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Learning to Conjugate Portuguese Verbs (Part 2)

Learning to Conjugate Portuguese Verbs 2

Have you ever wondered how many verbs Duolingo teaches you? Well, according to my notes, you will have met 278 verbs by the end of the course. This is the list I made:

abandonar, abrir, acabar, acampar, aceitar, acender, achar, acontecer, acordar, acreditar, acrescentar, adorar, agradecer, aguentar, ajudar, alugar, amar, analisar, andar, anotar, anunciar, aparecer, apertar, aplicar, apontar, aprender, apresentar, arrumar, assar, assinar, assumir, assustar, atender, atingir, atrasar, atuar, aumentar, beber, beijar, CABER, cair, caminhar, cantar, carregar, chamar, chegar, chorar, chover, cobrir, colocar, colorir, começar, comer, comprar, comprovar, concordar, conferir, confundir, conhecer, conseguir, consertar, considerar, construir, contar, continuar, controlar, conversar, convidar, correr, cortar, costumar, cozinhar, crescer, criar, cruzar, cuidar, custar, dançar, DAR, decidir, dedicar, defender, definir, deixar, demonstrar, depender, derrotar, descansar, descobrir, descolorir, descrever, desculpar, desenhar, desenvolver, deTER, dever, DIZER, diminuir, dirigir, doer, dormir, duvidar, eliminar, empurrar, encher, encontrar, ensinar, entender, entrar, enviar, envolver, errar, escolher, escrever, escutar, esperar, esquecer, estacionar, ESTAR, estrelar, estudar, evitar, exigir, existir, explicar, explorar, expressar, FAZER, falar, falhar, fechar, ferir, frever, ficar, filmar, formar, fotografar, frear, fritar, fumar, ganhar, garantir, gastar, girar, gostar, gritar, guardar, HAVER, IR, imPEDIR, importar, imprimir, incluir, iniciar, interessar, introduzir, jogar, julgar, juntar, lançar, lavar, LER, lembrar, levar, levantar, limpar, machucar, manTER, MEDIR, melhorar, mentir, merecer, misturar, montar, morar, mostrar, mover, mudar, nadar, nascer, navegar, negar, nevar, observar, obTER, odiar, oferecer, olhar, OUVIR, pagar, parar, parecer, partir, participar, passar, PEDIR, pegar, pensar, PERDER, perguntar, pertencer, pesar, pescar, pesquisar, pintar, PODER, PÔR, poupar, praticar, precisar, preferir, preocupar, preparer, procurar, produzir, prometer, provar, publicar, pular, queimar, QUERER, realizar, receber, reconhecer, recuperar, recusar, reencontrar, relacionar, repetir, reservar, resolver, respeitar, responder, RIR, romper, roubar, SABER, sair, salvar, secar, seguir, sentar, sentir, SER, servir, significar, soar, sofrer, somar, sonhar, sorrir, subir, suPOR, sustentar, telefonar, tentar, TER, terminar, tirar, tocar, tomar, trabalhar, tratar, TRAZER, treinar, usar, vender, VER, vestir, viajar, VIR, virar, visitar, viver, voar, voltar, votar

If you look at the list carefully you'll see that the some verbs are written in plain lower-case (Group 1 - 187 verbs), bold upper-case (Group 2 - 22 verbs), a mix of lower-case and upper-case bold (Group 3 - 5 verbs), lower-case italics (Group 4 - 39 verbs) and lower-case bold (Group 5 - 25 verbs).

The aim of this document is to demonstrate how these verbs can be conjugated without the use of an online conjugator or a book of conjugation tables. Of course, you need to be able to recognize which verbs belong to which groups (without the typography hints given in the list) and just enough information to deal with the special cases. In practice, you'll probably never need to fully conjugate any of these verbs and it will be sufficient to memorise the most commonly used conjugations, but seeing what factors influence the way a verb is inflected may help you to do that.

Group 1. Regular verbs

Regular verbs can be conjugated by applying the rules mentioned in Part 1 of this article. I recommend you learn these rules as soon as you can even if you don't yet know what terms like imperfect subjunctive mean. You could simply treat it as game and test yourself using a good practice tool until producing regular conjugations is automatic.

Group 2. Irregular verbs

The core set of irregular verbs was also covered in Part 1 of this article. My approach to the conjugation of irregular verbs is based on a mixture of the regular rules and remembering a stylised description of each verb. Even for the most complex irregular verbs no more than three tenses need to be committed to memory because the rest can be found using the regular rules.

Group 3. Compound Irregular verbs

Group 3 consists of 5 verbs derived from irregular verbs by adding a prefix:

These compound verbs can be conjugated by adding the same prefix to all the conjugations of the irregular verb itself. Compounds of TER take an acute accent on the 3rd person singular ("Ele/Ela/Você") form of the present indicative, i.e. where TER has tem, DETER, OBTER, and MANTER have detém, obtém and mantém.

Group 4. Orthography-changing verbs

Regular conjugation is a simple matter of adding endings to stems but sometimes this can lead to problems. The letters 'c' and 'g' change sound depending on the following vowel. The sound of 'c' before 'a' and 'o' is hard like /k/, but before 'e' and 'i' it has the soft sound /s/. Similarly, 'g' has a hard sound /g/ before 'a' and 'o' and a soft sound /zh/ before 'e' and 'i'. This is significant for the regular conjugation of any verb whose stem ends in 'c', 'ç' or 'g'. That's because, no matter which letter the ending starts with, 'a', 'e' or 'o', all the conjugations must preserve the sound (hard or soft) of the verb itself. The way this is done is quite simple: if the default combination of the final letter of the stem with the first letter of the ending sounds wrong or is illegal like "çe" or "çi", it is substituted by a legal one that has the correct sound. This table shows the different ways of preserving /k/, /s/, /g/ and /zh/ before 'a', 'e' and 'o':


For example, the stem of the verb FICAR ends with a 'c' that sounds /k/. According to the table, combining 'c' with endings that start with 'o' or 'a' will sound /k/ too, but the combination "ce" must be replaced with "que". Another example is DIRIGIR. Here the 'g' sounds /zh/ and thus the combinations "go" and "ga" must be replaced with "jo" and "ja". A final example is COMEÇAR where "çe" is replaced by "ce".

At most three tenses are affected by these changes: the entire present subjunctive and either the 1st person singular ("Eu") form of the present indicative or the "Eu" form of the preterite. Knowing these simple rules gives you the ability to conjugate many more verbs.

Group 5. Semi-irregular verbs

Essentially this group consists of classes of irregular verbs where each class has enough commonality for it be governed by its own set of rules. Knowing whether a verb belongs to this group or not is simply a matter of memory, although there are some clues given by the infinitive endings -ear, -iar, -oer, -air, -uir and -uzir.

The features of this group are presented using a notation similar to that used to describe irregular verbs in Part 1. Only one line is required and it defines the present indicative. If the "Eu" stem is bold then it is used to produce the present subjunctive based on the class (AR, ER or IR) of the verb. For most verbs all other conjugations are regular.

The easiest case is the collection of -uzir verbs. They are entirely regular except for one conjugation, the "Ele/Ela/Você" form of the present indicative where the regular ending 'e' is dropped. Using the same notation used to describe the common irregular verbs the two examples in the Duolingo list are:

  • INTRODUZIR - [introduzo, introduz, introduzimos, introduzem]
  • PRODUZIR - [produzo, produz, produzimos, produzem]

The remaining group 5 verbs are discussed in the next section.

Stem-changing verbs.

Another word for stem is radical so these verbs are often called radical-changing verbs. My definition of what constitutes a stem-changing verb is quite broad and linguists may have more precise classification terms for some of the verbs discussed in this section.

To understand the features of this class it's necessary to know a little about the way conjugations are stressed when spoken. There are 36 words in a full conjugation of a verb (nine tenses times four subjects) but only six of them are stressed on the stem and they all belong to the present tenses. As an example, take the regular verb COMER:

  • Present indicative: [cOm-o, cOm-e, com-Emos, cOm-em]
  • Present subjunctive: [cOm-a, cOm-a, com-Amos, cOm-am]

Notice how only the 1st person plural ("Nós") forms are stressed on the ending while the other six are stressed on the key vowel ('o') of the stem. The verb DORMIR is characterised by its irregular "Eu" form DURMo, where the stem vowel has been changed from 'o' to 'u' and its present tenses are:

  • Present indicative: [dUrm-o, dOrm-e, dorm-Imos, dOrm-em]
  • Present subjunctive: [dUrm-a, dUrm-a, dorm-Amos, dUrm-am]

giving a wider variation in the sounds of these conjugations. A subtlety here is that stressed 'o' and 'e' have two sounds each (open and closed) which means that if some conjugations are pronounced with the open version and some pronounced with the closed version the verb is actually stem-changing although there are no written clues to indicate this.

The most typical stem changes are key vowel alterations: 'o' to 'u', 'e' to 'i' and 'u' to 'o'. Other variations on this theme include only changing the 3rd person stems, changing all the stems except those of the "Nós" conjugations, or changing the stem vowel for a diphthong (essentially a two letter vowel like, for example, "ai" and "ei"). The Duolingo list has examples of all these types.

Irregular "Eu" form
Verbs with this kind of change can be described with a single word giving the irregular "Eu" form of the present indicative with the implication that the present subjunctive is based on its stem:

Technically, CONSEGUIR and SEGUIR are also orthography-changing verbs because "gu" has been changed to "g".

Other irregularities
When reading the descriptions of these verbs keep in mind that whenever the stem of the "Eu" form of the present indicative is regular, the present subjunctive is also regular. An example of this simple type is:

  • SUBIR - [subo, sobe, subimos, sobem]

where 'u' has been changed to 'o' in the 3rd person singular ("Ele/Ela/Você" and "Eles/Elas/Vocês") stems. More complex is

  • SORRIR - [SORRIo, sorri, sorrimos, sorriem]

where the stem has been changed from SORR to SORRI except in the "Nós" (SORR-imos) form of the present indicative and the regular 3rd person singular ending 'e' has been dropped.

In the next two examples the stem vowel ('i'/'e') is replaced by the diphthong "ei" in all six stem-stressed forms of the present tenses, but the unstressed ("Nós") forms are regular.

  • ODIAR - Use ODEI in all six stem-stressed forms
  • FREAR - Use FREI in all six stem-stressed forms

The next set have a mixture of changes and are more difficult to handle:

  • CAIR - [CAIo, cai, caímos, caem]
  • CONSTRUIR - [construo, constrói, construímos, constroem]
  • DIMINUIR - [diminuo, diminui, diminuímos, diminuem]
  • INCLUIR - [incluo, inclui, incluímos, incluem]
  • SAIR - [SAIo, sai, saímos, saem]

As with the orthography-changing verbs, here the regular rules produce some unfortunate combinations of the final letter of the stem with the first letter of the ending. For example, take the "Eu" form of the imperfect indicative of CAIR. The regular conjugation is found by taking the infinitive stem CA and adding the ending "ia" to get caia. Unfortunately, according to the less than straightforward rules of Portuguese pronunciation, this word should be stressed on the diphthong "ai" whereas, as mentioned earlier, this is one of the conjugations that should be stressed on the ending "ia". The way around this problem is to add a graphic accent to the first letter of the ending: caía.

Now consider the regular 3rd person singular form of the preterite which is caiu. The pronunciation rules in this case mean the stress is on the ending diphthong "iu" and so it doesn't need a graphic accent.

A very similar thing happens with all the verbs in this last group. Take INCLUIR, for example. The conjugations equivalent to the CAIR ones are: incluia and incluiu; the first needs a graphic accent on the 'i' giving incluía, but the second one doesn't need an accent because it is already stressed on "iu".

It's not enough to be able to pronounce the words correctly to write them correctly unless you are also familiar with the rules for adding diacritics. If you are not, it is difficult to patch the regular conjugations to get the correct ones. I don't have an easy answer to this problem. As a workaround, this table shows where the acute accents are needed for all the tenses (six indicative and three subjunctive):


Defective and Abundant verbs

The Duolingo list includes impersonal verbs like CHOVER (to rain) and NEVAR (to snow) that are only conjugated in the 3rd person singular (because it makes no sense to say things like "We rain"). An impersonal verb is an example of a defective verb which is one with fewer than normal conjugations.

Another oddity in the list is COLORIR which has some deprecated conjugations in the present tenses. The verb DOER (to hurt) is a defective stem-changing verb with two forms per tense (a thing hurts/some things hurt) and has an irregular present indicative, dói/doem and, only because accents are required, an irregular imperfect indicative, doía/doíam.

One of the few certainties about Portuguese verbs is that the present participle can be found by adding the ending -ndo to the infinitive without the final 'r' (e.g. falando). The regular past participle can be found by appending -ado to the stem of AR verbs and -ido to the stem of ER/IR verbs. Many verbs also have irregular past participles and this is the most typical type of abundant verb, that is a verb with more than one word for a particular form. An excellent discussion of these verbs can be found in the article Language Notes: Verbs with Two Past Participles by Luis_Domingos.


My intention in writing the first part of this article was simply to encourage anyone starting to study Portuguese, particularly native English speakers (English is a comparatively conjugation-free zone) to learn how to conjugate regular verbs and the core set of irregular verbs. In this second part I've tried to show how many more verbs can be conjugated with no more than a single line description of their irregularities. Even if you don't remember these descriptions, I hope that now you have seen the most common verb variations: regular, irregular, orthography-changing, stem-changing, etc., you'll be able to recognize other members of these classes and be able to write your own shorthand descriptions to help you remember their conjugations. If you still prefer to use tables a free verb booklet can be downloaded. This includes around 60 verbs fully-conjugated and an index of a few additional hundred verbs, each of which is conjugated in the same way as one of the base set. You'll need to supply your own English translations of the verbs because the original is intended for a German audience.

June 25, 2015



What a great article! Congratulations for this great achievement, and thanks for trying to make sense of Portuguese - now I can no longer joke that our language is crazy :)


It is crazy, check this out:

After 1974, everyone with a university degree is, by default, addressed as "doutor" — which means "doctor" and traditionally is just employed to address members of three professions: lawyers, medical doctors, and people with a PhD. However, for some strange reason, this was broadened out to all university degrees — except architects, engineers, and teachers. This can become horribly complex: imagine that you've taken a degree in architecture, then later on finished a degree in civil engineering, proceeded to do your mastership thesis, then your PhD in architecture, and got a job at a university. What is your title then?

Facts about Pt.

That's just one of many crazy facts. The worst of all is the fact that we can add diminutives to any word. Like "Dessamatorinho", "luisinho Domingosinho", Davinho. :)

Personally, I can never bring myself to call anyone with a degree as doutor. I may call them senhor/a, but only someone with a PhD (or maybe a medical doctor) deserves that level of formality.


People are not addressed as "doutor" as default - it's just a polite way of saying things in hyperformal terms (trying not to offend anyone and having a craving for societal acceptable through titles is something that happens in some circles here); I'm just finishing a Master's degree and I got a letter from my university calling me "Sr. Dr.", but that I would never be addressed like that if I was at school.

This person clearly didn't make a good homework at dissecting EP (the examples and especially the dates match Portuguese history). If she had done her research better, she would have erased a few of those comments:

  • Not all university teachers are "Professores Doutores". Saying they are is a big, big lie. They're simply "Professor" until they get their PhD, and they're treated by an assortment of different titles according to their formal links within the college and departmental structure ("Professor Convidado" for teachers invited to give classes, while maintaining ties elsewhere; "Professor Associado" when they're part of the faculty, but still haven't reach tenure).
  • We don't address your college mates by their last names only (unless that became a practice for some reason, usually when you have a class with four or five guys named "João").
  • Using the military as an example is a poor choice because that happens everywhere - a fictional USA Army Lance Corporal Robert Jones would be known simply as Jones too.
  • People in offices won't treat each other by "Engenheiro" this or "Economista" that; titles are used only with people with some authority over you, and especially in formal situations (like talking about said person to a third party);
  • And a few of these examples are only used by upper class or snobbish people (treating your kids using "você", domestic servants calling the bosses' children as "o menino/a menina");
  • If you ask someone about "o doutor", they still automatically think of doctors (most people aren't upper class so they don't know that many other "doctors");
  • Ending the whole piece by making a snide remark about the absurdity of calling "a car mechanic with a degree in sociology" doutor is plain stupid, and shows a different level of snobbishness... Is that person not working an honest job, providing society with a valuable service (sometimes even more than the CEOs that prefer platitudes over sound management of their companies)? Aren't all titles meaningless platitudes? Besides, how would I ever know, entering the mechanic's establishment, that he has an academical degree? Should I call him doctor if I knew he had a PhD even though the environment is more informal, and "senhor" would work just fine? Using that example as a some works are more respectful than others just seems to beat the purpose of the whole piece, I think.

I agree the language is intrincate, but it's also crazy to make so many assumptions that are not true.

P.S.: Sorry about the rant - I just think I had to defend my language for a change :)


I think just like the writer of that comment you've fallen into the same trap of generalizing things. Portuguese is spoken in many countries with many different customs, so some of those claims may be true for some countries or societies and not necessarily others. Even within the same country people may have different customs in different regions.

A simple example is my cousin who recently completed an undergraduate degree, and asks some people to refer to her a as a "doutora" in the office.

Some societies have great emphasis on formality and titles while others don't. Personally, I couldn't care less about titles, but use them simply because some seem obsessed with it.


In Brazil, usually physicians, lawyers and judges call themselves "doctor". Within the university there is the title "doctor" for those who have completed a doctorate. The Bar Association (Order of Attorneys of Brazil ) recommends that lawyers can not be required to be called "Doctor", but if this occurs you should not scold the person who made it, as this puts the class in a superior situation.

There is an interesting case in which a judge demanded that the doorman was referring to him only as "Doctor" and the case went to court. The judge lost cause. The judgment of the Superior Judge dismissed the case saying "despite understand the dissatisfaction of the Judge, the application did not make sense because the term "doctor" is not pronoun treatment, but academic title who does doctorate.



Yikes, you really need to store this information somewhere. Maybe the duowiki, or wikibooks, or wikiversity.

Since you're now a moderator you should try and convince the bosses to create a sticky of important info, French has one, the main forum has one, and various other courses have one too. At the very least this info would be easier to find there.

By the way, though this information is useful, I think you should have probably split it into many more parts. Any sane person would get lost in that torrent of words. :)


Thanks for your comments. I judged that an article with the word "conjugate" in the title is only likely to appeal to a limited audience - people like me I suppose - and I simply wrote everything I wish I had known before I started trying to make sense of Portuguese verbs. I'm sure the text could be improved, but I'm not so sure breaking it up into multiple parts would make it any more palatable.

Duolingo uses a fairly large font for the main text which can fool you into thinking the article is longer than it really is; I'd guess it's probably less dense than the corresponding sections of the Wikipedia entry.


Yes, I'm guessing the combination of tables, horizontal lines, and the big quote in the beginning really made it bigger than it needed to be.

You're right about the wiki entry, it uses 14px while duolingo uses 17px for some reason. There is a hack to add tables into posts, and another to collapse elements in a post, though I'm not exactly sure how the latter is achieved, probably uses a css exploit. Hopefully the author can share the [code].

I'm sure the text could be improved, but I'm not so sure breaking it up into multiple parts would make it any more palatable.

I'm certain it would be more palatable. Imagine if you had created a combined posts with part1 and part2. My guess is that Duolingo's thread limiter would kick in and block it.


Thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback. Part 1 and Part 2 have very different aims (as I mention in the summary) so it was never my intention to combine them you'll be glad to hear. In any case, I think the horizontal rules help to break the article into sections.

The main issue, as you pointed out earlier, is that (assuming they have some worth) both parts will disappear from view very quickly. I wrote an article on how to find useful discussions, and now it's nearly impossible to find it. :-)


Oh, so this is the last part?

Well, the "new" design of forums invented by "devil knows who" is created exactly with that purpose. An ongoing stream which carries all content away. My guess is that it is here to stay for who knows how long.

One would hope that eventually some tidbits (not all) of this info will end-up in the courses' tips and notes.

Speaking of which, most skills don't seem to have notes, maybe you could work with the Pt<-> en team to populate them.

That's one of the reasons I don't generally answer questions in sentence discussions. They are too repetitive, and no notes means that'll remain that way.


Oi Davu! Muito obrigado pela lista dos verbos e da conjunção dos verbos em portugues. This helps a lot! And i guess it was a tough work for you.

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