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Portuguese Grammar: An Introduction to Moods

Grammatical moods are something English speakers don’t tend to think about too much—in fact, some of us aren’t even aware of their existence until we start to learn a foreign language. However, moods are a part of Portuguese grammar it’s essential to be aware of in order to learn how to conjugate verbs properly. You’ll find learning about moods much easier if you work with an expert tutor who can provide personal coaching to help you memorize those tricky verb conjugations.

What Are Moods?

When describing an action, we conjugate the verb that denotes it into a particular tense, according to the time at which the action occurs. We also conjugate according to mood—the mode in which a verb is being expressed. For example, simple descriptions of the occurrence of an action, whether in the past, present, or future tense, all fall within the indicative mood, whereas instructions and orders fall within the imperative. Portuguese grammar has a more complex system of verb conjugations than English, so it is more important to be aware of tense and mood.


The infinitive is the basic form of any verb, which in English is the form preceded by “to,” and is the form used in dictionary definitions. Rather than describing an action taking place at a specific time, it denotes the concept of the action in an abstract sense. Common usages of the infinitive include when you are describing trying or wanting to do something, as in “I want to make a salad,” eu quero fazer uma salada (infinitives underlined). In Portuguese, two tenses belong to the infinitive mood: the impersonal infinitive, which is the “normal” infinitive you have just seen, and the personal infinitive, which is an unusual tense unique to Portuguese grammar.


As its name suggests, the indicative mood is used to indicate that an action is occurring, has occurred, or will occur. This is the most frequently used mood, containing all six of the basic past, present, and future tenses. After the infinitive, the indicative should be your first priority for learning verb conjugations.


The imperative mood is used for commands, instructions, and requests. This is probably the easiest of the moods to master, because the vast majority of imperatives use the second person, there is only one imperative tense, and the rules for using it are (relatively!) simple.


The conditional mood is used when some condition needs to be met for an action to occur. The conditional mood uses the same verb conjugations as one of the indicative tenses, the futuro do pretérito, or “future of the past” (used when speaking in the past tense to describe an action that would occur later), so if you have already learned the indicative mood, you will find conditionals easy to master.


The subjunctive mood is used to express an attitude toward a hypothetical situation. The personal infinitive is sometimes used instead of the subjunctive, and you can make yourself understood by using other tenses and moods. However, to speak Portuguese like a native, you need to master the subjunctive mood.

Master Your Moods

Knowing what the various moods are conceptually is one thing, being able to use them properly is quite another! Mastering this area of Portuguese grammar requires a lot of practice. If you learn with our expert tutors, you’ll find it a lot easier, and you can always be confident that you’re heading in the right direction and not picking up bad habits. Our tutors are ready to come up with a lesson plan to suit your individual needs.

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