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The Portuguese Future Tenses: Learn the Different Types

The future tense comes up a lot in everyday situations, whether we’re planning business strategies, talking about our dreams or ambitions, or simply making an appointment. If you’re planning to spend time in a Portuguese-speaking country, having at least a rudimentary grasp of the Portuguese future tense will be very helpful to you. This is one of the many things you can practice with our tutors, who’ll help you reach your desired proficiency level.

There are two types of Portuguese future tense: the simple future and the future of the past (also known as the conditional). In this post, we’ll look at which situations each one is used in and how to know which one to choose.

Simple Future

Futuro do presente

The simple future tense is used to indicate events that will happen in the future. In the Portuguese future tense, there are two ways of doing this. The first is to conjugate the verb denoting the future action directly into the future tense. For example, for “I will drink the wine” we simply conjugate the Portuguese verb for “to drink,” beber, into the simple future tense and drop the “will” because it is implied by the way the verb is conjugated. In this case, the Portuguese translation of “I will drink the wine” is eu beberei o vinho.

However, it is more common, particularly in spoken Portuguese and especially in Brazil, to use the compound future tense. In this, we simply take the present tense conjugation of ir (to go) for the pronoun being used, and the verb remains in the infinitive form. Thus, “I will drink the wine” translates as eu vou beber o vinho. This is less elegant, but it has the advantage of requiring the speaker to memorize fewer verb conjugations, which makes the compound form of the simple future more suitable for spoken conversations, while the specific verb conjugations are more common in formal writing.

Below, we review four examples of English sentences using the simple future tense and translate them into Portuguese, first with the specific simple future conjugations and then using the compound simple future.

I will watch the movie.

Eu assistirei o filme.

Eu vou assistir o filme.

He will eat the cake.

Ele comerá o bolo.

Ele vai comer o bolo.

We will win the match.

Nós ganharemos o jogo.

Nós vamos ganhar o jogo.

They will catch the train.

Eles pegarão o trem.

Eles vão pegar o trem.

Future of the Past (Conditional)

Futuro do pretérito

The other form of Portuguese future tense is used for two purposes: to describe events that are in the future in relation to an event in the past (hence the name “future of the past”), and to describe potential events, whose occurrence is possible rather than definite (the conditional usage). There’s an easy way to work out whether to use the simple future or the conditional: if in English you’d say “will,” you should use the simple future, and if you’d say “would,” you should use the conditional.

An example of the “future of the past” usage of this tense, in English and Portuguese, is shown below:

João said he would make it to the dinner.

João disse que ele chegaria ao jantar.

The conditional usage is shown below:

If I worked more, I would earn more money.

Se eu trabalhasse mais, eu ganharia mais dinheiro.

The conditional tense, just like the simple future, also has a compound form. This is less common than the compound simple future but is still sometimes used in casual conversation—again, particularly in Brazil. The compound conditional is formulated similarly to the compound simple future, except that, instead of the present tense, the past imperfect tense conjugations of ir are used. The compound conditional is illustrated below:

If I worked more, I would earn more money.

Se eu trabalhasse mais, eu ia ganhar mais dinheiro.

Note, however, that this is a somewhat colloquial usage. While compound forms are commonplace for the simple future, for the conditional tense the specific verb conjugations are both more common and considered more correct. It’s probably best to think of the compound conditional as an “escape route” you can use if you can’t remember a verb conjugation.

Master the Portuguese Future Tenses

While the Portuguese future tenses are somewhat simpler than the past, there’s still a lot to practice and learn. In particular, there’s a wide variety of verb conjugations to be learned; the simplest way of achieving this is to work regularly with an expert tutor. With frequent practice, you’ll be ready before long for real-life Portuguese conversations about the future.

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