Practical Portuguese Grammar Without the Jargon

Practical Portuguese grammar without the jargon - Portuguese lesson by Luciana from Street Smart. Brazil

Today, I’m excited to share some information and tips that touch on grammar. But don’t worry! You don’t need to be a grammar enthusiast to understand it. I’m a big advocate for practical Portuguese grammar that you can use every day. So, let’s dive into some grammar tips without getting tangled up in jargon.

Grammar can be simple and practical

Grammar doesn’t need to be complicated – it’s woven into every sentence we speak, often without us even realizing it. It’s the invisible thread that stitches our words together.

Take the phrase “I wish I had met him” — it’s a classic example of grammar in action. There’s a good deal going on there: a subjunctive mood (yes, English has the subjunctive too) combined with a past perfect tense (that’s a mouthful), and the use of an object pronoun 😯

Yet, you don’t need to know the jargon, like “subjunctive” or “object pronoun”, to use it correctly in your everyday life.

So, I invite you to embrace learning grammar in a simple way, just as I love teaching it.

Now to today’s promised practical Portuguese grammar lesson

I hope you’ll have an “a-ha!” moment today 💡

You know when you’re in the middle of doing something and you want to talk about it? Say you’re texting someone while you’re munching on a sandwich. In English, you’d say, “I’m eating a sandwich”.

To say that in Portuguese, you just take the verb, chop off the “r” at the end, slap on -ndo, and boom!

For instance, “comer” becomes “comendo”. So you’d say, “Estou comendo um sanduíche”.

It’s not just about what’s happening right now, though. We also use it for stuff that’s going on for a bit longer or habits. Like if you’ve got a friend who’s always taking selfies, you could say, “Ela tá sempre tirando selfies”, just like you say it in English.

We are using the same verb tense: -ing in English and -ndo in Portuguese.

Here’s where it gets tricky for English speakers

But watch out, -ing in English doesn’t always translate to -ndo in Portuguese.

Sometimes in Portuguese, we just stick to the basic verb, especially when we’re talking about general stuff. For instance, we say “Falar português é divertido”, which in English you’d say, “Speaking Portuguese is fun.”

No -ndo needed in Portuguese because it’s not an action happening right this second.

This is where I see English speakers making a common mistake.

They often fall into the trap of translating directly from English to Portuguese, expecting a one-to-one match in verb forms. This approach, however, doesn’t work well.

With a direct translation, you may say, “Comendo pão de queijo me faz feliz” (Eating pão de queijo makes me happy). But the correct Portuguese is: Comer pão de queijo me faz feliz.

So, to wrap it up, -ndo is your go-to for all the action that is in progress in the present. It’s like adding a little dash of “now” to your verbs.

But if there’s no action actually in progress, stick with the base form of the verb in Portuguese.

Insider Tip

Here’s a little insider tip: when we’re just talking or texting casually in Brazil, we tend to shorten the verb “estar”.

  • Instead of “estou”, we say “tô”
  • instead of “está”, it’s “tá”.

So, “Estou comendo” becomes “Tô comendo”.

“Está tudo bem?” becomes “Tá tudo bem?”

Super simple, right?

👀 If you are curious about the verb tenses…

Did you notice this grammar lesson did not include verb tense names?

If you are curious (I hope you are!), here they are:

  • The -ndo verb form (escrevendo) is called gerúndio in Portuguese.
  • The “estar + ndo form” tense (estou escrevendo) is the presente contínuo in Portuguese
  • The base form of the verb (escrever) is the infinitivo in Portuguese.

💚 If you want to learn more (I sure hope you do!)

I have lessons on my blog with several examples, additional explanations, and one of them even has a practice exercise with the answer key for you.

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