Subjuntivo in Portuguese

Dear all,

I have some problems with the subjuntive mode, and especially connected to the word se.

Say, for instance, that I am trying to teach the rules of a board game to someone and I want to say: “If you are here you lose” referring to a spot on the board game. I would think that the correct form would be: “Se esteja aqui, voce perde” (or maybe “vai perder”?). But then I was thinking, is the correct form maybe “Se estiver aqui, vai perder”?

I asked my friend, a fluent Portuguese speaker (but not mother tounge), and he said that the correct form is “Se esta aqui, vai perder”. But I thought that the word “se” always was followed with some form of subjunctive. But when I have been watching Brazilian TV-shows I notice that some use the indicative after se. Is this correct?

Another example is – say for instance that I want to ask my teacher a hypothetical question: “If I say this, what would you do?”. How would this be translated?

Thanks in advance!

August 4, 2018


When you're talking about a hypothetical situation in the future, let's say you are teaching the rules of a game to someone and you want to say "If you are here, then you will lose", then you should use the subjunctive in the future:

  • "Se estiver aqui, você vai perder", or
  • "Se estiver aqui, você perde".

When you're talking about a hypothetical situation in the present, let's say you are playing the game and you want to say "If you were here, then you would lose", then you should use the subjunctive in the past:

  • "Se estivesse aqui, você perderia".

I have heard people in Brazil form conditionals with the indicative ("Se está aqui, você perde"). That's not uncommon and sounds more informal. It's probably not 100% grammatically correct, but people do it anyway.

“If I say this, what would you do?”. How would this be translated?

"O que você faria se eu dissesse isso?"

August 4, 2018

Because I'm not a native speaker I don't have your feeling for the language but I do read a fair amount about its grammar and I just wanted to comment on your suspicion that using "se" with the indicative to form conditionals may not be 100% correct.

My grammar mentions that "se" can be followed by the present indicative when the situation expressed in the "se"-clause is already the case at the time of speaking and in such circumstances the main clause is normally in the present tense too. For example:

  • Se está doendo tanto assim, é melhor chamar a ambulância.

Another source suggests that the same structure may be used for habitual or repeated actions. For example:

  • Se bebo muito café, durmo mal.
August 4, 2018

Those two examples you gave are not really hypotheticals, as evidenced by the tense in the main clause (Present). In the first example, you could replace "se" with "uma vez que". In the second, you could replace "se" with "quando".

August 6, 2018

I was replying to this comment:

I have heard people in Brazil form conditionals with the indicative. ... It's probably not 100% grammatically correct ...

I just wanted to point out it can be correct. Perhaps I could have said that more succinctly by pointing out that not all conditionals are hypotheticals.

August 6, 2018

I agree with you. I also happen to think that it is 100% correct :) "Se" has so many functions in Portuguese that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between them even for a native speaker.

August 6, 2018

Section 2 of this article describes some situations where "se" is not followed by the subjunctive:

I would have guessed your example is in that category. You are basically saying "Given you are here, you lose" (i.e. that always happens) and "Se você está aqui, você perde" seems to fit. I'm not a native speaker, though, and I've still got a lot to learn.

If you haven't already seen it, you may find this guide useful:

August 4, 2018

Just to clarify, these hypotetical questions refers to now, the present. Not in the future. Thats why i thought esteja would be the right call, but I might be mistaken

August 4, 2018

We have three different subjunctive forms in Portuguese: present, future and past. All the cases you mentioned should use the subjunctive future, which expresses a possibility in the future.

It's been years since I studied this in school, so I might write something wrong. Basically the subjunctive can be used in some different ways in Portuguese. I'll mention the most common two:

1) part of the direct object of another sentence. Example: "I want you to be happy" = "eu quero que você seja feliz". In this case, you ask "what do you want?" and the answer is "you to be happy". In Portuguese: "o que você quer?", and the answer is "que você seja feliz". As a rule of thumb, whenever you have a direct object that is another sentence and it starts with "que" (that), you must use subjunctive. You will use subjunctive present if the action is in the present, and the subjunctive past if it is in the past. The same example, but using subjunctive past "I wanted you to be happy" = "eu queria que você fosse feliz". Notice you can't use the subjunctive future here.

2) Conditionals. The subjunctive past and future can be used to create conditions. We don't use the subjunctive present in that case! - Example with past: "If I were rich, I'd buy a house" = "Se eu fosse rico, eu compraria uma casa" - Example with future: "If/When I'm rich, I'll buy a house" = "Se/Quando eu for rico, eu comprarei uma casa".

So, back to your question, if you want to use the write that condition in the past: "se você estivesse aqui, você perderia"

And in the future: "se você estiver aqui, você perderá".

Note: when using the subjunctive future, the other verb must be in the future: perderá/vai perder. However, using the present is also acceptable. It sounds funnier and is probably informal, but you can also say: "se você estiver aqui, você perde"

August 4, 2018

Thanks for all the answers. When I google "Se eu estou" or "Se eu estava", it seems like these forms are being used in Portuguese.

August 4, 2018

You shouldn't trust Google for grammar. You need a fairly large sample to make an educated guess.

August 6, 2018

Let's think this together:

You said you look it up and thought that '' esteja'' would fit in that situation, but does it? Nope.

''Esteja'' only happens in two instances, in the 1st person and the 3rd person singular of the present subjunctive. So, right off the bat your ''guess'' was wrong, since the 1st person is Eu (I) and the 3rd Ele (He/She) and what you wanted to say was Tu/Você (you). Not only that but you wanted to express and hipothetical situation in the past or in the future, not in the present, so you would use '' tu estivesses'' or '' tu estiveres''.

Tip: when you conjugate the subjunctive in portuguese you can use a ''prefix' to help you find which is the correct form to use, when you want to ''if'' something its probably going to be the PRETÉRITO IMPERFEITO do subjuntivo, because its always comes after the SE. When you conjugate the present subjunctive use the word '' que'' and when you conjugate the future use ''quando'' (when).

August 6, 2018

See this article about it, it's very explained:

Use subjuntivo in hipotetical and unreal accion, When you wish something happened but it's impossible or low probable happen or action that you should happen in the past but it not happen.

Se eu ganhasse na loteria, eu compraria uma Ferrari. (if I won a lottery, I will buy a Ferrari). - less probable. It's my wish.

Se eu tivesse estudado, eu seria um professor (If I had studied, i would have be a teacher) - impossible, it's should happen in the past but i don't did it.

January 16, 2019


1st conditional - a possible situation:

• Se eu ganhar na lotteria, vou comprar uma Ferrari.
• If I win the lottery, I will buy a Ferrari.

2nd conditional - hypothetical and less likely situation:

• Se eu ganhasse na loteria, eu compraria uma Ferrari.
• If I won the lottery, I would buy a Ferrari.

3rd conditional - past condition and past result. Hypothesis about a past action that impacted the past.

• Se eu tivesse estudado, eu teria sido um professor.
• If I had studied, I would have been a teacher.

Mixed conditional - past condition and present result. Hypothesis about a past action that impacted the present.

• Se eu tivesse estudado, eu seria um professor [agora].
• If I had studied, I would be a teacher [now].

July 16, 2019
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