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The Corrections

Writing texts in the WritestreakPT subreddit has been really interesting. That’s where all these corrections have been coming from on this blog lately, and the people who hang out there correcting texts are really nice. It’s good when the corrections show you new words and are an education in themselves, and today has produced some.really interesting new words so I thought I’d share the results of my digging. These are all taken from the comments under “Os Adolescentes”

“Não vou ser assim tão picuinhas aqui”. I’m not going to be so fussy here. Picuinhas is an odd looking word. It almost looks like it wants a q in place of the c. And more to the point, why is it an adjective that apparently always ends in -as, even when the noun it’s referring to is singular and masculine? Priberam defines it as “Quem é exageradamente minucioso, quem dá muito importância a pormenores”. So I almost translated it as pedantic, but “pedante” already exists and I think fussy or picky is probably nearer the mark.

“Alguns são matreiros” Some of them are tricky.

“O meu pelouro são as vírgulas”. My area of responsibility is commas. I assumed “pelouro” must be like “pet peeve” but it’s not. A Pelouro is a branch of the municipal government of the responsibility of an individual Councillor, so by extension if someone says “O meu pelouro é (whatever)” they’re saying that’s their department: the thing they care about, and they make it their business to keep an eye on it.

I’m not sure what a pet peeve is. “Pet hate”, if you’re interested, is “Ódio de estimação”, which is exactly what you’d expect since a pet is an animal de estimação.

I asked about the Pelouro example. It is, as she said, “um pouco rebuscado” that they use local council departments as a way of denoting personal areas of responsibility. I only know “rebuscado” as meaning “far-fetched” when describing a book, say, but it has other meanings and the sense seems to be slightly different here. It’s a bit of a stretch; it’s a bit laboured.

I was advised to maybe check up on a facebook group called “Tesourinhos das Autárquicas” (clippings from the local elections) to get a flavour of what goes on in Portuguese local democracy. It’s a good way of getting some exposure to the language, culture and politics of the country, which can only be a good thing.

Finally, I said (in English) “I can feel a blog post coming on”, and that, apparently is “Cheira-me que vem aí uma publicação do blog”. It smells like there is a blog post coming. Smells? What are you implying? 🤔

Posted in English

The War on Ter Que-ism

I’ve seen occasional grammar guides arguing that it’s technically incorrect to use “ter que” to indicate obligation. For example in “101 Erros de Português que Acabam com a Sua Credibilidade” by Elsa Fernandes, she says “Ultimamente tem-se vulgarizado o uso da construção *ter que* para significar obrigação […] os especialistas indicam que, nesse caso, a forma mais correta é ter de.”
This ciberduvidas article makes the same point 

But this morning I was reading through (and trying to memorise) Mar Português by Fernando Pessoa and I noticed it has this couplet

Quem quer passar além do Bojador
Tem que passar além da dor

This looks like the great man is using tem que in exactly the way “os especialistas indicam” is wrong. Borrowing a phrase we sometimes use about Shakespeare, “I’d rather be wrong with Fernando Pessoa than right with Elsa Fernandes”, but I asked on Reddit to see if anyone else had thoughts on what might be going on. After all, the poem also includes an old-fashioned spelling of the words “rezaram” and “nele”, so maybe the language has drifted a bit since his day. It doesn’t seem so though.

“Ter que” is used a lot in Brazil, and as Elsa says, its increasingly common in colloquial speech in Portugal too. It’s technically wrong but seems to be one of those things that is used a lot. If teenagers and Fernando Pessoa are using it then it’s probably safe to call it a de facto standard. Best avoided in exams, but it seems as if it would be pedantic to pick someone up on it in normal conversation.

So what is “ter que” supposed to be for? It’s quite similar but it is more to do with ownership than obligation. So “tem muito que contar” means “he has a lot to tell”. In other words, he has a lot of experience, he’s an interesting guy. As opposed to “tem de contar muito” which means he’s obliged to tell you a lot.

Tenho muito que fazer = I have a lot on my plate
Tenho de fazer muito = I am being forced to do a lot

I had a complaint about the low quality of the pun in the title, so if you prefer you can think of it as “Ter Que’s Voting For Christmas”

I’m sorry.

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Is This The Most Confusing Verb in the Portuguese Language?

Image of a "Soul Reaver" from some game called Legend of Kain, listed as under a fair use license on Wikipedia. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the article
Frankly, this image is not helping. If anything, it is adding to the confusion.

So I came across this freaky verb today: “Reaver“. No, not rever, reaver. It’s based on the verb “haver” but with the re- prefix. Its h disappears because it would be silent anyway: re+[h]aver=reaver.

Haver is a weird verb to start with because it’s almost always used in the third person singular and it means something like “exists” or “there is”, but it has another meaning, which is “to have” or “to possess” and that’s the sense that’s used with reaver. It means “have again”, “recoup” or “get back”.

Cool, cool, cool, so let’s look for examples of it in use? Most likely form we’ll come across will be re+[h]á=reá, right?

Wrong! Reaver is a defective verb, meaning it doesn’t have a full conjugation. So even though the most-used form of haver is the third person singular present indicative form, that form doesn’t even exist for reaver. The only two forms Priberam’s conjugation allows in the present tense are the nós and vós forms.

Some examples of legitimate use are given in the dictionary entry

  • Ainda não conseguiu reaver o dinheiro que gastou (he still hadn’t been able to get back the money he’d spent)
  • Por duas vezes, eu perdi óculos escuros que nunca reouve (Twice I lost a pair of sunglasses that I never got back)
  • Paradoxalmente, era quando reavia as forças que a certa altura julgava exíguas (paradoxically it was while he was rebuilding his forces that, at some point, he judged them to be too weak)

But if you look at some of the examples Priberam gives of the past-tense use of reaver you come across a citation of a page by Portugal rebelde blog:

  • Cada vez que se reouve uma canção corre-se o risco de reparar em aspetos musicais ou poéticos de que não nos tínhamos apercebido. (Every time one hears a song anew, one runs the risk of noticing a musical or poetical aspects that we hadn’t recognised before)

Well… that’s *not* an example of the past tense of reaver though. That’s the present tense of “reouvir“, meaning to hear again, surely…? And so is this citation from a blog called French Kissin’, also cited by Priberam

  • O disco não tenta sistematizar o tema, muito menos esgotá-lo. Talvez por ser tão despretensioso, ouve-se e reouve-se sem cansar. (The record doesn’t try to systematise the theme, let alone exhaust it. Maybe because it is so unpretentious, one can listen and relisten without getting tired of it)

Googling what I thought would be common forms of the verb, I didn’t really find many examples of it being used in the wild. So… It’s useful to know this exists in case it crops up in books but I don’t think I will be rushing to try and use this one in conversation!

If you’re hungry for more pain and suffering, you can find out more about reaver in this Ciberdúvidas article.

Posted in English

Double Participles

Some verbs have two past participles: one that forms part of compound verbs and one that is used primarily as an adjective

InfinitiveStandard ParticipleShorter Participle
AcenderTens acendido a vela?A vela está acesa
AceitarEle tem aceitado as desculpasAs desculpas foram aceitas
ElegerOs americanos têm elegido TrumpO palhaço cor de laranja foi eleito
GanharEu tenho ganhado muito dinheiroO jogo contra Ucrânia já está ganho
PagarMuito obrigado por ter pagado a contaNão te rales, pai, a contas está paga
ExpulsarO governo tinha expulsado o embaixadorNão trabalhei e acabei por ser expulso
Posted in English

Grammarspotting

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.

Posted in English

Gender Wars 3: Attack of the Nouns

Madculine and Feminine nouns
Two nouns undergoing “flexão”

OK, so if you’re a new learner, you’ve probably come across a few explanations of how gender works in Portuguese, and how to work out if a given word is masculine or feminine just by looking at it. Different teachers have slightly different rules so I sat down to road-test them and see which versions were reliable and which had so many exceptions that they weren’t worth bothering with. I used a list of the 1000 most popular portuguese nouns (details in Appendix 3 below) and used excel formulae to see what rule *should* apply vs what gender it actually has.

This third version of the list has some new refinements for nouns ending in -ão. As you know they are very variable. I usually hear abstract nouns are feminine and concrete nouns are masculine but that’s a bit vague and there are lots of exceptions. But then I came across a video where some guy (I wish I could remember who so I could credit him!) said the thing to do is to look at the letter immediately before the -ão. Verbs ending -ção, -são and to a lesser extent -ião are the ones that are treated as abstract and feminine. They tend to be similar to english words ending -tion or -sion. The rest are manly and butch. Once you split the rule like this, it makes more sense and there are very few exceptions. So… I’ve updated the table below

Portuguese Noun Genders – All The Rules I Know

More specific rules nearer the top override more general ones further down. 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. 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 (but 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
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:
Words ending in
-ção
-são
-ião
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 impressão
a inflação
a informação
a instalação
a instituição
a intenção
a interpretação
a intervenção
a investigação
a ligação
a manifestação
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 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
o apresentação
o avião
o coração
Masculine:
Other words ending in
-ão
o alcatrão
o algodão
o balcão
o cão
o capitão
o cartão
o chão
o cidadão
o escaldão
o feijão
o órgão
o padrão
o pão
o patrão
a gestão
a mão
a questão
a razão
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

Appendix 1: Not-So-Easy E

Some teachers say that nouns ending in E are split between abstract and concrete. However, as you can see, contrary to the textbook rule, it’s mixed pretty evenly 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

Appendix 3: the List of 1000 Most-used Portuguese Words

I got the list from a site called Hackingportuguese but 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. I subjected the survivors to extreme torture in an excel spreadsheet in order to see how many exceptions there were, using Excel formulae to check the ending against the supposed rule. My version of the list is available as a spreadsheet here in case you want to play with it and check my work.

Posted in English

Sneaking In At the Back Of The Classroom

My favourite bookshop Bertrand, runs online classes as a sideline, covering history, philosophy, creative writing and other topics of general interest. These are obviously aimed at native speakers, not learners, but I can understand Portuguese pretty well, so I thought I’d give it a go and hope not to embarrass myself by doing anything too stupid. I selected “Portuguese Para Todos” (Portuguese For All) which is given by Marco Neves, a blogger and author of books about the Portuguese Language such as “Doze Segredos Da Língua Portuguesa” which I read a couple of years ago and summarised in a series of posts at the time. He knows his stuff and expresses himself very clearly. The course tries to help people level up their language game so that they can be more persuasive, interesting writers. He points out that this is especially important in the age of the internet when a lot of us are communicating in written format without an editor as a matter of routine. The format is a series of videos, with a new section released each weekday for students to view on demand and there are a few short quizzes to check your understanding (I am embarrassed at how low my scores were, I’m afraid!)

I’m going to use this post as a summary of the course, partly as a memory aid for myself and also as a review for the benefit of anyone who might be intereted in doing the same kind of course. We’re all on this language-learning jounrney together so we might as well help each other out and learn from each other’s experiences. I’ll try and avoid giving too much detail here though of course, since I don’t want to give away any spoilers on a commercially available product. If you think you’d benefit from the course, it’s only about forty quid, so get on it next time it’s presented! (Just to reiterate though, this is emphatically NOT a course aimed at new learners. Although he speaks very clearly, the material is such that you won’t even know what he’s talking about unless you’re at intermediate level or above)

Part 1 – Grammar, Errors and Myths of Portuguese

  • What is grammar? Grammar is the collection of habits of native speakers. Everyone has one in their heads, and even if we encounter an unknown word, so long as the basic grammar is intact we can still recognise it as a valid sentence and usually make a reasonable stab at the meaning of the word as a result. If the grammar vreaks down, on the other hand, we might struggle to even recognise the text as an example of the language.
  • Common annoying errors. I won’t list them all. I did a review summary of a book called 101 Erros de Português que Acabam Com a Sua Credibilidade a while ago, which covered a lot of the same ground, and I listed the main topics of interest to non-native speakers, but it’s like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, A lot of the mistakes are just errors of laziness or over-familiarity that are more likely to be made by a native speaker (think “they’re” and “their” in english, for example) than by someone who is coming to the language as a foreigner, learning the rules from a book. The most surprising example to an english reader is a false error: he says a lot of people will correct the phrase “Não há nada” (literally “there isn’t nothing”) because it’s a double negative. Now, in english this would definitely be an error and it would cause most educated british people to downgrade their estimation of the speaker’s intelligence by about 50% automatically but it is perfectly legitimate in portuguese. In fact, it’s correct. You can’t even say “Há nada” because you need both words to construct the negative statement. From what little Spanish I know, I think they are even more extreme and the rule seems to be that the more negatives you can squeeze into a sentence the more emphatically negative it becomes but Portuguese is a little less painful to english ears!

Part 1 (Extra)

In an extra session at the end, he lists some problems with autocorrect in MS Word. I don’t actually use MS Word in Portuguese, so I skimmed it, but I think we know Word isn’t perfect and has a lot of blind spots. Essentially, the problems with it in PT-PT are the same as the problems with it in EN-GB with the added complication that in addition to selecting the right dialect, you also have the option of configuring it to use or to ignore the Acordo Ortográfico, or some mixture of both forms. He gives quite a lot of detail here, and shows screen recordings of how to change settings to make Word more helpful.

If you use Word a lot for your Portuguese writing, this section alone might justify the price of the course!

Part 2 – How Does the Portuguese Language Work?

It's always the same story: It's Zeus who does all the bad stuff and Hades is the one who gets called "wrong"
Poor Hades
  • More examples of annoying errors. These ones are mainly related to verbs, and especially uses and misuses of the verb haver. I made a joke I was very proud of about “há-des” and posted it on Instagram like a big dufus. So far nobody has told me what a comic genius I am so either it is embarrassingly ungrammatical or else nobody shares my sense of humour.
  • Words as building-blocks of language. He breaks down words into fixed types (numbers, conjunctions etc that don’t change their endings) and variable types like verbs and nouns that do. He then shows how the “sentence construction mechanism” turns these words into whole sentences. He does this at a pretty high level that a native speaker would understand, and it’s interesting for a relatively advanced leaerner to see how he describes it in a way that is far removed from how we foreigners might learn it from books.
  • There are examples of long, complex sentences from the classic novel “Os Maias” by Eça de Queirós where the conjugation of the verb can trip up a writer, simply because there are many words between the subject and the verb, so when you get there you’ve lost track of what form it should have “Os Casas onde [long, rambling clause stretching over multiple lines]… mantém-se na minha memoria”. You occasionally see people make this kind of error in english too, when the noun and verb get separated. For example, I’ve just been listening to a podcast about the Jersey fishing kerfuffle and the presenter said There has to be some method of resolving these disputes that don’t involve gunboats. The verb refers to the singular “method” but because the word “disputes comes right before it he has used “don’t” instead of “doesn’t”. Tut tut, low standards at the Spectator!
  • There’s quite a good section on very complicated gradations in past tense. For example the difference between “O jogo tinha acabado de terminar” (the game had just finished) and “O jogo tinha acabado” (the game had finished). The first one can sometimes seem like an error since “acabar” and “terminar” both mean finish. So if you say “tinha acabado de terminar” it sounds like you’re saying “The game had finished finishing” but it’s perfectly correct. In contrast, my wife tells me that when she used to say “Vou ir ao cinema” (I am going to go to the cinema) her mother would cut her off by saying Se vais, não precisas de ir (If you are going you don’t need to go). In other words, you don’t need to use ir as an auxiliary verb if the main verb is also ir. You would just say “vou ao cinema”
  • When to use the infinitivo pessoal. It’s good to know portuguese people struggle with this since it baffles the hell out of us. Dudes, surely the whole point of an infinitive is that it isn’t personal an doesn’t change…? He says that sometimes it’s more of a stylistic chocie than a grammatical one. “O mais certo é tu seres o último a saber” (What is most likely is you will be the last to know) has a personal infinitive whereas “Toca a ler” doesn’t. It is definitely wrong if it’s the main verb, used with an auxiliary (Os meus pais acabaram de mudar a casa, not Os meus pais acabaram de mudarem a casa, for example) but the auxiliary verb itself *can* be a personal infinitive (Achei bem de terem mudado a casa, not Achei bem de ter mudado a casa)

Part 3 – Punctuation – Full Stops and Dashes

I think the fact that the AO is quite prescriptive about punctuation maybe means that it gets talked about more in Portugal than in the UK. It’s pretty unusual to see anyone pedantically mocking someone for adding full stops after each letter of U.S.A. for example. The rules are basically the same as in english with a few exceptions

  • Dot after the number when writing abbreviations of ordinal numbers (first, second etc) 1.o, 2.o, 3.a
  • Colons are known as “dois pontos”
  • The dash — or “travessão” is mosty used as in english. In other words, bung it in anywhere you suspect you might need a colon or a set of brackets or whatever, but you can’t really be bothered to think about it. Unlike in english, it can also be used at the start of a line of dialogue instead of putting the whole line in quotation marks — also known as “aspas”. If using a dash in this way, you would end the paragraph before with a full stop or colon, then put the dash followed by dialogue. If the dialogue ends and, narration is separated off with more dashes:
  • It works like this, you see — said Jeeves — but it takes some getting used to!

There are then some points about spacing of words in Word documents, how to use Word formats and so on.

  • Portuguese uses commas in place of decimal points 5,5 (cinco virgula cinco)
  • Sometimes but not always, the opposite happens: a dot in place of a comma in thousands: 1.000
  • You need a space between numbers and units
    • 5 km
    • 5 oC, and even…
    • 5 %
  • The word “numero” can be abbreviated to n.o
  • You abbreviate “antes de Cristo” (Portugugese equivalent to BC/Before Christ) as “a. C.” – small a, large C, dots after each and a space between

Part 4: Punctuation – Commas and Other Problems

I don’t think there’s anything here that will surprise an english speaker: the rules are all the same, and they’ll probably get broken at roughly the same rate as we break them in english due to our own prejudices and where we, personally, pause in our own speech, or just through force of habit. He even mentions “virgula de Oxford” and says that the use of commas before and in english is “muito polémica”. Not arf, mate.

In the extra section there are some interesting tidbits that are rules in portuguese but nobody cares about at all in english such as

  • If you have a phrase in brackets and you need another bracketed phrase inside it you use square brackets inside curved brackets (for example in this phrase [which I have put in brackets] there is another expression nested inside it where I have used square brackets)
  • Random additions like [sic] also belong in square brackets
  • Quotation marks (or “aspas”) come in two forms: “aspas altas” (high quotation marks) are what we would normally think of as quotation marks, but «aspas em linha» (in-line quotation marks) are also a thing. The basic uses are similar except that, as discussed above, you can use dashes to indicate speech, which you really, really can’t in english.
  • Apostrophes are blissfully rare in portuguese. he dispatches the whole subject in less than one minute. You’d be hard-pushed to do it in under an hour if this were a course in english! It would be illustrated with many examples of horrible misuse. People would boo and hiss and throw things at the screen. As in english, they are used for omitted letters, for example in quoted speech where someone has an accent: “meu qu’ido”. You don’t normally need it for merging prepositions into articles de+os=dos, for example, but you very occasionally need to, if the article is part of a book title, for example. If you’re a fan of Eça de Queirós you might want to say “I like Os Maias”, but “Os” is part of the title and you don’t want to cause confusion, so it would go “Gosto d’Os Maias” and that’s really about the only time you need to do that.
  • Note that in posrtuguese, apóstrofo is the name of the punctuation mark. The word apostrofe exists too but it’s a figure of speech. Specifically, it’s an emphatic invocation, for example “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Me Deus, meu Deus, por que me abandonaste?”)

Part 5: Abbreviations,

This just touches on some points raised in earlier days. In fact, it’s a wierdly short unit, this, and I can’t understand why he didn’t distribute the content more evenly between the sections. Anyway, as in english, an acronym (acrónimo) is like an abbreviation (sigla) but it can be pronounced like a word, such as “OTAN” (what we would call NATO), or “UNICEF”. This is really the entirety of the lessons I learned from section 5!

Part 6: Portuguese in the Office

Here we’re getting into the realms of style. He talks about how to avoid long convoluted sentences, and vagueness. For the most part, this is something, as a learner, that I am less able to control, since I don;t have the grammatical chops to write a long-convoluted sentence even if I wanted to and, on the other hand, don’t have a good ear for what constitutes clear, beautiful portuguese prose. This is probably one for the people at C2 level. I found the third point really interesting and helpful though

  • Read the sentence out loud to see if it sounds good and conveys the message clearly
  • Think about the division between setences and the internal structure because you’re not James Joyce, author of Ulysses, so that epic snot green 60-page sentence you wrote explaning the company’s internet usage policy could probably be broken up a bit to make its meaning clearer, say into two thirty-page sentences and all the readers thanking you, the sky opening, the music ringing, as I walk through Dublin out past the villages as the text gets easier and this seems like I good idea yes I said yes I will Yes
  • Avoid repetition. This seems obvious and we try to avoid it in english too of course but in the example he uses, it isn’t an obvious repetition. He shows a sentence taking place in the past, having “tinha” as an auxiliary verb twice and “que” three times. These kinds of things are quite hard to avoid, given the structure of the grammar, so this seems like a really useful thing to take away from the course. He suggests a way of breaking the sentence up. Unlike in the previous case, this isn’t to avoid lengthy sentences but to avoid overuse of little joining words like que. He also switches up the tenses a little to get rid of the double tinha. Obviously if the repetition is intentional, as in the abovementioned passage from Ulysses, that’s different, but unintentional repetition is often ugly and distracting.
  • Avoid repetition. This seems obvious and we try to avoid it in english too of course but in the example he uses, it isn’t an obvious repetition. He shows a sentence taking place in the past, having “tinha” as an auxiliary verb twice and “que” three times. These kinds of things are quite hard to avoid, given the structure of the grammar, so this seems like a really useful thing to take away from the course. He suggests a way of breaking the sentence up. Unlike in the previous case, this isn’t to avoid lengthy sentences but to avoid overuse of little joining words like que. He also switches up the tenses a little to get rid of the double tinha. Obviously if the repetition is intentional, as in the abovementioned passage from Ulysses, that’s different, but unintentional repetition is often ugly and distracting. Sorry, this is a silly joke isn’t it

Finally, there’s a shorter section on how to create a good piece of writing: drafting it, editing it and rewriting it. The bulk of the material here is in written format, with the writing serving as an example of good text as well as a piece of instruction.

Part 7: Questions and Traps in the Language #1

This was just a Q&A where people had submitted examples for the teacher to use as models and suggest optimal use of punctuation. I noticed a couple of the people asking the questions had very non-Portuguese names – “Jenny” and “Georgette” – so maybe I wasn’t the only estrangeiro lurking in the audience after all!

For the most part, the questions were to do with when it was OK to bend the rules relating to commas in order to make the meaning clearer, but it was all relating to parts 3, 4 and 5 of the series.

Part 8: Questions and Traps in the Language #2

Miscellaneous questions about orthography. I won’t list them all, but some of the ones I thought were most interesting were:

  • Use of articles with place names (“topónimos”). Coincidentally, I had been planning to do a post about this anyway, following on from a conversation I had with a former teacher but since I’m here, I’ll just embed it in this post instead
    • Countries generally take an article when they appear in a sentence – A Russia, O Reino Unido and so on. So it’s “Vivo na Rússia”. I live in the Russia, not I live in Russia
    • A few countries don’t need one though. He gives two examples but my teacher gives six, which I believe she regards as the complete list: Portugal, Marrocos, Angola, Moçambique, Cuba, Israel. Ele vive em Portugal
    • And there’s an even smaller list where the article is optional. You can use or omit the article in the following cases Espanha, Itália, França, Inglaterra “Elas vivem em/na França”. Both the course and my teacher give the same list, which is reassuring
    • Cities don’t take articles at all except in a few cases, usually where the city takes its name from some other geographical feature – so “O Porto” is “The Port”, O Rio de Janeiro is “The River of January”, and so on; so they take articles where they appear in a sentence but Londres, Paris, Lisboa, Preston etc don’t.
    • He gives one exception for the above, and it’s recognisable to an english speaker. We might say “I have fond memories of the Preston of my youth”, and likewise in portuguese that would be “O Preston da minha adolescencia”
  • Contractions of prepositions and articles, such as ao, pelo and do. I feel like these are something we pick up quite early as new learners so guess if you are reading this you either know them or know where to find them in your grammar book. He gives some examples of when not to use them – mainly in sentences where the article or pronoun pertains to an infinitive, either on its own or as part of a clause. Um. That’s not very clear is it? Um… let’s see if I can write some examples without copying the ones from the course because it’ll be more of a challenge. The italic phrases don’t get contracted because they refer to an infitive, or a phrase containing an infinitive (highlighted in red) which is sneakily doing the job of an object.
    • Enterrou o seu pai antes de ele (not “dele”) falecer = “he buried his father before his dying”, which isn’t the traditional way of doing things, I know, but maybe he’s just not very patient
    • Não gosto de um (not “dum”) livro de segunda mão ter uns cantos dobrados = “I don’t like a second hand book having dog-eared pages”. True dat.
  • Hm… that’s all he said about this subject. I had a feeling he might be missing some. (Not that I doubt his knowledge, obviously, but there might be some things that are too obvious to say to an audience of native speakers…?) I was sure there was a rule that said you leave the two separate if the number was important – for example in a sentence like “I managed to move all my stuff to the new house in one journey instead of two” seems like it should be “em um” to stress the fact of the number. I can’t find any evidence of such a rule online though so maybe I dreamed it. See this ciberduvidas answer for example
  • He talks about some less common contractions too, like
    • Comigo, contigo, convosco and all those contractions of “com” with a personal pronoun
    • lhas, mo, and other splicings of a direct and an indirect object. If you haven’t come across this sort of abomination yet, wait till you get to B2. Basically, when you say “I gave it to him” the “it” (o) and the “to him” (lhe) get splunged together into “lho”, and there are a few other combinations along the same lines. He thinks these are a bit ugly. He also warns of the danger of confusing things like “mostramos” (we show) with “mostra-mos” (show them to me). Well quite! *reaches for gin and tonic*
  • Difference between “à-vontade” with a hyphen and “à vontade” without. I’d never heard of the hyphenated version, and when I checked online the first result was someone saying it was invalidated by the Acordo Ortografico but it’s in priberam and that’s good enough for me. With the hyphen it is a noun which means something like “alacrity” or “eagerness”. Without the hyphen it works as an adjective and means something like “at ease” or “in one’s element”, as in the phrase “esteja a vontade” which is roughly equivalent to ” make yourself at home” or “feel free to…”
  • Cabo-Verdiana not Cabo-Verdeana: important in my house because Mrs L was born there.
  • Enquanto sometimes appears in the wild as “enquanto que” and it’s not wrong but it’s never obligatory so the takeaway for a non-native speaker is probably just “don’t bother”

Part 9: Questions and Traps in the Language #3

Again , dealing with questions native speakers often get wrong. Some of them won’t be much use but

  • Modes of address were discussed, and these are often quite confusing because on the whole we are much less formal in the UK and certainly don’t have mjultiple ways of saying “you” depending on who we’re talking to. He sets them out in decreasing order of formality from “Vossa Excelencia” (which is how the consulate usually addresses me!), down through “O senhor doutor”, “O Colin”, “Você” and finally “Tu” as the most informal. The last two pronouns are often omitted entirely and the listener just has to understand that when a person says “estás” they mean “you are” and when they say “está” they probably mean “you are” but could also mean “he is” or “she is” or “it is”, and you just have to get it from the context. What’s confusing about that? :^) In the plural, it’s similar except that tu doesn’t exist and vós appears instead as slightly more formal than vocês but is only used in certain regions of the coutry, not including Lisbon. See, it’s perfectly simple… ha ha ha *weeps*. Anyway, he talks about these at some length, highlighting the different usages in different social situations and regions. In Brazil, of course, all bets are off!
  • Use of the verb haver seems relevant. Again, I’ll make my own examples rather than copying because it’ll help me remember, but bear in mind I might introduce my own errors, so if you want it from the horse’s mouth, sign up for the course.
    • Generally, haver does the job of “there are” or “there were” or “there will be”. Há dois gatos na sala de estar” = there are two cats in the living room. In this sense it is roughly synonymous with “existir” except that existir behaves like a normal verb (Existem dois gatos) but haver is always and only third person singular. So: há, havia, podia haver, houve, haverá and so on but never havem, hei, hás, houverem.
    • Also works in situations where in english we would use “ago”. Há três anos = three years ago. Also in place of “for” when talking about time. Há muito tempo
    • Haver de (with no hyphen) means “to be obliged to”: Hei de ir a consulta = I have to go the the appointment
    • Haver-de (with hyphen) is a vaguer way of signaling an intention: “Hei-de visitar os meus pais” is like “I should really visit my parents (at some point)”
    • It can also be a substitute auxiliary verb instead of ter. “Eu havia gastado todo o meu dinheiro”. Some conjugation websites include this sort of construction, but most don’t.
  • Verb agreements. Mostly pretty standard stuff but
    • I did not know that the verb ser can agree with the object instead of the subject in some cases. “The problem is the people who votes for the other candidate” can be “O problema é as pessoas que votaram para o outro candidato” or “O problema são as pessoas que votaram para o outro candidato” . This is because those two things – the problem and the people – are identical to each other: the problem is the people, the people are the problem. Since this is (a) optional and (b) confusing as feck, I suggest you just be aware it exists but not try to use it
    • Sometimes it’s not always obvious that a singular subject is singular when you are talking about “the majority of people” or “all the people” (toda a gente), so watch out for situations where you refer to a group of people as a collective. This relates back to the point made in part 2.
  • Where does the pronoun go when it’s the object of the verb?
    • Usually after the verb, with a hyphen: “diga-me“, “dei-lhe o biscoito” and so on. This position is called ênclise and it is the default way of doing it in european portuguese.
    • If there is an auxiliary verb, the default method still applies but the pronoun can go after either part of the verb, according to choice: “eu ia-lhe oferecer um lapiz”, or “eu ia oferecer-lhe um lapiz”
    • In the future or conditional tense, you have to put it in the middle of the verb, directly after the main stem and before the ending, making what is sometimes called a pronoun sandwich. “cantar-lo-ei em voz alta” (I will sing it out loud), “nunca dar-lhe-ia a joia” ( I would never give her the jewel). This is called mesóclise and it is one of the top three most horrifying aspects of european portuguese, and that’s why most people prefer using compound future tenses like “vou-lhe dar um beijinho”
    • Finally, the pronoun goes in front of the verb in certain very specific contexts. This is called próclise. I can’t explain the uses as well as he can, obviously, so I’ll do it in a simplified way
      • After “que”: Ele disse que ele te deu um biscoito”
      • In negative contexts: “Eu não te prometeu nada”
      • In co-ordenated phrases like nem… nem… or quer… quer…. To be honest, I don’t even know what you would call this kind of grammatical structure in english but anyway it looks like this: Vou casar-me com Pedro quer me permitas quer nao
      • When the verb appears after certain adverbs such as “talvez”, “apenas” or “só”, for example: “apenas me deu dois biscoitos”
      • When it appears after prepositions like “para” or “até” or “de”, for example: “antes de o comer, lava os mãos”
      • When the subject of the verb is a quantifier like “ambos” or “poucos”, for example: “ambos me ignoraram
      • When the subject of the verb is “alguém” or “algo”, for example: “alguém me disse que há mais um biscoito no armário” (there’s a bit of a theme here isn’t there?)
  • The last section in Day 9’s lesson is a run-through of similar words with confusing meanings such as oficial and oficioso, trás and traz. The biggest headache-inducer out of these is the difference between porque and por que, which has come up a few times on this blog, including in the 101 Transgressions post I mentioned earlier

Part 10: How to Write Unforgettable Sentences

The final lesson in the series starts with some examples of “fake news about portuguese”, i.e. situations where wannabe pedants have insisted that certain portuguese phrases should in fact be written in some other way. My favourite was Bicho Carpinteiro (woodworm) which someone had insisted should be “bicho pelo corpo inteiro”, which is pretty good as a description of, say, lice but unless you were Pinnocchio, you couldn’t really get an infestation of bicho carpinteiro pelo corpo inteiro. I was a bit confused by his description since he seemed to be saying children could have woodworm, but it seems to relate to an idiomatic expression “ter bicho carpinteiro” or “estar com bicho carpinteiro” means to be fidgety or hyperctive (in Priberam, “Estar irrequieto; não parar quieto no mesmo lugar.”)

Then he dives into the video “How to Write Unforgettable Sentences” itself. All I can say is it must be easy to be a writer in portuguese because he manages to cover the entire subject in three minutes and thirty one seconds! He does this by examining a paragraph from Civilisation, a short story by Eça de Queirós, looking at the choice of adverbs, differing lengths of sentences, contrasting imagery and explaning how this demonstrates his total mastery of the language. This stuff is all pretty advanced. I’m not sure I could analyse a text in my own language at this level of detail, and obviously I am in no way close to being able to do it in portuguese. This is some proper C2-level content

Conclusion

The conclusion is used to wrap up any remaining participant questions about capitalisation, about the awkward spelling, and about a whole raft of things really. He explains them really well, giving reasons for the choice, getting people to think more about why they do it in a certain way, rather than simply giving the rule. Some of the items I found interesting were:

  • A question about how to write dialogue that spans multiple paragraphs. I hadn’t really thought about this. As I mentioned in Part 3, sometimes dialogue in portuguese is written using a hyphen at the beginning of the line instead of using speech marks at the beginning and end. So what do you do if the protagonist witters on for ages and his diaogue goes over into a new paragraph? How does the writer know that this is the same character talking and not a reply from someone else, say? The course’s solution for this is to start the speech with a hyphen and then start the next paragraph with a closing quotation mark
    • So you start with a dash like this
    • » And then when you start the new paragraph you continue with the closing part of one of these inline quotes. This looks very odd to my british eyes, I’m afraid, but that’s how it works so I’ll just have to get used to it!
  • A question about compound verbs – phrases made of a verb and a preposition like “dar para” or “passar por” – that completely change the meaning of the verb. In this video he touches on them briefly, discussing when it is ok to use them in written portuguese, but doesn’t, obviously, go into detail about the meanings of all possible versions because it would take ages. He does advise students (and remember, these are native speakers!) to check a dictionary of the meanings of these compound verbs (here’s a link to the one I use, if you’re interested), because they don’t usually appear in normal dictionaries, simply because they are made up of lmultiple words.
  • A summary (in text form, not video) of the Acordo Ortográfico. If you don’t know about this, it’s an agreement that came into effect recently to standardise the spelling of the language between its european and brazilian variants. There’s a description of it in english on wikipedia, and even an online translator here that you can use to rid your own texts of any heretical words. Weirdly, there is a disclaimer under the title that says that the explanation doesn’t actually follow the rules of the AO itself! And sure enough, right there in the first paragraph: “O Acordo Ortográfico é um acordo entre oito países de língua oficial portuguesa, com o objectivo de uniformizar a ortografia da língua portuguesa e simplificar algumas das suas regras.” there’s a word that should have lost its C under the new rules.

General thoughts (from me) about the whole course

All in all, I really enjoyed the course and found myself looking forward to each new video dropping. It’s very clear. I didn’t find myself needing to rewind and listen again as I sometimes have to on Youtube, for example. He obviously really likes the language and cares about it being used well, but he isn’t pedantic, he just likes clarity.

The distribution of videos was a bit strange and didn’t seem well thought-through. Firtly on duration: why are there only three minutes and twenty seconds on day 3 but about an hour on day 1? Could it not have been evened out a bit so that we get – say – twenty to thirty minutes a day? Then there’s the way topics were grouped together. Things that seemed to belong together were widely spaced in time. OK, I know in some cases that was because he was allowing student questions to dictate some of the lessons, but that’s not true in every case. For example, having discussed some misconceptions about the language in part 1, why save the last three examples for part 10? Why not just group all that material into one day’s lessons, probably in the “Questions and Traps” sections in days 7, 8 and 9? That would have freed up Section 10 to expand on how to write beautiful prose.

But these are minor annoyances. The general content of the course was very good, and well worth the price of admission. I would recommend it to anyone with a good level of portuguese who wants to appear more polished in their written language.


Posted in English

What I Learned On My First Scottish Gaelic Lesson

Having got through the first stage of Duolingo Scottish Gaelic, (and by the way, came top of the gold league, just sayin’ 💅 ) I thought it was time I booked my first online lesson.

It was really good! A bit daunting, but good. I found the teacher on iTalki and he was very nice, helpful and encouraging and as the torrent of new words came at me he typed them all into the skype chat for me so I wouldn’t have to write them down. Although writing things down might seem like a good idea, it’s quite confusing in Gaelic because the spelling is so weird. Up to now, I’ve been using Duolingo to load vocabulary into my head but although I know “gaothach” is pronounced like “Goo-hock” I have to type it in Duolingo, so I find myself memorising the spelling by saying it to myself phonetically as “gowt-hatch” so it’s like I am learning two parallel versions of everything and until I can read the syllables properly, writing things down is probably going to be a hindrance rather than a help. I’m addressing this by looking at the video tutorials on Gaelic with Jason‘s YouTube Channel and I’ve started reading a small introduction to the language called Scots Gaelic: An Introduction to the Basics by George McLennan. It’s surprisingly readable as an overview of the language and how it got that way.

So many words!

Anyway, no point wasting time asking a teacher about pronunciation, so let’s crack on! A bigger problem is why the hell there are so many words. For example, in the lesson about weather there is the following question:

And why does it bother me that there are so many “extra” words here? Well, I remember when I started learning French, the phrase that sounds like Kesker Say but is written Qu’est-ce que c’est just seemed like an arbitrary collection of letters and so I always found it hard to remember the spelling because i didn’t really understand what the components meant. It was only later when I twigged that it literally means “What is it that it is?” that I started to understand how it related to “c’est” and “est-ce que”, and the other little building blocks of the language. And from there I started to decode the rhythms and the… well, the plumbing of the language. So I thought if I could just parse this sentence then I could start to unravel Gaelic in the same way.

Here’s how it goes

Cò risa thaant-sìdecoltachan-dràsta
Whatistheweatherlikenow
Cò means “who” usually but can be pressed into service to mean “what” or “where” sometimes. “Ris” means something like “against” usually (or “rice”!)Actually, “tha” on it’s own is the singular, present tense form of the word “to be” so it’s more like “this is” female articleWhy hyphenated? I have no idea. Presumably it could be broken down even further but Ididn’t get into thatEmbarrassingly, I thought this meant “weather” whch is probably why I was so confusedAs with “t-sìde”, I possibly could have asked whether an and dràsta have their own individual existences, but I didn’t go that far

I think the teacher was sceptical as to how useful this would be but I find it really helpful because I can watch out for the patterns in other sentences.

Questions

Cò ris isn’t always the word used for “what”. A more usual form of asking those kinds of questions is “Dè”, as in “Dè an obair a th’ agad?” (pronounced “Jane Opper a Hacket”) meaning “What work do you do? Obair must be related to “Obra” (in portuguese) and “Operation” in english via some circuitous etymological backchanneling, I think.

The answer to this question can be a bit odd or unfamiliar. “Is e IT consultant a th’ annam” which means “It is an IT consultant that’s in me”. Er… OK…

And, yes, like most languages, Gaelic uses some imported english words, especially for relatively modern words. “IT Consultant” was just written as-is, but it seems more common for them to be transformed into Gaelic spelling. I like “brabhsair” for “browser” for example and “cupa tì” for “cup of tea”.

Verbs

First of all, there aren’t any conjugations. So “Tha” means “is” and “am” and “are”. It has a past (bha) and a future (bidh). I’m not quite sure where “chan eil” fits into this. On its own it means “no” but it always seems to go at the front of the sentence (which is where the verb is always found in Gaelic) so maybe the “chan” part is… a….negative— form… of… the… verb…? I’m thinking out loud here, obviously.

There are only eleven irregular verbs. What are they? I have no idea. He did give me one example and all I can say it was pretty damn irregular, but I can live with that for the joy of not having to memorise long lists. Yeeeessss! I picked the right language!

Pleasantries

Gaelic, like french, has two forms of the word “you” (I was going to write “like portuguese” until I remembered that portuguese has about 17), and the more formal one is “sibh”. The effects of this aren’t always obvious: it messes with the endings of some common phrases like “thank you” which can be “tapadh leit” or “tapadh leibh” in the thu and sibh forms respectively, “and “what’s your name?” which can be “Dè an t-ainm a th’ ort?” or “Dè an t-ainm a th’ oirbh?”

Fhèin is a handy little word for returning a question or greeting back to someone. It means “yourself”. So if someone asks how you “Dè an t-ainm a th’ ort?” then after you tell them “Cailean a th’orm” (Colin = Cailean) you can lob the question back to them with “Dè an t-ainm a th’ ort fhèin?” (How are you yourself). So now I’m going to end this blog post and get back to work, so I’ll say tapadh leit for reading and wish you a good evening with a cheery “feasgar math”, and if you want to be able to tell everyone that you replied to a blog post in scots gaelic today, you can do that by replying in the comments below “feasgar math fhèin”. Don’t bother with the accent if your keyboard isn’t up to it: we’re all friends here.

Posted in Portuguese

Camões Conseguiu Escrever Muito Para Quem Só Tinha Um Olho

Comprei este livro porque achei que fosse uma piada. Em inglês existem alguns livros cómicos que mostram erros feitos por alunos nos exames de várias disciplinas. Não há dúvida que há alguns erros reais nestas colecções, mas tenho certeza absoluta que a maioria são piadas inventadas pelos autores, e o efeito dá para rir muito.

Cada erro tem a sua própria explicação.Seja como for, este livro não é propriamente a mesma coisa. É verdade que existem respostas engraçadas, tal como o título do livro mesmo, mas o propósito do livro é mais elevado: a autora é uma professora e quer ensinar os leitores a escrever bem português e para mim, claro, isto é ainda melhor porque quero aprender mais e isso é um bom método de aprender. Assim como o “101 Erros de Português Que Acabam Com a Sua Credibilidade”, muitos erros são erros de preguiça ou de péssimo hábito que, paradoxalmente, eu, como estrangeiro, provavelmente teria menos risco de fazer do que um nativo, mas há muitas dicas úteis. Já escrevi algumas publicações no meu blogue e fiz duas notas de publicações futuros.

Posted in English

Don’t Believe the Híf

More from “Camões Conseguiu Escrever Muito Para Quem Só Tinha Um Olho”. Its very good. Not at all what I expected (I thought it’d be much more like those toilet books like “F in Exams”) but very educational for intermediate Portuguese learners. I’m writing out this list of compound words in the hope that it’ll help me remember when to use a hyphen. They’re words commonly written incorrectly, with or without hyphens (hífens)

Abaixo-assinado and Abaixo assinado: The first is basically a petition, whereas the second is more like “the undersigned”

Antiacordo and pró-acordo. Pró-acordo needs an accent because the stress is on the prefix. A lot of words prefixed Pró, Pós or Pré seem to be like this. Antiacordo doesn’t need a hyphen because when the second part of the word begins with a consonant (other than h) or a vowel that’s different from the last letter or the prefix it doesn’t need one. The other examples she gives include autoevaliação, extraescolar, hidroeléctrico and plurianual.

Anti-inflamatório takes a hyphen because anti ends in an I and inflamatório begins with one.

Antirrugas and antissocial don’t need a hyphen but the r/s gets doubled to preserve the pronunciation, much as we’d do in English.

Bem-vindo: bem and mal tend to be hyphenated in situations where they’re joined to words that begin with vowels or Hs. When there stem word starts with a consonant it’s a bit more iffy. Mal tends to be joined to the stem word more often (malmandado, malcriado) whereas bem is more likely to be hyphenated (bem-mandado, bem-criado) but some conjoined words starting with bem do exist, like be feito and benquerente. Benvindo (capitalised) can also be a surname, apparently.

Coautor: co- is generally not hyphenated.

Contrassenha : as with some of the examples above, the s gets doubled to preserve the pronunciation.

Cor de laranja/Cor-de-rosa: she explains this in terms of one being a locution with its own meaning and the other not. I guess one is “the colour of an orange” and the other is “rose-coloured” but this just looks very inconsistent to me.

Ex-marido: words prefixed with ex in general have hyphens

Dia a dia, unlike day-to-day, has no hyphens

Efeito de estufa (greenhouse effect) and Fogo de artifício (fireworks) are “locuções nominais” and don’t need hyphens

Fato de banho (bathing suit), gaita de foles (bagpipes) and Fim de semana (weekend) don’t need hyphens because they’re a “locuções substantivas”

Febre-amarela (yellow fever) is a compound word and needs a hyphen

Galinha-da-Índia, louva-a-Deus, ouriço-do-mar are zoological species and all need hyphens. Could also have mentioned estrela-do-mar and porquinho-da-Índia

Grão-de-bico mad noz-da-Índia are examples of botanical species and behave the same way as the zoological species above.

Georreferenciação is another compound word that needs a double r to preserve the pronunciation.

Hás de /hei de: this is a bit niche. It used to be correct to write some forms of haver+de with a hyphen between them but in the acordo ortográfico it ceased to be correct, so you’ll see both forms. There’s a ciberdúvidas question about it here.

Hiper-rugoso: hiper needs a hífen when the stem word begins with an r.

Infraestrutura: if the word following “infra” begins with a consonant or a different vowel, it can be joined as one word

Infrassom: of the stem word starts with an r or an s then it gets doubled for the sake of pronunciation.

Intra-abdominal has a hyphen because the stem word starts with an a.

Limpa-para-brisas is a compound word (windscreen wipers) and takes two hyphens

Mais-que-perfeito: where this refers to a verb tense (ie, it means “plu-perfect” not “more than perfect”) it takes hyphens.

Micro-ondas: takes a hyphen because ondas begins with a vowel

Microrradiografia: the r is doubled to preserve the pronunciation where “micro” is followed by an r.

Minissaia: if the prefix Mini is followed by an s then it’s doubled to preserve the pronunciation.

Neorrealismo: if the prefix Neo is followed by an R it is doubled to preserve the pronunciation

Pós-graduação and pré-historia: pós and pré always have hyphens

Recém-nascido (newborn): likewise, any compound word starting with recém takes a hyphen

Sem-abrigo (homeless): likewise, any compound word starting with sem takes a hyphen

Semirrigido and semisselvagem: where “semi” is followed by an r or an s, it is doubled to preserve pronunciation.

Super-homem /supermulher: this immediately struck me as inconsistent like the example of cor de laranja and cor-de-rosa but in this case there’s a decent reason: homem begins with an h, and a lot of prefixes like supra and extra and contra and infra take a hyphen when they are followed either by an h or by the same vowel they end with. Anti-higiénico, anti-homofobia, extra-humano for example. Supermulher has a nice solid consonant so it’s immune.

Supraestrutura is the same story as infraestrutura.

That was a really useful list because I find those a bit random, so it’s good to know there’s some method to the madness!