Ter vs Haver

Here's a question that I haven't been able to answer yet: What's the difference between "ter" and "haver" when trying to translate the form in english "there is", "there are", "there will be" "there have been", etc.? Example: "there's no more apples" Is it correct to say "Não tem mais maçãs" or "Não há mais maçãs"? I hope you could answer this question. I think it'll help a lot of freshmen like me.

July 2, 2013


The correct is: HAVER. Grammar rules tell us you can't use TER meaning there to be. But.... that's not what you will hear from native speakers. They use TER

But, as it is an impersonal verb, in Portuguese we have no distinction "sinular/plural". So, for there is/are the equivalent is "há" (pronounced like a). That is the correct rule. So, you should say "há duas alunas no pátio" but you'll hear "tem duas alunas no pátio". But when writing or a more formal occasion, or in a lecture, talk, or so, use haver. Plus, the others variation in tense are also always singular (conjugated for the 3rd singular person).

Further information. As auxiliar verbs they are interchangeable: she had arrived earlier = ela tinha chegado mais cedo / ela havia chegado mais cedo. In this case "ter" is more frequently used. People avoid using "haver" once it is more formal. If you use "haver/ter" as synonyms for "conseguir, obter, reaver, alcançar", they are also interchangeable.if you use "haver lugar" or "haver lugar a" meaning "fit" they are also interchangeable.

Superb!! Thanks for the help Paulenrique. This was actually very helpful. I was pretty confused because I’ve seen the use of “ter” and “haver” almost indistinctively in a lot of texts. But then I guess I'll use "ter" in the day-to-day conversations and I'll save "haver" for more formal or written ocassions. :D Thank you for the help!!

Good to know you got it... =)

you can either use "há" to say "ago", for example, to "three years ago", you say "há três anos"

like Spanish, hace tres años :P

Not the same. Spanish ‘hace' is from hacer not haber. As if to say 'it makes three years.’

Portuguese equivalent would be ‘fazer’ - faz tres anos - which isn’t right. Their há is from haver. No?

Actually, "faz três anos" and "há três anos" have subtle different meanings. And both exists in portuguese. While "faz três anos" focuses on na action during the space of time between now and 3 years ago (almost as if "for 3 years"), "há três anos" focuses on what happened in this point of time (=3 years ago)

@Paulenrique, based on what you said, did you mean:

  1. when talking about "there is/are" - "haver" is used in a more formal occasion, but "ter" is used more colloquially.
  2. when talking about "ter/haver+past participle" - it is the other way around since you said "People avoid using "haver" once it is more formal" - "ter" is used in a more formal occasion, but "haver" is used more colloquially.

Is that correct? Thank you.

"ter" is always more common in both senses:

  • Tem muita gente aqui
  • Ele tem comido muito.
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