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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Present Perfect - Wrong translations?

Hello there.

Here we are going to talk about the Portuguese verb tense that has the same structure of the English Present Perfect, but not the same meaning nor the same name!!

Currently, Duolingo's skill called "present perfect" does not have quite the right name, but that is something that will change as soon as possible (but not tomorrow unfortunately).

In Portuguese, this structure is called "pretérito perfeito composto", and its meaning is always about repetition that has been occurring lately.

That said, you can feel safe to translate it using the present perfect continous instead!

  • Ele tem chegado atrasado = He has been arriving late
  • Nós temos procurado por respostas = We have been searching for answers
  • Tem chovido mais que o normal = It has been raining more than usual

Curiosly, it's one of the features in this language that differs from all other major languages I know using this tense: Spanish, French, English, Italian and German.


Now, you're probably wondering:

How do I translate the present perfect into Portuguese then?

.
Here, we've got a few different cases to look upon.

1 - Concluded actions / Not recurrent:

In this case, you just use the simple "pretérito perfeito":

  • I have done my job = Eu fiz o meu trabalho
  • She has found her way home = Ela encontrou o caminho para casa.
  • He hasn't kept any of his promises = Ele não cumpriu nenhuma de suas promessas.
  • We have written many books together = Escrevemos muitos livros juntos.

This is somehow expected, since you can actually use the "simple past" as a synonym of the "present perfect" without significant changes in meaning.

With this, you can also fit the adverbs "always", "ever" and "never" in the same case, even though they appear to be recurrent or continous:

  • I have never seen such a thing = Eu nunca vi uma coisa dessas.
  • She has always been like this = Ela sempre foi assim.
  • Have you ever found a pink diamond? = (Alguma vez) Você já encontrou um diamante rosa?

.

2 - Things going on since a certain point in the past:

Now, here is an interesting difference that tricks many Portuguese speakers as well.

When the case is about something true since of for some time, the translations use the present tense instead:

  • I have lived here since I was a kid = Eu moro aqui desde quando eu era uma criança
  • She has not drunk since the accident = Ela não bebe desde o acidente.
  • I haven't seen that in years! = Eu não vejo isso há/faz anos!
  • They have been there for 10 months = Eles estãohá/faz 10 meses.

Notice the usage of "há/faz" for measured time periods in this case.
You can use either "há", "faz" or "tem", being "há" the most suited for texts.

But don't be tempted to use "por", for it suits "finished" time periods: "Morei aqui por 10 anos = I lived here for 10 years". In these "finished" periods, "há" would become "ago".

This usage of the present tense would match other Romance Languages too.

PS: the "pretérito perfeito composto" can be used with this meaning too in many cases.

.

3 - The tricky "to be" and some "stative" verbs:

Finally, the verb "to be" and some of the so called "stative verbs" behave differently.

The verb to be used in "present perfect" can mean a state that has been repeating / lasting for a while. In this case, you can translate word by word:

  • I have been tired = Eu tenho estado cansado (this is a state that has been repeating lately).
  • She has been happy lately = Ela tem estado feliz ultimamente.

One possible explanation for this is that you cannot write things like "have been being".

But please don't let the "lasting state" notion here make you think "a single long action" could use this tense in Portuguse. This tense is about "recurring actions".


So, how to understand all that simply?

Just remember: Portuguese "ter + past.participle" always means a "recent repetition". So, if the English sentence means that, you can translate it with the Portuguese "pretérito perfeito composto".

If the English sentence cannot or does not mean a recent repetition, then the Portuguese tense must be changed to fit the true meaning.


More about other past tenses: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1483888
Go back to the Portuguese Help Index: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6331998

December 13, 2015

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Davu

Thanks for all your efforts in helping us understand Portuguese. I know the interplay between the present perfect, present perfect continuous, "pretérito perfeito" and "pretérito perfeito composto" generates a lot of comments in Duolingo sentence discussions. Of course, because Portuguese allows things like "tem sabido" and "tem entendido" which, as you say, don't really fit the recurring action rule, there are always going to be debates.

I believe some of the difficulties could be solved by adding a little context to the sentences (sometimes just a single word would be enough). Are there any plans to do that? (I suppose in some cases that would mean literal translations then work which could be counter-productive.)

Anyway, I'm very glad you've added this article to your growing list of helpful hints.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

I've added some comments to those two discussions you linked.... those sentences are natural in Portuguese, and yet uncomfortably hard to translate to English, due to the "stative verb" limitation.

They are still recurrent in Portuguese, though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Yes, we will update that skill when we can version our tree. There are some missing keywords so we can add better sentences.

And we intend to add more normal verbs and less stative verbs. Let's leave them for easier skills, this one is complex enough without them.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Update:

The new tree is on its way :D
And this skill is undergoing a remodeling right now :)

But this work may take a few months, since this skill is not the only thing that will be adjusted.

Frequency adverbs will appear a lot to make everything easier:

  • Ultimamente = Lately (the major keyword for this tense)
  • Frequentemente/Com frequêcia = Often/Frequently
  • Regularmente/Regularly
  • Todos os dias = Every day
  • Aos domingos = On Sundays
  • ...

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DriesBrinkman

So, if I understand all this correctly, I could say: eu aprendo Português há 163 dias, and not: eu tenho aprendido Português há 163 dias What about: estou a aprender P. há 163 dias?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Right!!!

Yes, you can use the last suggestion:

  • Eu aprendo há X dias
  • Eu estou aprendendo há X dias
  • Eu estou a aprender há X dias

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Davu

And "Eu tenho estado aprendendo ... "?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Don't do that, please XD

We call it "gerundismo", and many consider it ugly or way too formal.

Things like "vou estar realizando o seu cadastro" are included. (I'll be creating your registration).

"Tenho aprendido" could fit that case too, but it sounds less natural to me.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Davu

"I'll be creating your registration" sounds ugly in English too, but the literal equivalent of "tenho estado {jogando | a jogar}" (I have been playing) sounds fine, so is it really wrong in Portuguese?

I think this form simply fell out of use when (weirdly) "tenho jogado" took over its role sometime in the development of modern Portuguese.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Well, in fact, I don't have a true grammar basis to condemn that, but it sounds way too formal. I don't remember hearing Brazilians using that, nor seeing that in writings.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

When you have a situation that "you will find me doing something in the future", it's perfectly ok to use things like:

  • Vou estar almoçando nesse horário (I'll be having lunch at that time)

There is an actual "be" intention in the sentence.
It's different from replacing a normal future with this construction, making it more complicated without any good reason for that other than adding a style.

  • Vou estar transferindo a sua ligação (I'll be transfering your call)

This can totally be replaced by "vou transferir a sua ligação" (I'll transfer your call)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/eldermarcos

yeah, I'm brazilian and don't use "gerundismo", it's very weird, nobody uses that


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/emeyr

Focusing on stative verbs, why is it that "I haven't seen that in years" is translated in the present: "Nâo vejo isso há anos!" and "I have been tired" is translated to the pretérito perfeito?

Isn't it possible to say: "Eu estou cansado" rather than "Eu tenho estado cansado"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

The "há anos" puts it into the same case as the "since" and "for" cases. (For years = In years)

The other doesn't have this, it behaves as a plain English present perfect case (with the quirk added by "to be").

  • Eu estou cansado = I am tired
  • Eu estou cansado desde sexta-feira = I have been tired since Friday
  • Eu tenho estado cansado = I have been tired (lately)
  • Eu tenho estado cansado desde sexta-feira = I have been tired since Friday

If you don't have the "since/for" element, simple present sentences will be just simple present sentences, nothing else.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Muddogging1

I know that this is an old topic, but maybe someone might help me here. I get when you use "ter+participle" to make the Present Perfect Progressive tense, even though it doesn't match in syntax with the same tenses in other languages. However, what about "haver+participle"? Would this have the proper Present Perfect meaning of "something had been done" instead of "something had been doing"??


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/standelf

In short, it wouldn't. They are grammatically equivalent but the haver variant is very formal and rarely if ever used in speech. Portuguese has no tense that corresponds to the Present Perfect Simple in English.

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