I heard a phrase today that got me thinking about Portuguese. If you’ve learned any other language or if you’re currently learning Portuguese, there will surely be some phrases or grammar points that have been engrained in your mind. Perhaps it’s due to repetition or maybe you merely had a great teacher, but there’s a moment where the lessons you once learned will naturally fall into the background and intuitiveness will take its place.
One of the phrases that brings out that intuitiveness for me is “Estar+de” and the phrase I heard today was: “Você está de brincadeira?” (and, in most cases, it is used to say, “You must be joking!”). However, if you wish to plainly ask if someone is joking, you can say, “Você está brincando?” Just keep in mind that the verb “brincar” means to play (like kids play, not to play sports or music) and to joke and the noun “brincadeira” means joke or game.
In the phrase(s) above, the individual words should be recognizable to you if you follow Street Smart Brazil’s helpful Portuguese language posts on Facebook (and even more so if you take lessons with Luciana or any of the Street Smart Brazil team). Nonetheless, for the purpose of this lesson, I think it’s a good idea if we break it down a little further to get a good understanding.
Let’s start with a good ol’ Portuguese grammatical term called an indirect transitive verb (verbo transitivo indireto), or rather, a verb that needs a preposition, and to be followed by an object, to be understood. We’ll come back to this after having looked at the straight definition and some examples.
According to the Dicionário Houaiss, the most-trusted dictionary in Brazil for referencing Brazilian Portuguese, Estar+de is defined as “finding oneself in the process of” or “to be ready to”.
Meanwhile, Dicio (the online Portuguese-only dictionary I use a lot) says it’s “to find oneself in a determined state, condition, or situation”. In the most basic terms, just think of Estar+de phrases as an action that was, is or will be in progress (depending on the verb tense of Estar being used).
Finally, let’s look at some examples:
- estar de parabéns = to be congratulated
- estar de partida = to be on the way out
- estar de férias = to be on vacation
- estar de mudança = to be moving
In these three-word phrases, “Estar” (to be) is the verb and “de” (of) is the preposition, while the third word, after “de”, is the object.
Remember that Estar+de, according to one of the definitions I mentioned, can also be used to express a “determined state, condition, or situation” regarding what you, or someone else, is wearing or feeling. For example:
- estar de bom humor = to be in a good mood
- estar de óculos = to be wearing glasses
And there you have it, another tool in your Portuguese toolbox. Use it well and estará de parabéns!