other little expressions like “até sempre” and “para sempre” where it works with another word to mean something related but slightly different.

But even in normal usage, not part of an expression, it seems like the word order matters and it can change what it means depending where it comes in the sentence. I have made a couple of mistakes around this lately so I’ve been pointed to some examples. Here are a couple, shamelessly stolen from Reddit

O João sempre passou nos testes

O João passou sempre nos testes

In the first one, sempre goes before the verb, so it means “João ended up passing the tests”. Maybe he wasn’t expecting to pass but he managed to pull it off. Or maybe you weren’t sure but then you found out that, yes, yes he did.

In the second, sempre goes after the verb so it means what you expect it to mean – João was a smarty pants and every time he took a test he always passed it.

This seems to be a quirk of European Portuguese. In Brazil, it just means what you expect it to mean, regardless of the order, but in Europe, where you put it makes all the difference!

So, for us anglos, we need to resist the urge to put sempre where we would put it in our own language. “He always passed always the test”

There’s a video about it here if you’d rather hear about this from the horse’s mouth.

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Vivalma

With my Tony Soper mask on, creeping through the bushes in search of rare and exotic creatures in the Portuguese language, I came across this sentence in the book I’m reading. It’s part of a description of the video footage of the big dramatic confrontation between the incompetent policeman and the unrealistic villain (I feel like I’m giving spoilers for the book review I’m planning…)

Do you like the picture, by the way? My daughter showed me how to unblur a single sentence like this the other day and I’m delighted to have learned a new skill!

Anyway, “vivalma” was a new one on me. According to Priberam it’s a relatively new word composed of the two smaller words: viva, alma. Alive and soul respectively. The grammar of the sentence is a little complicated because you have the mystery-meat pronoun “se” which I always find a little difficult to deal with but it’s just triggering the passive voice: “não vira” = had not seen, “não se vira” = had not been seen.

So the whole thing means “For fifteen seconds, not a living should had been seen in the river”.

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Gerunds

Parsing this paragraph which has two gerunds in it. Gerunds are rare beasts in european portuguese so I thought I’d try and unpick the grammar a bit for my own benefit.

“A long time ago” began Andreia, causing Marta to sigh with frustration, as she realised that the the revelation would be delayed, “wars between peoples were fought body-to-body, steel against steel, eye to eye. Technology kept evolving and automatic weapons arose, like rifles and wars began to be fought at a distance. “

Fazendo com que:

There are a lot of compound verbs in portuguese, where a standard verb (usually a common one like dar or fazer), gets used with a preposition and takes on a different meaning.. Fazer com que means to provoke or cause something (check this ciberdúvidas article for more background). In this case, it’s in the gerund form, meaning it’s just scene-setting: The dialogue is being described and the author is just letting you know what effect it’s having on the listeners

Foi evoluindo

Using Ir + gerund like this is a way of describing something that keeps/kept happening, continuouly over time. For some reason the main example of this I can think of is a clip of a brazilian dancer in a tik-tok video compilation…. OK, OK, it’s a guilty pleasure. Leve me alone! At about the 4:35 mark, she tells you “abre e cruza e vai acelerando” (Open and close and keep speeding it up)

So “Foi evoluindo” means it kept evolving.

Posted in Portuguese

A Incontornável Vírgula de Oxford

Virgula

This text is in defence of the Oxford Comma, which is actually called Vírgula de Oxford or in Brazil, Vírgula de Oxónia. I’ve put notes at the bottom containing some of the more interesting corrections.

Geralmente prefiro evitar erros de pontuação se for possível. Não sou muito picuinhas mas se vir um erro, corrijo. Mas há excepções. Se uma regra resulta numa frase ambígua ou pouco clara, antes quebrar a regra que deixar o leitor com dúvidas. É por isto, na minha opinião, que devemos exigir of uso da temível Vírgula de Oxford.

Quando se usa? Normalmente escrevemos listas assim: o primeiro item, o segundo item e o último. Não precisamos de usar uma vírgula entre o segundo e o último porque há um “e” mas considere-se a seguinte conversa:

Que* tipos de sandes** tens?

Queijo e fiambre, queijo e cebola e doce de framboesa e manteiga de amendoim.

Há uma certa ambiguidade: provavelmente há três opções: “queijo e fiambre”, “queijo e cebola” e “doce de framboesa e manteiga de amendoim” mas também pode ser “queijo e fiambre”, “queijo e cebola e doce de framboesa e manteiga de amendoim” ou “queijo e fiambre”, “queijo” e “cebola e doce de framboesa e manteiga de amendoim” ou várias outras combinações.

É provável que a maioria de nós já saibamos mas não é cem por cento óbvio, portanto o escritor tem a oportunidade de colocar uma vírgula antes do último item na lista, e antes do “e”.

Igualmente, ao escrever listas que contenham*** títulos ou qualquer coisa mais complicada do que uma única palavra, vale a pena inserir uma vírgula. Ainda que não seja certinha, qualquer coisa que ajude o leitor ou que faça com que o texto se leia melhor o texto é útil e ser claro é mais importante do que ser certinho.

* I used qual. I generally think of qual as meaning whic (which one is it?), as opposed to que, meanining what (what is it?) so I guess I was thinking which kind of sandwiches but in reflection that doesn’t really sound right does it, and maybe I was influenced by the fact that I was taking about sandw(h)iches. More about Qual vs Que here, on Ciberdúvidas.

**Side-note about sandes and sanduíches: bother are fine but sandes is more normal. It is a reduction of sanduíche, the latter being obviously an “estrangeirismo” based on an English word and therefore not very Portuguese-sounding but of course its tempting for us to use the more familiar word. Just to complicate matters further, technically sandes should be plural and sande the singular form, but “uma sandes” seems to be the default. In case you need more incentive to avoid saying sanduíche, consider this: sanduíche has the incredibly irritating characteristic of changing its gender across the Atlantic. It’s feminine in European Portuguese and masculine in Brazilian Portuguese. Whaaaaaaat? Sandes, people, don’t forget.

***Here and in the rest of the paragraph I completely failed to get I to subjunctive mode and blew all the grammar. It’s a good example of expressing an idea that has a lot of reliance on subjunctive tenses.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Locuções Temporais

I’m struggling a bit with finding the right tenses for some of the sentence structures set out in the C1 course so decided to try and write a few for practice. Thanks to Dani Morgenstern for help with the corrections.

  • Quando acabei de ler ele já tinha escrito a sequela (when I finished reading he had already written the sequel)
  • Enquanto ele tocava bateria, eu preenchia os formulários de divórcio (while he was playing drums, I was filling in the divorce forms)
  • Quando chegares a casa, descasca as batatas (when you get home, peel the potatoes)
  • Ela disse-me que queria ser primeira ministra quando fosse grande (she told me she wanted to be prime minister when she was big)
  • Quando o vírus tivesse passado, ela voltava a treinar (when the vírus had passed she went back to training – I think the sense here is of something that happened repeatedly: she’d get ill every so often and go back to training after each occurrence, hence the imperfect tense)
  • Enquanto não leres o texto não estás capaz de responder às perguntas (since you won’t read the text you won’t be able to answer the questions)
  • Enquanto os negócios tivessem apoio financeiro não iriam à falência durante a pandemia. (as long as the businesses had financial support, they wouldn’t fail during the pandemic)
  • Enquanto o tio Rui não tivesse chegado a casa, a família não começava a jantar* (since Uncle Rui hadn’t arrived at the house the family weren’t starting their dinner)

*It’s probably worth pointing out here that this “a” is a preposition and “jantar” a verb. They hadn’t started to dine. But jantar can also be a noun so I could also have said “o jantar” instead of “a jantar” and the sentence would still work but it would mean “they hadn’t started the dinner”.

  • Logo que o comboio parta, telefona-me (as soon as the train leaves, call me)
  • Assim que receberes a carta do SNS, marca consulta. (as soon as you get a letter from the SNS, make an appointment)
  • No momento em que as cortinas se abrissem, a banda comecaria a tocar (as soon as the curtains opened the band would start to play)
  • Mal tivesse aberto a janela, o pisco entraria na sala (as soon as he had opened the window the robin would enter the room)
  • Logo que eu acordava tomava um café (as soon as he woke up, he used to have a cup of coffee)
  • Assim que enviou a carta, percebeu que se tinha esquecido do selo (Just as he posted the letter he realised he’d forgotten the stamp)
  • No momento em que o professor abriu a boca a campainha tocou (at the instant the teacher opened his mouth the bell rang)
  • Mal soube as noticias, começou a chorar (As soon as he heard the news he started to cry)
  • Antes que te esqueças, faz notas sobre a reunião (before you forget make some notes about the meeting)
  • Antes que ligasse ao meu pai, ele enviou-me uma mensagem (Before I called my dad, he sent me a message)
  • Antes de abrir a boca vou pensar duas vezes (before I open my mouth I’m going to think twice)
  • Depois de nos termos encontrado a minha vida era vazio e sem propósito (Before we met each other, my life was empty and without purpose)
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. 🤷🏼‍♂️

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Grammar Police

I spotted this on twitter and was pleased to find that I understood what he was annoyed about

The headline writer has got in a mix-up between two tenses. He could have gone with the imperative “habituemo-nos” (let’s get used to wearing masks) or made a pronoun sandwich with the future tense “habituar-nos-emos” (we will get used to wearing masks) but he’s instead tried to put the pronoun in the end of the future tense and people are riled up.

Regular readers and grammar nerds might remember the terms for these positions. When the pronoun goes on the end of the verb it’s caller “ênclise” and when it goes in the middle, its called “mesóclise”. The missing third term is próclise, where the pronoun goes before the noun. The rules are set out here if you want some good, solid grammar broccoli for the day.