Spanish and Portuguese Verbs

Foreign Service Institute: From Spanish to Portuguese


Portuguese and Spanish both have -ar, -er and -ir type verbs. In addition, Portuguese has a fourth type, -or, which is represented only by the irregular verb pôr (cf. Spanish poner) and its related compounds. Most Portuguese cognates are of the same type as their Spanish counterparts. However, watch out for the following common verbs which are -ir type in Spanish but -er type in Portuguese.

Spanish Portuguese
vivir viver
escribir escrever
batir bater
recibir receber
sufrir sofrer
ocurrir ocorrer
gemir gemer
hervir ferver
morir morrer


Regular Verb Forms

Portuguese regular verb forms are remarkably similar to Spanish regular verb forms. The chart below enables you to make a direct comparison of the major tense forms of three regular verbs: mandar, comer and abrir. (In both languages abrir is regular in all forms except the Past Participle: Spanish abierto / Portuguese aberto). Do not be misled by exact duplication of spelling. Although some Portuguese and Spanish forms are spelled exactly alike, their pronunciation is always distinctively different.

Present Tense

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mando eu mando
  como   como
  abro   abro
él manda êle manda
  come   come
  abre   abre
nosotros mandamos nós mandamos
  comemos   comemos
  abrimos   abrimos
ellos mandan êles mandam
  comen   comem
  abren   abrem


Imperfect Tense

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mandaba eu mandava
  comía   comia
  abría   abria
él mandaba êle mandava
  comía   comia
  abría   abria
nosotros mandábamos nós mandávamos
  comíamos   comíamos
  abríamos   abríamos
ellos mandaban êles mandavam
  comían   comiam
  abrían   abriam


Preterite Tense

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mandé eu mandei
  comí   comi
  abrí   abri
él mandó êle mandou
  comió   comeu
  abrió   abriu
nosotros mandamos nós mandamos
  comimos   comemos *
  abrimos   abrimos
ellos mandaron êles mandaram
  comieron   comeram
  abrieron   abriram

* This form is particularly difficult for a Spanish speaker to remember sínce he assocíates it wíth the present tense.


Future Tense

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mandaré eu mandarei
  comeré   comerei
  abriré   abrirei
él mandará êle mandará
  comerá   comerá
  abrirá   abrirá
nosotros mandaremos nós mandaremos
  comeremos   comeremos
  abriremos   abriremos
ellos mandarán êles mandarão
  comerán   comerão
  abrirán   abrirão


Conditional Tense

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mandaría eu mandava
  comería   comia
  abriría   abria
él mandaría êle mandava
  comería   comia
  abriría   abria
nosotros mandaríamos nós mandaríamos
  comeríamos   comeríamos
  abriríamos   abriríamos
ellos mandarían êles mandariam
  comerían   comeriam
  abrirían   abririam


Present Subjunctive and Command Form

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mande eu mande
  coma   coma
  abra   abra
él mande êle mande
  coma   coma
  abra   abra
nosotros mandemos nós mandemos
  comamos   comamos
  abramos   abramos
ellos manden êles mandem
  coman   comam
  abran   abram


Past Subjunctive (Two forms possible in Spanish; compare the Portuguese with the Spanish -se- forms)

Spanish   Portuguese  
yo mandara / mandase eu mandasse
  comiera / comiese   comesse
  abriera / abriese   abrisse
él mandara / mandase êle mandasse
  comiera / comiese   comesse
  abriera / abriese   abrisse
nosotros mandáramos / mandásemos nós mandássemos
  comiéramos / comiésemos   comêssemos
  abriéramos / abriésemos   abríssemos
ellos mandaran / mandasen êles mandassem
  comieran / comiesen   comessem
  abrieran / abriesen   abrissem



Spanish Portuguese
mandando mandando
comiendo comendo *
abriendo abrindo *

* Notice the absence of diphthongs.


Past Participle

Spanish Portuguese
mandado mandado
comido comido
dirigido ** dirigido

** The past participle of abrir cannot be used here since it is irregular.

Irregular Verb Forms

Portuguese, like Spanish, has its fair share of irregular verbs in alI tenses. You will quickly note that at times the irregularities are very similar to those in Spanish, and that at times they are quite different. For the most part, there is no easy way to categorize or compare these cross-language correspondences, or the lack of them. There are too many of them, and they are too varied and unpredictable. For instance, when you discover that 'I say' is digo, which is the same as the Spanish irregular form, you might analogize and guess that 'I do' as fago. But your guess would be wrong. The word is faço, which is irregular, but in another way. And you know this only by learning it. In most instances you are better off approaching Portuguese irregular forms without reference to Spanish irregular forms.

We must point out, however, two wide-ranging patterns of irregularity that frequently have correspondences in Spanish. In many verbs, Portuguese closed o and closed e change to open o and open e, respectively, in stressed syllables of present tense forms. In cognate verbs these changes correspond respectively to the Spanish o to ue and e to ie changes. (The changes take place in a number of non-cognates as well.) We are listing below some of the more common cognates. In some cases other irregularities are also present.


Portuguese Spanish
querer querer

quero, quer(em)

quiero, quiere(n)

poder poder

posso, pode(m)

puedo, peude(n)

provar probar

provo, prova(m)

pruebo, prueba(n)

almoçar almorzar

almoço, almoça(m)

almuerzo, almuerza(n)

mostrar mostrar

mostro, mostra(m)

muestro, muestra(n)

negar negar

nego, nega(m)

niego, niega(n)

começar comenzar

começo, começa(m)

comienzo, comienza(n)

nevar nevar



chover llover



In -ir verbs, these correspondences are observable only in 3rd person forms:
preferir preferir



divertir divertir



dormir dormir




Notice below, however, that in verbs where the Spanish vowel-to-diphthong change is followed by an n in the same syllable, the Portuguese cognate is likely to have a nasal vowel instead of an open o or e. (Começar in the above list is an exception.) The verbs that follow are irregular in Spanish. Only sentir and mentir are irregular in Portuguese. (The irregularity is the nasal ĩ in the 1st person singular.)

Portuguese Spanish
cõtar contar

cõto, cõta(m)

cuento, cuenta(n)

encõtrar encontrar

encõtro, encõtra(m)

encuentro, encuentra(n)

sẽntir sentir

sĩto, sẽte(m)

siento, siente(n)

sẽtar sentar

sẽto, sẽta(m)

siento, sienta(n)

pẽsar pensar

pẽso, pẽsa(m)

pienso, piensa(n)

mẽtir mentir

mĩto, mẽte(m)

miento, miente(n)


Verb Constructions

In this section we examine several Portuguese verb constructions which differ slightly from their Spanish counterparts.

1. Spanish (ir + a + infinitive) vs. Portuguese (ir + infinitive)

Spanish inserts an a between a form of the verb ir and a following infinitive. Portuguese does not. Observe these examples:


Spanish Portuguese
voy a comer vou comer
van a estudiar vão estudar
iba a llegar ia chegar
fueron a nadar foram nadar


2. Spanish (haber + past participle) vs. Portuguese (ter + past participle)

Spanish combines the verb haber with the -do form (the past participle) of the main verb to form a series of tenses which are traditionally called the 'perfect' tenses. We are referring to such items as:
he comido
habrá salido
habían escrito
habíamos trabajado
si hubiera hecho

Portuguese has this kind of construction too, but it uses the verb ter (cognate with Spanish tener) instead of haver. The Portuguese constructions are parallel to the Spanish constructions most of the way. For example, we can say that the following, under most circumstances, are equivalents.

Spanish Portuguese English
habían escrito tinham escrito they had written
habríamos escrito teríamos escrito we would have written
habrán escrito terão escrito they will have written
si hubiera escrito si tivesse escrito if I had written


Now, however, we come to a slight, but very important, exception. The present tense of Spanish haber + verb is usually not the exact equivalent of the present tense of Portuguese ter + verb. Observe carefully:

Spanish he escrito I have written
Portuguese tenho escrito I have been writing
Spanish hemos trabajado we have worked
Portuguese temos trabalhado we have been working


The Portuguese construction shows a kind of progression of action from some point in the past, up to and into the present. This is indicated in the English translation been + ... ing. To express the equivalent of the above Spanish examples, Portuguese would use the simple past I (preterite) tense. Thus:

Spanish Portuguese
he escrito escrevi
hemos trabajado trabalhamos


3. Spanish gustar vs. Portuguese gostar (de)

As you know, in Spanish if you want to express the idea that you like a certain thing you have to turn the thought around and say that that thing is pleasing to you. But you do not do this in Portuguese. You simply say that you like it, just as you do in English. The item in question is not conceived of, grammatically, as being 'pleasing to you', which is the case in Spanish. Compare these examples. (Notice that the preposition de must follow gostar.)

Spanish Portuguese
Me gusta el libro. Eu gosto do livro.
Me gustan esas chicas. Eu gosto dessas meninas.
Nos gusta viajar.
Nós gostamos de viajar.
Les gusta estudiar. Êles gostam de estudar.


4. Spanish hacer vs. Portuguese haver in time expressions.

Spanish Portuguese
1a. Hace dos anos que trabajo aquí. Há dois anos que trabalho aqui.
1b. Trabajo aqui desde hace dos anos. Trabalho aqui há dois anos.
2a. Hace dos meses que llegué. Há dois meses que cheguei.
2b. Llegué hace dos meses. Cheguei há dois meses.


The patterning in these Portuguese utterances pretty closely parallels the patterning in the Spanish. The difference is in the use of a form of haver (cf. Spanish haber) in a slot where you are accustomed to using a form of hacer. Portuguese speakers can also use faz, from fazer, in these utterances, but há seems to be preferred by most.

5. [European Portuguese only: Spanish estar + -ndo vs. Portuguese estar + a + infinitive]

Spanish Portuguese
El presidente está hablando. O presidente está a falar.
Estoy leyendo. Estou a ler.
Estaban almorzando. Estavam a almoçar.


Although European Portuguese uses the estar + -ndo construction on occasion, the estar + a + infinitive construction is more common.

Usage of Ser and Estar

The distribution of ser and estar in Portuguese is very nearly the same as it is in Spanish. Observe these instances of identical usage.


  Spanish Portuguese
Origin Es de México. É do México.
Time Son las tres. São três.
Possession Son mios. São meus.
Nouns Es médico. É médico.
Characteristics Son bonitas. São bonitas.
Passive Voice La carta fue escrita hoy. A carta foi escrita hoje.
Conditions El carro está sucio.
La carta está escrita.
O carro está sujo.
A carta está escrita.


There is just one important area where there is a significant difference in the distribution of these two verbs in the two languages - the area at times referred to, perhaps rather loosely, as 'location'. You will remember that Spanish uses the verb estar to state the location or position of a person or thing.

Juan está en California.
California está en los Estados Unidos.
Los ninos están en el centro.
El banco está en el centro.

In speaking Portuguese you will need to decide whether the location is fixed or transitory. If it is fixed, i.e. geographically fixed, ser will be your choice.

A California é nos Estados Unidos.
O banco é no centro.

If it is not geographically fixed, but transitory or temporary in nature, estar will be your choice.

Os meninos estão no centro.
João está na California.

Portuguese frequently uses the verb ficar in place of ser to indicate fixed location. This is analogous to the Spanish verb quedar (not quedarse) substituting for estar under the same circumstances.

Spanish Portuguese
El hotel está en la calle quince.
El hotel queda en la calle quince.
O hotel é na rua quinze.
O hotel fica na rua quinze.
Dónde está Santo Domingo?
Dónde queda Santo Domingo?
Onde é São Domingos?
Onde fica São Domingos?


Two New Verb Categories

1. Future Subjunctive

One of the major differences between Portuguese grammar and Spanish grammar is the fact that Portuguese has a very active future subjunctive, whereas Spanish does not. As you know, the future subjunctive is quite rare in conversational Spanish, being reserved, for the most part, for rather formal and literary speech. This is not so in Portuguese. The Portuguese future subjunctive is an everyday occurrence in the speech of nearly every native speaker of the language.

You will soon see that in many instances Portuguese uses a future subjunctive where Spanish uses a present subjunctive. For example, Portuguese calls for a future subjunctive after such conjunctions as quando, logo que, assim que, depois que, se, and others, when the reference is to future time. Spanish would normally use a present subjunctive after the Spanish equivalent of these conjunctions (except after si, of course) when the reference is to future time. Compare these examples.


(present subjunctive)
(future subjunctive)
Cuando yo vaya, voy por avión. Quando eu fôr, vou de avião.
Tan pronto como sepamos, se lo decimos. Logo que soubermos, lhe dizemos.
Pienso almorzar después que ellos salgan. Penso almoçar depois que êles saírem.
Voy a decirle cuando llegue. Vou dizer-lhe quando chegar.
Mientras ellos estén alli, no voy. Enquanto êles estiverem lá, não vou.


After the word 'if', when the reference is to the future, Portuguese again uses the future subjunctive. Spanish, you recall, cannot use a present subjunctive under such circumstances. Normally, a simple present tense would be used.

(present tense)
(future subjunctive)
Si él viene, vamos a comer juntos. Se êle vier, vamos comer juntos.
Voy si es posible Vou se fôr possivel
Si usted no puede, avíseme. Se o senhor não puder, avise-me.


2. Personal infinitive

We come now to another major structural difference. Portuguese can 'personalize' an infinitive by attaching certain 'actor-markers', or endings, to it. Spanish does not do this. The 'actor-markers' that Portuguese uses are the first and third plural endings -mos and -em. There are no endings for the singular. A sample verb paradigm would look like this:


  Singular Plural
1st chegar chegarmos
2nd, 3rd chegar chegarem


The problem, as usual, is not so much learning the forms as it is when to use them. As a Spanish speaker you will have to deal with conflicts that the Portuguese personal infinitive sets up with some of your Spanish subjunctive patterns. In other words, the personal infinitive is very often used in Portuguese where a subjunctive would be normal in Spanish. This is observable when the verb in question follows after:

a. an impersonal expression
b. the verbs 'to tell' and 'to ask'
c. certain Spanish conjunctions (clause relators) which may convert to prepositions in Portuguese.

Let us examine each of these three categories separately.

a) After impersonal expressions

(personal infinitive)
Es mejor que hagamos eso ahora. É melhor fazermos isso agora.
Es difícil que salgamos temprano. É difícil sairmos cedo.
Es natural que hablen inglés. É natural falarem inglês.
Es posible que yo no venga. É possível eu não vir.*
Es preciso que estudien. É preciso (êles) estudarem.
Es peor que haga eso. É pior (êle) fazer isso. *
No conviene que paguen ahora. Não é conveniente êles pagarem agora.

* Notice there is no ending on these singular forms.

Portuguese could also use a present subjunctive to express most of the above ideas, just as Spanish does. Thus rephrased, the first several utterances would be:

E melhor que façamos isso agora.
É difícil que saiamos cedo.
É natural que falem inglês.
É possível que eu não venha.

There may or may not be a slight tendency to prefer the personal infinitive over the subjunctive in cases like these where there is a choice. To prepare yourself for any eventuality, we suggest that you learn to recognize and handle both patterns.

b) After 'to tell' and 'to request'

(personal infinitive)
Yo pedí que ellos se quedaran.
Eu pedi para ficarem.
Juan pide que ayudemos. João pede para ajudarmos.
Dígales a las ninas que pongan la mesa. Diga para as meninas porem a mesa.
Nos dijeron que saliéramos. Êles nos disseram para sairmos.


When the verb in the main clause is 'to tell' or 'to request' Spanish puts the verb in the other (subordinate) clause in the subjunctive. Portuguese is very likely to use the personal infinitive, although, once again, the subjunctive is common. (Eu pedi que êles ficassem.), etc. As before, we suggest you learn both patterns.

Notice that para is used to link the two clauses.

c) After certain Spanish conjunctions (or clause relators) which may convert to prepositions in Portuguese.

(personal infinitive)
Llegué sin que me vieran. Cheguei sem êles me verem.
Vamos a trabajar hasta que ellos lleguen. Vamos trabalhar até êles chegarem.
Tengo que quedarme aquí hasta que estén listos todos. Tenho que ficar aqui até todos estarem prontos
Van a salir antes de que los conozcamos. Vão sair antes de os conhecermos.
Explica todo para que ellos comprendan. Explica tudo para êles compreenderem.


Spanish must use a subjunctive to express the above ideas. Portuguese seems to prefer the personal infinitive, but will often do as Spanish does and use a conjunction followed by subjunctive.

Cheguei sem que êles me vissem.
Vamos trabalhar até que êles cheguem.

Once again, we recommend that you learn both patterns. Another area of conflict for you involves the Portuguese personal infinitive and the Spanish infinitive. After prepositions, Portuguese frequently uses the personal infinitive. Spanish uses just the infinitive.

(personal infinitive)
Después de comer, vamos a mirar la televisión. Depoís de comermos, vamos olhar televisão.
Al salir de aquí, vamos a casa.
Ao sairmos daqui, vamos a casa.
Elias van a poner la mesa antes de irse. Elas vão pôr a mesa antes de irem.
Por haber trabajado tanto, están muy cansados. Por terem trabalhado tanto, estão muito cansados.



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