Portuguese Subjunctive Guide

Note: Since there may be people who are trying to learn the Portuguese variant of Portuguese, I've included the tu form in this guide.

The subjunctive (O subjuntivo) can be tricky to grasp for English speakers, as it's rare in our language. I'm putting this guide together in the hopes that it will help those who struggle with this aspect of Portuguese.

What is the subjunctive?

The subjunctive is a verb mood. What does that mean? A verb mood, of which there are four, shows the meaning behind a verb, not the time at which it occurred - the subjunctive a tense. The four verb moods which exist are the indicative, the conditional, the subjunctive, and the jussive. The indicative is the easier form which is learnt first - used for things like facts or definite situations, like “He was here”. The conditional is used for situations which are dependent on other situations to be able to occur, like “I would go, if I had the time“. The jussive is the form used for the “Let's ...“ and imperative forms of the verb, like “Let's eat” and “Eat!”. The subjunctive, however, is used in situations of doubt, desire, opinion, and others, which will be shown later.

How to conjugate the subjunctive - Present Tense

To conjugate the subjunctive in the present tense, take the eu form of the verb, remove the final -o, then add the following endings:

So, let's look at these endings on some verbs:

Due to orthographical rules in Portuguese, the spelling of some verbs changes when they are put into the subjunctive. Here are the endings that change, with an infinite and the eu form of the subjunctive as an example:

There are unfortunately irregular verbs in the subjunctive. These are:

  • Ser: Sej- (For example, “Eu seja“, “Eles sejam“)
  • Estar: Esteja- (For example, “Tu estejas“, “Nós estejamos“)
  • Dar: D-; The final e takes a circumflex accent (For example, “Ele dê“,“Nós dêmos“)
  • Saber: Saib- (For example, “Eu saiba“, “Elas saibam“)
  • Haver: Haj- (For example, “Nós hajamos“, “Tu hajas“)
  • Ir: V-; Eu, Tu, Ele/Ela/Você: the a takes an acute accent. The Nós & Eles/Elas/Vocês conjugation is the same as the indicative (For example, “Ele vá“, “Nós vamos“)
  • Querer: Queir- (For example, “Eu queira“, “Elas queiram“)

How the present subjunctive is used

The use of the present subjunctive can be hard to get the hang of at first, as it appears so seldom in English (an example being “I suggest that he go“). If you've already encountered the subjunctive in other languages like Spanish, it will be a bit easier, as many of the “subjunctive phrases” will carry over to Portuguese. Likewise, getting familiar with the subjunctive in Portuguese first will help when it comes to using it in other languages.

1. Doubt

If there is doubt within a situation, the subjunctive is used. For example, phrases like “Não acredito que...“ (I don't believe that...), “Duvido que...“ (I doubt that...), “Não estou seguro de que...“ (I'm not sure that...) all use the subjunctive. The use and wording of phrases will depend on the region that you’re in. Remember that any phrases where there isn't doubt don't use the subjunctive, for example “Acho que...“ (I think that...) and “Não duvido que...“ (I don't doubt that...). Let's look at some example sentences - words in Italics are “subjunctive phrases“, and words in Bold are verbs in the subjunctive.

  • Não acredito que ele aprenda dez línguas à vez - I don't believe he learns ten languages at once
  • Não tenho a certeza de que isto seja bom - I'm not sure this is good
  • Eu duvido que estejas dizendo a verdade - I doubt you're telling the truth

And here are these “subjunctive phrases“ flipped, to show them with the indicative:

  • Acredito que ele aprende dez línguas à vez - I believe that he learns ten languages at once
  • Tenho a certeza de que isto é bom - I'm sure this is good
  • Eu não duvido que estás dizendo a verdade - I don't doubt you’re telling the truth

2. Wishes/Orders

If there is a wish or an order, something which may not end up happening, the subjunctive is used. Some phrases which require the subjunctive are “Quero que...“ (I want (that)...), “Espero que...“ (I hope (that)...), and “Desejo que...“ (I wish (that)...). Let's look at some example sentences of this use:

  • Elas desejam que tudo bem - They wish that everything will go well
  • Nós não queremos que chova amanhã - We don't want it to rain tomorrow
  • Os meninos esperam que não haja escola na Quinta-Feira - The children hope that there's no school on Thursday

3. Impersonal statements

Statements like “É bom que...“ (It's good that...), “É fácil que...“ (It's likely that...), and “É improvável que...“ (It's unlikely that...) use the subjunctive. However, remember that the subjunctive is used where there is uncertainty - so statements like “É certo que...“ (It's certain that...) wouldn't be used with the subjunctive. Here are some example phrases:

  • É bom que o povo saiba os perigos - It's good that people know the dangers
  • É improvável que eles ganhem a partida - It's unlikely that they'll win the game
  • É estranho que ele não lembre - It's strange that he doesn't remember

Here is a list of some phrases which use the subjunctive:

4. Direct effect

If an action affects you directly (e.g. “I don't like that...“), the subjunctive is used. Some phrases which use the subjunctive in this way are “Me perturba...“ (It bothers me that...), “Gosto que...“ (I like that...), and “Me entristece que...“ (It upsets me that...). Some examples are:

  • Me perturba que o voo seja cancelado - It bothers me that the flight is cancelled
  • Não gostamos que haja tanta gente - We don't like that there are so many people
  • Me entristece que você esteja tão infeliz - It upsets me that you’re so unhappy

5. Fixed expressions

Some fixed expressions use the subjunctive. Some examples of such expressions are “Embora...“ (Although...), “Não obstante que...“ (Despite...), and “A não ser que...“ (Unless...). Here are some examples:

  • Não obstante que esteja a chover, vamos nadar - Despite the fact that it’s raining, we are going to swim
  • Embora ele tenha fome, não come o jantar - Although he is hungry, he doesn’t eat dinner
  • Caso você não coma carne, há pratos vegetarianos - If you don’t eat meat (In the case of you not eating meat), there are vegetarian dishes
  • Não vou ao exterior a não ser que conheça alguém no país - I don’t go abroad unless I know someone in the country

6a. Commands - Tu (Portugal)

When saying a negative command to someone you address as “tu“, the tu form of the present subjunctive is used:

  • Não fales assim! - Do not speak like that!
  • Não esqueças tua bagagem de mão - Don't forget your hand luggage

6b. Commands - Você & Vocês

For commands said to someone you address as “você“ (both positive and negative), the ele/ela/você form of the present subjunctive is used:

  • Ponha a bolsa aquí - Put the bag here
  • Não fume no carro - Do not smoke in the car

Likewise, commands to a group you address as “vocês“ use the eles/elas/vocês form of the present subjunctive:

  • Aprendam comigo! - Learn with me!
  • Por favor sejam pacientes - Please be patient
  • Não percam a chave - Do not lose the key
  • Não usem o elevador em caso de fogo - Do not use the lift in case of fire

7. Oxalá/Tomara

“Oxalá“ comes from the Arabic “Insha 'allah“, and means “Let's hope that”, or “I hope that”. An alternative is “Tomara“, which means the same thing. Both use the present subjunctive:

  • Oxalá não percamos nosso voo - Let's hope we don't miss our flight
  • Tomara seja bom! - Let's hope it's good!

8. Que...

The last use of the subjunctive is starting a sentence or clause with “Que“, then using the subjunctive. This is used to show desires and thoughts. For example:

  • Que nunca partamos! - Let's never leave!

How to conjugate the subjunctive - Imperfect Tense

The subjunctive also exists in the imperfect tense. To conjugate it, take the eles/elas/vocês form of the verb in the preterite tense and remove the -aram/-erem/-irem, then add the following endings:

Here are the endings on the verbs we looked at for the present tense:

How the imperfect subjunctive is used

The imperfect subjunctive is used, for the most part, in the same cases as the present subjunctive, except for the fact that the preceding phrases are either in the conditional or imperfect tenses. So while the present subjunctive would be used with “Quero que...“ (I want (that)...), the imperfect subjunctive would be used with “Gostaría que...“ (I would like (that)..) and “Queria que...“ (I wanted (that)...). This carries across for all aspects:

  • Não pensei que ele aprendesse espanhol - I didn't think that he learnt Spanish
  • Esperávamos que todos o vissem - We hoped that everyone saw it
  • Seria improvável que ninguém viesse - It would be unlikely that no one came
  • Gostaria que lesses o livro - I’d like you to read the book

However, if a structure like the “impersonal statements“ is used to refer back to a past event, this will remain in the present tense:

  • É bom que vocês sobrevivessem - It's good that you all survived
  • Não acredito que ele partisse sem dizer «Tchau» - I don't believe that he left without saying “Goodbye”

Se + Conditional

One feature of the imperfect subjunctive is the “Se + Conditional“ sentence. This is used to state hypothetical actions - which is why the subjunctive is used. This type of sentence is the only sentence where the subjunctive is still fairly identifiable in English - “If I were rich, I'd buy a mansion“. This type of sentence works exactly the same in Portuguese:

  • Se você não tivesse de trabalhar, o que você faria? - If you didn't have to work, what would you do?

The sentence structure can also be flipped, starting with the conditional clause and then using the imperfect subjunctive. For example:

  • Eu falaria mais em português se tivesse mais confiança - I'd speak in Portuguese more if I had more confidence

Como se...

“Como se“ is the translation of “As if“ in Portuguese, which always uses the imperfect subjunctive. It works in the exact same ways as in English:

  • Foi como se nunca partisse - It was as if he never left
  • Como se apenas eu gostasse daquilo! - As if it were only I who liked it!

Perfect and Pluperfect Subjunctive

The perfect and pluperfect subjunctive tenses also exist in Portuguese. These are formed by either using the present subjunctive of Ter + Past Participle, or the imperfect subjunctive of Ter + Past Participle. For example:

  • É incrível que elas tenham ganhado a competição – It's incredible that they won the competition
  • Se tivéssemos sabido que o tempo seria tão mal, não teriamos ido – If we'd known the weather would be so bad, we wouldn’t have gone

How to conjugate the subjunctive - Future Tense

Portuguese is the only Romance language to still have the future subjunctive active. To conjugate the future subjunctive, take the eles/elas/vocês form of the verb in the preterite tense and remove the final -am, then add the following endings:

Here are these endings on the verbs we looked at earlier:

How the future subjunctive is used

The future subjunctive is used to talk about future events with uncertainty. In most other languages, either the future indicative or present subjunctive is used in these cases.


When “Quando“ is used with a future action, the future subjunctive is used:

  • Quando eu sair, irei ao parque e depois ao banco – When I go out, I will go to the park and then to the bank

Remember that if “Quando“ isn’t referring to the future, the future subjunctive isn’t used:

  • Quando eu fui ao banco, havia muita gente - When I went to the bank there were a lot of people
  • Quando saio sempre lembro das minhas chaves - When I go out I always remember my keys


Like “Quando“, if “Se“ is used with a future action, the future subjunctive is used:

  • Se vocês não pararem de falar, teremos de partir - If you all don't stop talking, we'll have to leave


“Enquanto“, meaning “As long as“, or “While“, used with a future action uses the future subjunctive:

  • Enquanto tu estiveres aqui, estarei feliz - As long as you are here, I'll be happy

Compare this to the same phrase with the present indicative:

  • Enquanto tu estás aqui, estou feliz - As long as you are here, I'm happy

The first sentence is referring to the future, whereas the second is referring to the present.

Assim que.../Logo que...

Both “Assim que“ and “Logo que“ mean “As soon as“. Like “Quando“, “Se“, and “Enquanto“, when referring to a future action they use the future subjunctive:

  • Assim que eu tiver feito todo o meu trabalho, poderei ir com vocês - As soon as I've finished all my work I'll be able to come with you
  • Ela vai chamar-nos logo que se recuperar - She is going to call us once she is better

I hope this helps!/Espero que isto ajude!

Check out my other subjunctive guides!

Spanish Subjunctive Guide
Italian Subjunctive Guide
July 11, 2015


I would like to suggest a few adjustments for this excellent post. Its very good to have people who wish to help and bring such a detailed guide to us.

First, this link is a very good resource for the English subjunctive. If you understand this, you are half the way ahead :)

There may be a difference between Portugal and Brazil here, I can only speak for Brazil, though.

1 - Doubt

In Brazilian Portuguese, we don't know the expression "à vez", we use "de uma vez (só)" instead.

These two examples prefer the subjunctive:

  • Acredito que ele aprenda dez línguas de uma vez - I believe that he learns ten languages at once (there may still be doubt here)
  • Eu não duvido que estejas dizendo a verdade - I don't doubt you’re telling the truth (this prefers to follow what the verb "duvido" asks for)

In the first one, using the indicative is assuming and accepting he actually learns 10 languages. Ex: Someone tries to convince you, and you actually accept that as true.
Using the subjunctive is to believe he probably does.

6 - Commands

Although having the same form, imperative conjugations shall not be seen as subjunctive conjugations.

But you can use it as a very good trick to remember.

8 - Que...

In Brazil, we don't understand the expression "Que não os entenda?"
We would use one of the following and others:

  • Ele não fez os deveres. Talvez não os entenda? (Perhaps he doesn't understand them?)
  • Ele não fez os deveres. Será que não os entende? (Could it be that he doesn't understand them?)

How the imperfect subjunctive is used

The following examples must have their forms/translations adjusted:

  • Era/Seria bom que vocês sobrevivessem - It would be good if you were to survive
  • É bom que vocês sobrevivam - It's better for you to survive / You'd better survive
  • É bom que vocês sobreviveram - It's good that you survived
  • (É bom que vocês sobrevivessem - Tense mismatch)

  • Não acredito que ele partisse sem dizer «Tchau» - I don't believe that he would leave without saying “Goodbye”

  • Não acredito que ele partiu sem dizer «Tchau» - I don't believe that he (has) left without saying “Goodbye”

Perfect and Pluperfect Subjunctive

Adjustments (for BR Portuguese):

  • Se tivéssemos sabido que o tempo seria/estaria/ficaria tão ruim, não teriamos ido – If we'd known the weather would be so bad, we wouldn’t have gone
July 27, 2015

From were it says "How the imperfect subjunctive is used" for me it gets confusing. Not all of those sentences are in the subjunctive, but some are.

October 10, 2016

The intention is to correct the original post and compare what changes in meaning when you use the subjunctive.

I listed the possible sentences and their different meanings.

October 10, 2016

Must you use the imperfect subjunctive to talk about imaginary things in the past?

October 11, 2016

Well.... that statement can be too vague....

There are keywords and keyverbs that ask for the subjunctive.
Also, conditional sentences and a few other constructions.

It tends to be about "hypothetical" cases, but not strictly.
The imperfect subjunctive can be used either in past cases or in hipothetical conditionals.

The explanation from the past subjunctive skill quite sums up the way I currently see it:

The Past Subjunctive

The past subjunctive talks about actions in the past that are uncertain and also about hypothetical things in general.

In English, you can find past subjunctive in "if clauses":

  • If I were you, I would stay here = Se eu fosse você, eu ficaria aqui

The conditions for using the past subjunctive are very similar to those for using the present subjunctive. There is just a difference in tenses.

But here, a very important case comes into play: the conditionals!

Conditionals with "if"

One of the most important usages of the past subjunctive is for creating conditionals. You will notice also that the "if" keyword (se) is present in conjugation tables.

  • Se eu fosse rico, compraria um barco = If I were rich, I'd buy a boat
  • Nós iríamos à praia se não estivesse chovendo = We would go to the beach if it weren't raining
  • Se eles gostassem de biscoitos, eu lhes daria uma caixa = If they liked cookies, I'd give them a box

Optionally, there is the informal possibility of using the imperfect past in the main clause:

  • Se eu fosse rico, comprava um barco

Some verbs asking for the subjunctive

Examples of verbs expressing "hope/doubt" in past:

  • Eu esperava que você voltasse = I was expecting you to come back
  • Duvido que fosse verdade = I doubt it was true
  • Não creio que fosse possível = I don't believe/think it was possible
  • Eu não acreditava que fosse possível = I didn't believe it was possible
  • Eu acreditava que as coisas fossem melhorar = I believed things were going to get better
  • Ela desejava que tudo acabasse bem = She was hoping everything would end well

Verbs giving orders:

  • Ordenei que os prisioneiros fossem libertados = I commanded that the prisoners be freed
  • Eles pediram que tirássemos os sapatos antes de entrar = They asked us to take off our shoes before entering
  • Sugeri que eles esperassem a tempestade passar = I suggested that they wait for the storm to pass
  • Ela insistiu que eu provasse um pedaço do bolo = She insisted that I try a piece of the cake

Keywords asking for the subjunctive

Here too, some keywords will ask for the past subjunctive just like they do in present tense. But now, a very important keyword comes into play: "if"; allowing us to create the most common conditionals. (Note that "if" is present in the conjugation tables for past subjunctive)

  • Caso fosse verdade, então deveríamos nos preocupar = If it were true, then we should worry
  • Embora fôssemos grandes, não podíamos alcançar o céu = Although we were big, we couldn't reach the sky
  • Eu faria isto, mesmo que ele não concordasse = I'd do this, even if he didn't agree
  • Ainda que eu quisesse, não poderia = Even if I wanted to, I couldn't
  • Eu acharia você, nem que eu precisasse dar a volta ao mundo = I would find you, even if I needed to circle the world around.
  • Ele tomou o remédio para que melhorasse = He took the medicine in order to get better
  • Ela fez tudo de modo que não deixasse vestígios = She did everything in a way that didn't leave traces
October 11, 2016

Well.... almost.....

If you're not picky, you can let the difference pass unnoticed.

But if you are:

  • With "que": it expresses more like a wish, it may sound somehow like a command. It can sound close to "You'd better survive", although the present tense (É bom que vocês sobrevivam) is the most suitable for that command-like sentence. Another possibility is "It would be good for you to survive".

  • With "se": it expresses that I'd like the result if you happen to survive. It gives more chance and less importance to the case of not surviving.

October 13, 2016

Do these two sentences mean exactly the same thing?: "Seria bom que vocês sobrevivessem." / "Seria bom se vocês sobrevivessem."

October 12, 2016

But I have still a doubt: is it perfectly impossible to say "é bom que eles sobreviveram", taking into account that "it is already clear that they did survive"?

May 2, 2017

When I saw the title:


July 12, 2015

I'm glad you thought that! :)

July 12, 2015

É bom saber que não é apenas eu... KKKKK

November 17, 2016

Tobrigado por isso! Muito útil ;-)

July 11, 2015

De nada! :)

July 11, 2015

incrível, muito obrigada!

February 20, 2017

That was really helpful! Thanks! :)

August 20, 2017

Oxalá is not use nowadays in brazil. people use "tomara". You find oxalá in literature and old texts.

In Brazil people can confuse oxalá (wish) with Oxalá ( God from candomblé religion ).

June 29, 2018

Amazing job! There goes a lingot!

July 11, 2015

The following seems to be wrong:

However, if a structure like the “impersonal statements“ is used to refer back to a past event, this will remain in the present tense:

However, the following examples use the past tense:

  • É bom que vocês sobrevivessem - It's good that you all survived
  • Não acredito que ele partisse sem dizer «Tchau» - I don't believe that he left without saying “Goodbye”

And then about the future subjunctive:

To conjugate the future subjunctive, take the eles/elas/vocês form of the verb in the preterite tense and remove the final -am, then add the following endings:

But then the examples take the infinitive as a base.

And I'd like to qualify this statement:

Portuguese is the only Romance language to still have the future subjunctive active.

The future subjunctive is not used in the day to day language in Spanish, but it can be found in famous bible verses, in literature, in the legal realm and some popular expressions. As a native Spanish speaker I find useful to compare the Spanish future subjunctive with its equivalent in Portuguese.

July 13, 2015

⇒ Yes, the verb in the subjunctive uses the past tense, but the “impersonal statements“ are in the present tense.

⇒ The infinitive isn't used as a base. Let's take “Falar“ - “To speak“ as an example. Here are the conjugations in the preterite:

Eu falei
Tu falaste
Ele/Ela/Você falou
Nós falamos
Eles/Elas/Vocês falaram

Remember, to get the future subjunctive stem, you remove the -am from the Eles/Elas/Vocês form, which leaves us with “Falar“, which I've indicated with bold text. This just happens to coincide with the infinitive. If you have an irregular verb however, like “Querer“ - “To want“, you end up with the following conjugations:

Eu quis
Tu quiseste
Ele/Ela/Você quis
Nós quisemos
Eles/Elas/Vocês quiseram

With this verb, you can see that the future subjunctive stem, “Quiser“, and the infinitive “Querer“ are different. For example:

  • Se vocês quiserem ir à universidade, vocês terão de estudar - If you want to go to university, you'll have to study

⇒ Notice the word “active“. Yes, Spanish has the future subjunctive, but it's not really used on a day-to-day basis, is it? Whereas in Portuguese, it is. For example, in my phone's settings, it says “Se não estiverem redes conhecidas disponíveis, terá de selecionar uma rede manualmente“. If my phone were in Spanish, you wouldn't (and don't) see the future subjunctive anywhere in the settings app.

July 13, 2015

I see where I was wrong. Thank you, it's clearer now.

Yes, Spanish has the future subjunctive, but it's not really used on a day-to-day basis, is it? Whereas in Portuguese, it is.

It's not used on a daily basis, it's true. I just wanted to point that it is known, and still used in some contexts, in Spanish.

July 13, 2015


Two of your examples break the normal "sequence of tenses":

É bom que vocês sobrevivessem.
Não acredito que ele partisse sem dizer «Tchau.»

The present perfect subjunctive describes a possible completed action in the past and is triggered by a present tense verb in the main clause.

É bom que vocês tenham sobrevivido. = It's good that you've survived.
Não acredito que ele tenha partido sem dizer "Tchau." = I don't believe that he's left without saying "Goodbye".

April 25, 2017

Great corrections :)

April 25, 2017

As a native speaker (Brazilian), I'd be ok with the second example if it had a different translation, but I wouldn't agree with the first.

  • Não acredito que ele partisse sem dizer tchau = I don't believe he would leave without saying goodbye.

  • É bom que vocês sobreviveram = It's good you survived

  • Seria/Era bom que vocês sobrevivessem = It would be good if you were to stay alive.
July 14, 2015

I'm having trouble with the use of the subjunctive in phrases like this:

Eu pensei que ela tivesse usado todo o dinheiro.

The translation proposed by Duolingo is:

I thought she had used all the money.

And in Spanish:

Yo pensé que ella hubiese usado todo el dinero.

Why use the subjunctive when a past tense of the indicative is enough?

In Spanish I would say:

Yo pensé que ella había usado todo el dinero.

Is there a rule for this?

July 13, 2015

Thanks a lot, very helpful ! subjunctive is the hardest thing for me in romance languages.

July 14, 2015


June 12, 2016

why does the "I think that" not express doubt? also how come in the imperfective subjunctive it says -êssemos for nós endings but tivéssemos has é and not ê?

July 10, 2016

"I think that..." is just an exceptional case. The affirmative version doesn't use the subjuntive as expected. But the negative version does:

  • Acho que ele está aqui = I think (that) he is here
  • Não acho que ele esteja aqui = I don't think (that) he is here

Other similar verbs use the subjunctive, though:

  • Penso que ele esteja aqui = I think (that) he is here
  • Acredito que ele esteja aqui = I think/believe (that) he is here
  • Creio que ele esteja aqui = I think/believe (that) he is here

About the accents, it's not possible to know by any rule in Portuguese which "e" sound certain words have, unless they have accents. We know it by experience only:

  • Colher (to collect / harvest) sounds like "ê"
  • Colher (spoon) sounds like "é"

The same would apply to "o":

  • Força (force/strength) sounds like "ô"
  • Força (he/she/it forces) sounds like "ó"

For regular "er" verbs, a rule can be inferred, though: they will sound as "ê" in their infinitive forms. Thus, the conjugated form will use "ê": comêssemos, lêssemos, entendêssemos, vivêssemos, etc....

But remember that "ter" is irregular, and its conjugation is not "têssemos". The irregular form "tiver" sounds like "é", and thus the "we" form will use "é": tivéssemos.

That happens with other irregular verbs such as "houvéssemos" (haver), "quiséssemos" (querer), "fizéssemos" (fazer), "viéssemos" (vir)

October 11, 2016

wow finally someone answered :)

but how do e, é, and ê differ in pronunciation? it always sounds the same to me

October 11, 2016

What??? :o :o :o

Well, I guess it's hard indeed for foreigners, especially when Duolingo messes them up sometimes....

Taking English words as parameters:

  • "ê" sounds like "wAy"
  • "é" sounds like "yElling", "hAir" (American).

As I said before, just the letter "e" is not enough to tell you which pronunciation it takes. (See the "colher" example, for instance). Accents themselves are not often used to change pronunciation (except for a very few words: "céu", "chapéu", "avô", "avó"...).

They're used to change the "stressed syllable".

  • Pele has a strong "pe" (skin)
  • Pelé has a strong "lé" (the name of a great soccer player)
  • Premio has a strong "mi" (I give someone a prize)
  • Prêmio has a strong "prê" (prize)

In total, there are about 5 "e" pronunciations:

  • é
  • ê
  • en
  • i
  • in

"É" and "ê" will be chosen word by word, no clear rule for them, unless the accent is actually present on the word.

The "en" pronunciation is pretty much the American "en" in "Enter" or "cAn". It happens whenever "e" is followed by "m" or "n", overriding the accents if they are there. (Words like "alguém", "também", "entre", "êmbolo", "prêmio", "premio", "Emerson"). This is called a nasal sound. (In European Portuguese, they are less nasal and more independent from the "m/n").

The "i" pronunciation (a shortened English "ee") happens at the ending syllable if it's not a strong syllable. In the following, I put the strong syllable in upper case:

  • Bebe: sounds like "bi"
  • Pense: sounds like "PENsi"
  • Sabe: sounds like "SAbi"

(Please notice that this is a weak "i" sound. Words ending with an actual "i" will have a strong ending: "bebi" sounds like "bêBI", a not so short English "ee")

And it also appears (apparently randomly) in the middle of certain words, most of the times optionally. Classic examples are words with "des" prefix, like "desfazer" (disfazêr), "desculpe" (disculpi). Some other examples are "perigo" (pirigu), "ensinar" (insinar).

The "in" happens when "e" shifts to "i" and there is "n" or "m" after it. And also in words with tildes: "mãe" sounds like "m-an-in". In English, it would be somewhere near "mung-ing". (Discarding the "g" at the middle).

October 11, 2016

In this thread, some 90 per cent of what I find difficult in Portuguese are concentrated ;) As long as I have lost any hope to remember all the Ê and É cases word by word, I am somewhat preoccupied with situations like, say, a foreign lady using mistakenly ô instead of ó, for example, saying "não fôrça ele". How is it perceived by Brazilians? You know, THEORETICALLY I distinguish well between ó and ô, and theoretically the difference is very obvious. But in the real life I asked a dono de pousada, a former professor, what was the difference between "avó" and "avô", what he demonstrated seemed rather like a difference in face expression than in pronunciation on the vowel :) In a fluent speech my ear distinguish between these vowels only when they are pronounced with a special stress. So if i pronounce "professora" with a broad ó, how a Brazilian perceives that? Another subject is the difference between "ô" and stressed "ou".........

May 2, 2017

Amazing article! Just a small adjustment. The verb "haver" is never conjugated. It only exists in the third person. So "tu hajas" doesn't exist in modern Portuguese. This verb only exists in its impersonal forms, so in subjunctive mood, we may only find "haja": Eu quero que haja mais dias de férias. (I want that there are more vacation days).

April 23, 2017

After studying Portuguese for over 4 years and being in Brasil 14 times I don’t understand this at all and it terrifies me. Verbs are difficult enough for me so adding more difficult concepts make learning it seem impossible to me. I still can’t understand how people can learn Portuguese with the struggle I have learning it. Thanks though. I appreciate your work.

January 7, 2019
Learn Portuguese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.