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Portuguese Conjugation: Using the Past Participle

The past participle is a common part of everyday speech. If you learn the Portuguese conjugation rules for it, you’ll make your Portuguese more expressive, more precise, and ultimately, more fluent. However, as you’ll see in this post, it can be quite complicated. The best way of getting to grips with all the subtleties is to learn with our expert tutors.

What Is the Past Participle?

The past participle is a verb form that is used to describe an action as completed. It can also be used as an adjective to describe a noun as having had an action performed upon it. Unlike many other verb forms, it can be used in a variety of different tenses.

In English, the past participle is often (but not always) the same verb form as that used for the simple past tense. For instance, take the two short sentences below.

1) I baked the potato.

2) The potato is baked.

Sentence 1 is an example of the simple past tense, and sentence 2 uses the past participle, but in both cases the word “baked” is used.

English has relatively few different verb forms when compared to Romance languages, so we tend not to think very much about things like tenses. Portuguese conjugation, however, involves a much larger variety of verb forms. For instance, the Portuguese translations of the two sentences above are as follows:

1) Eu cozi a batata.

2) A batata está cozida.

As you can see, with Portuguese conjugation there is a specific verb form for the past participle, whereas in English there is not. In Portuguese, every verb has at least one specific, unique past participle.

Auxiliary Verbs

The past participle is often used with an auxiliary verb. In Portuguese, the past participle can be used with five different auxiliary verbs: ser (to be, permanent), estar (to be, temporary), ter (to have), ficar (to become, to stay), and haver (to have). You’ll usually find that the conjugated forms of the auxiliary verbs are used, rather than the infinitives, depending on the tense in which the past participle is being used.

Regular Past Participles

For most cases, as with all types of Portuguese conjugation, there is a simple rule for deriving the past participle from the infinitive form of a verb. Nearly all Portuguese verbs, in their infinitive forms, end with either -ar, -er, or -ir. For -ar verbs, the past participle is derived by removing the suffix from the verb and replacing it with the letters -ado(a); for -er and -ir, the suffix is replaced with -ido(a). When referring directly to a noun, gender agreement must be followed; if not referring directly to a noun, then the form ending in the letter o is used. Examples of regular past participles for each verb suffix are shown below.

Infinitive: amar (to love)

Past participle: amado(a) (loved)

Infinitive: comer (to eat)

Past participle: comido(a) (eaten)

Note that the Portuguese word for “food” is comida, which is feminine. Thus, the sentence “the food is eaten” translates literally as a comida está comida! Obviously, nobody actually says this because of the ambiguity and linguistic inelegance, but it’s technically a perfectly grammatical sentence.

Infinitive: sentir (to feel)

Past participle: sentido(a) (felt)

Irregular Past Participles

Unfortunately, not all Portuguese past participles follow these simple rules. Portuguese conjugation is never that easy. There are a number of irregular past participles; five of the most common are shown below.

Infinitive: abrir (to open)

Past participle: aberto(a) (opened)

Infinitive: dizer (to tell)

Past participle: dito(a) (told)

Infinitive: escrever (to write)

Past participle: escrito(a) (written)

Infinitive: gastar (to spend)

Past participle: gasto(a) (spent)

Infinitive: ver (to see)

Past participle: visto(a) (seen)

Verbs with Two Past Participles

As if all the above wasn’t enough to contend with, some verbs have two past participles, one regular and one irregular. Below are three examples.

Infinitive: aceitar (to accept)

Past participle (regular): aceitado(a) (accepted)

Past participle (irregular): aceito(a) (accepted)

Infinitive: entregar (to deliver)

Past participle (regular): entregado(a) (delivered)

Past participle (irregular): entregue (delivered)

Infinitive: salvar (to save)

Past participle (regular): salvado(a) (saved)

Past participle (irregular): salvo(a) (saved)

In cases like this, the regular form is generally used when the auxiliary verb is either ter or haver, and the irregular form is used when the auxiliary verb is ser, estar, or ficar. Two examples using the verb aceitar are shown below.

He had accepted his defeat.

Ele tinha aceitado a sua derrota.

His proposal was accepted.

A proposta dele foi aceita.

Continue Learning

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