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When to use para/a + infinitive

Some infinitives are used on their own, while others use 'para' or 'a' before them. But it is unclear to me when to use which. Is there a good rule for this?

Three examples:

The leaves begin to fall.
As folhas começam a cair.

I am here to pay a debt.
Eu estou aqui para pagar uma dívida.

He doesn't want to accept the new computer.
Ele não quer aceitar o novo computador.

October 19, 2013



The rule in continental Portuguese is as follows. No doubt there could be differences in the Brazilian version and I'm sure Paulenrique will oblige by providing his input. This a summary only of the main usage.

Para is generally used with verbs of motion of a longer duration or where giving or sending is implied whereas 'a' applies to mainly to verbs of motion of a shorter duration.

Ele vem a Lisboa visitar os amigos. A visit is of a shorter duration generally.

Ele vem para Lisboa estudar. He is going to Lisbon to study. This implies a longer duration.

Estas flores sao para voce. These flowers are for you. Giving is implied here.

Para also applies to expressions of fixed time and imminence (about to happen).

Tenho hora marcada para as cinco. I have an appointment for five o' clock.

Os pais dele estao para chegar. His parents are about to arrive.

Can anyone please explain how I can add the Portuguese keyboard to my computer?


Thanks Lahure, this is useful to know, but does not answer my question directly. In most of your examples, you use full prepositional phrases (a Lisboa, para você).

What confuses me in the examples I give is that a and para are used without a noun. They seem to mean to, which to me is redundant because of the infinitival verb.

With regards to using a Portuguese keyboard, I find it unnecessary. On a Mac, you can type option+e/i/c/n to get the most common characters while still using the English keyboard. On Windows I'm not sure how to do this, but you can change your keyboard in Control Panel via "Keyboard" or maybe "Clock, Language, and Region"... it will depend on your version of Windows.


I'm a native speaker and i will try to explain what i got from your question. Here we go:

  • "a" and "para" are both prepositions and there is nothing linked about the second verb.
  • usually the preposition tells about "transitividade do verbo" (transitive verb) such as:

Those are exemples of "Verbo transitivo indireto" (needs preposition after the verb):

-Eu necessito de você - the verb "necessitar" needs "de"

-Eu vou para o Brasil - the verb "ir" needs "para" or "a"(as you guys said about) - for instance, you cannot say: Vou Brasil, it is wrong.

  • In the exemples you gave:

*(Eu estou aqui para pagar uma dívida) the preposition "para" means finalidade (goal/finality)

*(As folhas começam a cair) "a" is preposition from the verb "começar" and this verb needs that preposition because it is "verbo transitivo indireto" in this exemple, but usualy começar is "verbo intransitivo" (doenst need complement) like: Os jogos começaram.

Really confused, but i hope it helped.. anyway if any question still there..reply it!


Sadly I don't really pay attention much anymore to grammar term names, and I'm not a native speaker but I'll try to explain what I think you're asking based on experience and what I'm used to seeing... Usually when you have a conjugated verb, the one following directly after it retains the root form. Like your third example. "Ele não quer aceitar..."

But there are some verbs that are exceptions. I don't remember all of them, but the ones I can remember off the top of my head are "começar", "ajudar", with these verbs, you'll always need an "a" in front of the verb that follows it, like your first example "As folhas começam a cair". I think it's somewhat random so only exposure will get you used to it.

When verbs aren't following directly one after another, you usually add "para" or "a" in front of verbs to give the meaning of "to" or "for" (only in the case of para). "Mais tarde, vou ao banco para pagar uma multa" "Temos que dormir cedo para acordar cedo amanhã"

I don't know if that helps, but I hope it does. :p

Edit: I forgot to add that in European Portuguese, you'll probably see a lot of "a" + "verb". Like "A carregar" used as a gerund. So in Brazilian Portuguese it would be "Carregando". So in EP, you can say "Estou a comer um bolo" to say "I'm eating a cake."

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