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The use of "é que"?

Olá pessoal!
So, while I was writing the Portuguese sentence: "Já estava a pensar onde ele escreveu isso", I was corrected by a native and he told me to add "é que" between "onde" and "ele". When I asked him why "é que" sounded better, or was need here, he did not know.

I've read somewhere that "é que" is used to formalize a sentence. However, this last situation changed my mind. Is there someone else who knows what the use of "é que" is in questions?

December 8, 2018



Not having the linguistic background, but out of my experience from living in Portugal it's very common to emphasise questions with "é que" (especially by the older generation of speakers). With the help of European pronunciation rules, it's very easy to blend it in. Like "Ond'é-k" for example.


Olá Jules, tudo bom?

Essa é uma expressão Expletiva. Não é obrigatório o uso. Esse 'é que' é uma expressão de realce, de ênfase.

Expletiva – De realce. Diz-se da palavra ou expressão empregada para produzir ênfase, realce. As expressões formadas pelo verbo “ser + que” são expletivas, como é o caso da usual é que: “Nós é que o convencemos a ficar”. A retirada de tal elemento não prejudica o sentido, mas neste caso a ênfase desaparece: “Nós o convencemos a ficar”. As expressões expletivas não exercem qualquer função sintática na oração e têm apenas valor estilístico, expressivo.

I was thinking where he wrote. Eu estava pensando onde ele escreveu.

i was thinking where he REALLY wrote. Eu estava pensando onde É QUE ele escreveu.

Hi, Jules, how are you?

This is an 'Expletive expression'. No use is required. This 'é que' is an expression of emphasis.

Expletive - Of enhancement. It is said of the word or expression employed to produce emphasis, enhancement. The expressions formed by the verb "ser + que" are expletives, Is the case of the this sample: (Nós é que convencemos ele a ficar)" Not Exactly, but something like ("We REALLY convince him to stay)". The withdrawal of such an element does not detract from meaning, but in this case the emphasis disappears: "We convince him to stay." (Nós convencemos ele a ficar) "Expletive expressions do not perform any syntactic function in sentence and have only expressive stylistic value.

i was thinking where he wrote. Eu estava pensando onde ele escreveu.

i was thinking where he REALLY wrote. Eu estava pensando onde É QUE ele escreveu.



Muito obrigado!!! Have some lingots!


Obrigado / Thanks :D


As the other guy said, it's not required, but it slightly changes meaning, just like "it was that" in "I was already thinking about where it was that he wrote that". Alternatively, in a very specific context, taking "que" or "é que" out of the same sentence could suggest something along the lines of "thinking at the place where he wrote that", but this is just a nitpick and the meaning is quite clear otherwise.


Hey Jules, I'd just like to add a European addendum to the previous great comments.

In Portuguese from Portugal, not Brasil, it is the norm to add "é que" in many sentences, but mostly interrogations or "I wonder if...?" type sentences. To return to your example, "Já estava a pensar onde ele escreveu isso" is in the gray area, because it is neither a direct question nor answer and is dependent on context. If it was "I was wondering where he wrote that..." (pensive tone) then you would use "é que" as it denotes interrogation, and say "Estava a pensar onde é que ele escreveu isso"; if you wanted to give the statement more emphasis, as Daniel pointed out, you would also use "é que" but with different vocal intonation, sort of like a "Aha!" moment.

A different example would be "Onde ele escreveu isso", which is correct if it is an affirmation or a direct answer. If it is a direct question such as "Where did he write that?" then you would most certainly need "é que". Here's why.

The difference exists in English too, as demonstrated here:

  • "Onde é que ele escreveu isso?" = "Where did he write that?"
  • "Onde ele escreveu isso?" = "Where he wrote that?"

Both are correct, but the first is a question requiring no previous input to make sense, whereas the second presumes a conversational string such as:

  • John is in the library.
  • Where he wrote that? - she said, pointing at a letter.
  • Yes.

There are exceptions and the rule itself is much more complex than I can write here, but in Portuguese from Portugal you should use "é que" as a general rule when formulating questions.

I hope it wasn't too confusing! And you can (probably) disregard some of those rules for Brazillian Portuguese, and although every Portuguese person will pick up on it we will still get your meaning (My girlfriend uses "Where he wrote that" instead of "where did he write that" in English all the time, and it's kind of endearing at this point).

Fica bem e boa aprendizagem! ;)

P.S: The construction of accusations is also different. Taking Daniel's phrase, "Nós o convencemos a ficar" would either use "é que" or become "Nós convencemo-lo a ficar." If this seems confusing, don't worry, even natives get confused with the atonal oblique pronoun "-o/-lo" (to my neverending dismay) and I believe Brazillian doesn't use it, so you may get marked wrong if you do, unfortunately.


Thank you for this wonderful answer Gonteix! This was really helpful! I am so glad you noticed I was learning português de Portugal! Please have some lingots. I hope to encounter you more often here at these forums :)

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