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The Portuguese Present Tense and How to Use It


The Portuguese present tense is fundamental to the majority of Portuguese vocabulary. Having a basic grasp of it will help you in a wide variety of situations; whether it’s asking for directions, asking the time, asking for help, to just talking about the weather, all use the present tense. When you start to learn with a tutor, you’ll start using the Portuguese present tense immediately, from the very first simple phrases.


In this post, we’ll look at the two most common types of Portuguese present tense, the simple present and the present continuous, how they work, and what situations they’re used in.


Simple Present

Presente

The simple present is the most basic Portuguese present tense, and it indicates actions that are happening right now, or actions that are happening regularly or unceasingly. It is one of the six basic Portuguese indicative tenses, which means that each verb has a set of pronoun-specific conjugations for this tense. Five examples are shown below:


I am (permanent)

Eu sou (infinitive: ser)


I am (temporary)

Eu estou (infinitive: estar)


I see

Eu vejo (infinitive: ver)


I write

Eu escrevo (infinitive: escrever)


I walk

Eu ando (infinitive: andar)


The simple present is probably the first tense you’ll learn when you start conjugating Portuguese verbs, as it’s the most commonly used. It’s also one of the most complicated, because it contains more irregular verb conjugations than any other tense—for example, of our five examples above, the first three are all irregular. To avoid falling into traps, learn with a tutor!


Present Continuous

Presente contínuo

The present continuous tense is used to indicate actions in progress, that is, to refer to a specific action that is currently being performed. Unlike the simple present, it’s a compound tense: instead of each verb having a specific set of conjugations, it’s formed by the simple present conjugations of the verb estar (to be) and the gerund of the verb for the action being performed. So, “I am making a cake” translates as eu estou fazendo um bolo—at least, in Brazilian Portuguese it does.


Here, we run into one of the principal grammatical differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese. In European Portuguese, the present continuous is formed from the simple present conjugations of estar, plus the preposition a, plus the infinitive form of the verb, rather than the gerund. So, in European Portuguese, “I am making a cake” translates as estou a fazer um bolo (note that the pronoun eu is omitted—in European Portuguese, personal pronouns are not usually directly articulated).


Below, we’ll go through five basic English sentences in the present continuous tense, with their Brazilian and European Portuguese translations.


I am writing.

BR: Eu estou escrevendo.

EU: Estou a escrever.


He is dancing.

BR: Ele está dançando.

EU: Ele está a dançar.

(Third-person pronouns are usually not swallowed in European Portuguese, because they carry information about gender.)


You are swimming.

BR: Você está nadando.

EU: Está/estás a nadar.

(Está is the simple present conjugation of estar for the pronoun você, and estás is for the pronoun tu.)


We are running.

BR: Nós estamos correndo.

EU: Estamos a correr.


They are eating.

BR: Eles estão comendo.

EU: Eles estão a comer.


Generally, the Brazilian construction of the present continuous is more intuitive for English speakers, because it’s essentially the same as ours—we also use the present simple of “to be” plus the gerund form of the verb. However, if you need to travel to Portugal, this construction is often considered to be inelegant, and is sometimes frowned upon, so learning the European construction is advisable.


There’s No Time Like the Present!

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