Posted in English

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.

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 Portuguese

Tense, Nervous Headache

Examples of high-octane verb usage based on a C1 exercise that I really screwed up.

Se ela não chegar, depois telefono-lhe.

Lamento que o seu filho não tenha ido à escola a horas na semana passada.

Não acho que a minha filha queira ir à escola hoje.

Caso ela venha tarde, a mãe dela preocupa-se.

Se ela vier tarde, a mãe dela preocupar-se-ás.

Quando for para a universidade ela terá passado os exames escolares todos.

Oxalá ele veja o filme francês que o professor deu como tpc mas acho que não está nada interessado.

Vou perguntar-lhe como se diz “LOL” em português

Se dissesses aos jovens de hoje que vivias num caixote sem água nem comida em* criança eles nunca acreditariam.

Se me disseres que estás a pensar em estudar apicultura, é garantido que faço um trocadilho qualquer sobre “exames de enxames”.

Há quem traga uma bandeira do UE para o concerto..

Ainda não sei se eles touxeram a amiga da filha com eles.

Apesar de ele já ter feito muitos pudins o de ontem não foi um êxito.

Será melhor se vocês beberem um copo de vinho e se esquecerem de tudo.

Diga eu ou que disser**, não me desatem deste mastro.

Ainda que ela ouça mal, está sempre ao pé de mim de cada vez que abro um saco de ração***.

Lamentamos que o senhor não tivesse pedido ajuda quando a cobra entrou no quarto.

Não repitas o que o pai disse na sala de aula.

Falas tão baixo. Podes repetir?

Ainda não faço ideia de quando ela parte para Edimburgo.

A picture that has nothing to do with Portuguese verb conjugations.
Tense nervous headache? Try conjugatin

*=em, not como. In child, not as a child.

**=I managed to get this doubly-wrong. I wrote “diga ou que eu dizer”

***=I wrote “lata de ração” but ração is dried food. Tinned cat/dog food is “comida de gato/cão”

Posted in English, Portuguese

Fazer’s On Stun

Another C1 Exercise: uses of Fazer with a preposition

Não te faças de sonso. Diz-me! Passaste ou não passaste? (Fazer-se de = to our on an act – so this first sentence is like “don’t act all coy”)

Não estudei e isso fez com que chumbasse no exame. (fazer com que = to have a consequence. Note the use of the subjunctive after it)

Os meus pais queriam ir de férias durante o período letivo, por isso mandaram um email que a fazer de conta que eu estava doente (fazer de conta = to pretend)

Eu também, fiz por aprender mas não consegui reter nada do assunto. (fazer por = to make an effort)

Precisas de trabalhar e fazer pela vida (Fazer pela vida = to make a living)

Tens febre. Queres uma tigela de canja? O que é que posso fazer por ti? (this Fazer por isn’t really a comound verb. He’s just offering to do something for the person)

Farei um grande esforço para ajudar* o meu vizinho que quer pintar o quarto da filha mas não consegue mover os móveis. (Also not a comound verb. He’s just making an effort to help. This sentence and the one above are good examples of the subtle differences between por and para, I think. You’d translate both as “for” in English but in this case, the person is making an effort in order to help, so you use para, whereas in the previous paragraph you’re doing something as a result of their need, so it’s por)

Quando era sócio do clube de drama, fiz de príncipe da Dinamarca numa peça chamada… Hum… Hamster ou algo do género. (Fazer de = to act like, to represent)

Fiz o relatório da câmara municipal (This fazer de isn’t a compound verb – I just made the report about the local government)

Este texto faz parte da minha aprendizagem de português. (Fazer parte de =to be a part of something)

I feel you, Scotty (image: Swear Trek)
Posted in Portuguese

That Bad Mother, Ficar

Ficar is one of the verbs that can be used in lots of ways, so you’ll often hear it followed by a preposition and the combination of ficar +preposition makes a compound verb that has its own meaning. Some examples for today’s homework. Thanks to Dani Morgenstern for the corrections.

Ficar a (1) = “to stay around” (Não fiquei a assistir à conclusão do discurso)

Ficar a (2) = “to be somewhere” (Slough fica a cerca de 30km de Londres)

Ficar com = “to keep”, “to get” (Fiquei com o livro após o incêndio na biblioteca) – can also be used to mean keeping hold of a feeling (Fico sempre com medo quando ouço aquela canção)

Ficar de = “to commit to” (ele ficou de consertar a bicicleta)

Ficar em = “to stay in” (Fiquei em primeiro lugar até ao final da corrida quando Mo Farah me ultrapassou. Bolas!)

Ficar para (1) = “to be for” (Este livro fica para ti)

Ficar para (2) = “to be delayed” (A reunião fica para a próxima semana)

Ficar por (1) = “to support” (Nas eleições, ele fica sempre pelo partido do Roderick Spode) (This one seems to be pretty rare. Consensus seems to be that “ser por” is better in these kinds of cases. “…é pelo partido…”

Ficar por (2) = “To stand in for” (Não consigo participar na reunião mas a minha colega fica por mim)

Ficar por (3) = “To cost” (O livro fica por 100 €)

Fico por (4) = “To stop” (Hoje ficamos por aqui; preciso de um copo de vinho)

Ficar por + infinitive = “to not be done yet” (O meu trabalho de casa fica por fazer porque sou preguiçoso)

Ficar sem = “To go without” (Ficámos sem papel higiénico durante as primeiras semanas da pandemia porque uns idiotas entraram em pânico e compraram os pacotes todos)

Ficar-se por = “To limit oneself to” (Sendo incapazes de derrotar o governo, os apoiantes do presidente ficaram-se por gamar portáteis e tirar selfies no escritório de Nancy Pelosi)

Posted in English

The Spy Who Chegged Me

Structures I’ve seen in books and never been quite sure how to parse. According to Ciberdúvidas,

Vir + A + Infinitive

Is a periphrastic form of a verb. Wait, wait, hold it right there, what is a periphrastic form? It just means you use extra words to give the verb a slightly different dynamic or even to change the tense. In english it’s things like “You shall go to the ball” or “I do like chips”. It might change the verb’s tense or it might just make it sound more complete and more dynamic. Maybe like in English: How do you come to be in a place like this? It has the sense of ending up somewhere by chance, and it sounds more interesting than “How did you get here?” or “Why are you here?”

There’s an example in the book I’m reading now. Talking about Bolsonaro’s attempts to blame minorities for everything Ricardo Araújo Pereira says “Acredito que a gente ainda venha a descobrir que há inúmeros gays negros e índios na Lava Jato”.

Chegar + A + Infinitive

“Chegar a”, on the other hand is more like “finally managed to…”. It’s stressing the end of the action coming after a long time or a strenuous effort. Searching for an example similar to the one above, I hit on this one which is from a religious website talking how, after a lot of prayer, the believer can finally come to understand the project that God has laid out:

A oração também se torna caminho para o discernimento vocacional, não só porque Jesus mesmo convidou a rogar ao dono da messe, mas porque é somente na escuta de Deus que o crente pode chegar a descobrir o projeto que Deus mesmo traçou: no mistério contemplado, o crente descobre a própria identidade, «escondida com Cristo em Deus»

Posted in English

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

Take 5… Well, 7

Verbs that mean something like “Take” in various contexts

Tomar =take
Tomar duche = take a shower
Tomar em consideração = take into consideration
Tomar as decisões = take the decisions
Tomar conta = take care of

Apanhar = catch 
Apanhar alguém de surpresa = take someone by surprise
Apanhar com a boca na botija = catch someone red-handed

Demorar=to take a long time
O capitão demorou muito no banho = the captain took/spent a long time in the bath

Levar =take 
Levou muito tempo até conseguirmos constatar esta realidade = It took a long time to establish this reality
Levar em consideração = take into consideration
Jesus de fato levou todos os seus pecados embora = Jesus in fact took all your sins away

Trazer=bring (here – as opposed to Levar which is taking something away)
Ficar à vontade para trazer sua própria cerveja= you’re welcome to take/bring your own beer

Tirar =take (a picture) /take out
Tirar uma fotografia = take a photograph

Atirar =shoot
Atirar contra um alvo = take a shot at a target