Prepositions used with infinitive verbs

Lots of sentences have infinitive verbs in it, and they often come associated with a preposition before them. That preposition has a meaning that is different from its standard meaning.

So, before infinitive verbs, you can try this (not a strict rule, but a good start, please notice that there is a big range of possibilities, here are a few)

A + infinitive: turns it into some kind of gerund action.

  • Estou a andar = I'm walking

De + infinitive: it can be the cause of something, generally you can use "of/from" to replace it. And it's used to tell the usage of somethings:

  • Estou cansado de andar = I'm tired from walking
  • Esta barriga grande é de comer demais = this big belly comes from eating too much
  • Esta fruta é de comer? = Can this fruit be eaten? (is it real or plastic?)

Para + infinitive: indicates an objective or goal:

  • É para comer = It's to be eaten (I made these breads for you to eat)
  • Vim aqui para falar = I came here to speak.
  • Isso é necessário para consertar o carro = That is necessary in order to fix the car.

Hint: Ask "what for?" (para que?)

No preposition: normally a direct object just being itself.

  • Quero andar = I want to walk (WHAT do I want? I want to walk)

Gerunds and other cases

Please be aware that MANY times, the other verb or the thing coming before the infinitive verb will define the preposition and override those patterns.

  • Gosto de andar = I like walking (this preposition is demanded by the verb "gostar", so it has nothing to do with the given explanation about "de")

  • Ele começou a falar = He started to speak (Like "started to" in English. You alyways use "start to" (começar a) or "start gerund", but gerund cannot be used that way in Portuguese)

An excellent way of comparing the two languages is taking the English Gerunds (not present participles), which simply don't exist in Portuguese, being replaced by the infinitive instead. In this case, English can get as many different prepositions as Portuguese, and what preposition to use will get a lot clearer when you correlate things:

  • He is too young for voting = Ele é muito novo para votar
  • Do you see any problem in doing this? = Você vê algum problema em fazer isto?
  • Try doing it yourself = Tente fazer você mesmo(a).
  • He's afraid of going home alone = Ele tem medo de ir para casa sozinho
  • They have paid the price for doing evil things = Eles pagaram o preço por fazerem coisas más/maldosas.
  • Gerund is the key to understanding why Portuguese infinitive can take so many different prepositions! = O gerúndio ("gerund" em inglês) é a chave para entender por que o infinitivo em Português pode receber tantas preposições diferentes!

Again, remember that even that trick can fool us, because prepositions don't always translate directly into other languages, unless they are talking about physical places.

Go back to "Prepositions! - All you wanted to know":

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May 30, 2014


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