Ficar a dever (question about translation)

Hello Portuguese community!

One of the other users and I are having a friendly debate over the meaning of a sentence in the "immersion" document about Faro. We have arrived at completely different conclusions regarding the meaning of the sentence, and I am hoping that perhaps some native speakers and/or moderators can weigh in.

The sentence in question is the following: "Nesse âmbito, importa realçar que ao Dr. Mário Lyster Franco se ficaram a dever grandes melhoramentos locais, nomeadamente nas infra-estruturas de abastecimento de águas, electricidade e esgotos, assim como na abertura de novas vias de acesso nas freguesias rurais do concelho...."

More specifically, we are wondering about the first part of the sentence. I have translated it as "In this role, it is important to note that Dr. Mario Lyster Franco was responsible for great local improvements..." while another user believes it is "In this role, it is important to note that Dr. Mario Lyster Franco was unable to deliver on". It seems to be a confusion over the phrase "ficaram a dever". The following website ( seems to suggest it means that it means something like "is due to him/her/it" or "is responsible for", and a native Portuguese speakers agrees, but another user says it means "left to owe", meaning "unable to deliver". He or she suggested it may be a difference between European and Brazilian Portuguese, but it would be surprising if the two forms of the language resulted in completely contradictory meanings.

Any thoughts, community?

August 10, 2015


Hello there! Native EP speaker here :) When something "se (fica) a dever" to someone, that means that person is responsible for whatever happened - it's usually used only in the third person when you're recounting an event where causality and responsibility are implied ("to be to due to someone" seems like the closer analogue, and it's good to see that Linguee uses that has its template).

Note the use of the clitic pronoun here; that's crucial to distinguish this construct from "ficar a dever", which means "to now owe something to someone", which is used when someone has just become in someone else's debt (metaphorically) and they want to make clear that they'll pay back someday.

August 10, 2015

[deactivated user]

    As a Brazilian speaker, I would say "In this role, it is important to note that Dr. Mario Lyster Franco was unable to deliver on". To me "ficaram a dever" means "was unable to", Even though this sentence isn't natural for me Brazilian, I guess it's a Portuguese sentence. Let's see where it goes by waiting for Portuguese answers.

    August 10, 2015
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