EP word of the week (#69): lembrar-se (de)

Today, our foray into verb differences between EP and BP reaches the trickiest echelons of the language: reflexive verbs.

As it turns out, there are a few verbs that are reflexive in EP but not in BP (and I’m sure there are some examples of the opposite). This means you have to conjugate the verb together with a reflexive pronoun at all times to achieve a certain meaning (there are a few verbs which change meaning depending on whether you’re using the pronoun or not, and this inside a variant, not as an EP vs. BP comparison).

One of the verbs that follows the first paradigm (EP vs. BP differences) is lembrar-se [de] (to remember), which is pronominal/reflexive in EP but not in BP – across the Atlantic, it’s simply conjugated as lembrar [de]. Interestingly, the verb to forget follows the same pattern: in EP it’s esquecer-se [de], in BP it’s esquecer [de].

In EP, this yields the following verb conjugations for the present indicative (without vós):

  • [Eu] lembro-me [de]
  • [Tu] lembras-te [de]
  • [Ele/Ela/Você] lembra-se [de]
  • [Nós] lembramo-nos [de]
  • [Eles/Elas/Vocês] lembram-se [de]


Keep in mind that the rules which govern pronoun placement in EP also apply here – this means that verbs inside relative/subordinate clauses (which includes all subjunctive verb tenses), negative statements, and some adverbs bring the reflexive pronoun before the verb. For example, this same verb in the imperfect subjunctive is conjugated as follows:

  • Se eu me lembrasse [de]
  • Se [tu] te lembrasses [de]
  • Se ele/ela/você se lembrasse [de]
  • Se [nós] nos lembrássemos [de]
  • Se eles/eles/vocês se lembrassem [de]

P.S. Se (“If”) is a so-called ‘trigger word’ for the (simple) imperfect subjunctive tense every time you have what in English would be called an If Clause Type 2 (when you’re describing a hypothetical scenario in the past); however, it can also be a ‘trigger word’ for the future subjunctive if you’re talking about a hypothetical scenario in the future.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that de here is the preposition that goes together with the verb whenever you’re introducing a verb, noun or pronoun afterwards (just like gostar [de], to like); using it is non-negotiable – you really have to use it between the verb and its (direct/indirect, nominal/verbal) object; if the object is a pronoun, don’t forget it turns into a prepositional pronoun. The only cases where de is not used is when a location, time, or condition appear afterwards (which are a different kind of object in the first place).

When used with direct/indirect object pronoun, lembrar means to remind (someone), not to remember. To remind someone about something/someone is prepositional, lembrar-se (but with direct object pronouns, not reflexive pronouns), to remind something to someone is simply lembrar, since it asks for the indirect object (which already has preposition a attached to it). Examples taken from Ciberdúvidas da Língua Portuguesa:

  • Lembrei-o de que a sua filha tinha procedido corre[c]tamente. I reminded him that his daughter had acted/proceeded correctly (i.e. had done the right thing).
  • Lembrei ao João (= lhe) que tinha o dever de trabalhar. I reminded him that he had a duty to work.


Here are few sample sentences with lembrar-se and esquecer-se:

  • Esqueci-me de ir buscar o fato à lavandaria. I forgot to pick up the suit at the dry cleaner.
  • Quando é que te lembraste do meu aniversário? – Lembrei-me ontem. When did you remember my birthday. I remembered it yesterday.
  • Lembras-te das nossas férias na praia? – Sim, lembro-me muito bem. Do you remember our vacation at the beach? Yes, I remember it very well.
  • Se não te tivesses esquecido do fato de banho, podias ter nadado conosco. If you hadn’t forgotten your bathing suit, you could have swum with us.

6 thoughts on “EP word of the week (#69): lembrar-se (de)

  1. Yuliya October 31, 2016 / 6:26 am

    Olá, Luís! Não posso entender a diferença entre das estas frases:
    – Lembrei-o de que a sua filha tinha procedido corre[c]tamente. I reminded him that his daughter had acted/proceeded correctly (i.e. had done the right thing).
    – Lembrei ao João (= lhe) que tinha o dever de trabalhar. I reminded him that he had a duty to work.
    Têm a primeira parte semelhante em inglês “I reminded him that …”, mas diferem em português. Porque?


    • luisdomingos November 1, 2016 / 10:02 pm

      Hey, Yuliya! I’m sorry for the delay – I actually wrote a reply to you yesterday, but apparently the system didn’t post it :/

      Basically the diference lies on which object you’re using. In the first sentence, you’re using a direct object (hence “-o” as an object pronoun); in the second, you’re in the presence of an indirect object (hence “lhe” as the substitute).

      You could ask why different objects are used in sentences that seem virtually the same; when you’re reminding someone about something, you use the direct object + de. When you’re reminding something to someone, you use the indirect object.

      I’m not sure if that distinction helps at all, but let me know and I can try to find some examples of how I’d use it in different sentences :)


  2. Yuliya November 2, 2016 / 4:03 am

    Olá, Luís! Desculpa, não entendi. :(
    Does “lembrei-o” means: I made him remember (for instance he looked at me and remembered) about something?
    And “lembrei lhe” – I said/mentioned something to remind him about….?


    • luisdomingos November 2, 2016 / 4:59 pm

      It’s hard for me to think of a way of explain it better, but yes, that would be a good way of putting it. The direct object is more about making someone remember about something (like a memory or an appointment), while the indirect object works best as a reminder (like advice or a warning).

      That said, sometimes the difference is reallyonly on how you structure the sentence: the direct object will ask for a noun or a clause, while the indirect object always asks for a subordinate clause.

      For example:
      – Eu lembrei-o da consulta no dentista. I reminded him about [his] dentist’s appointment (you made him remember his appointment, to make sure he didn’t forget it).
      – Eu lembrei-lhe que ele tinha uma consulta no dentista. I reminded [to] him [that] he had a dentist’s appointment.


      • Yuliya November 3, 2016 / 3:42 am

        Obrigada. Acho que ainda falto “sense of language” e não consigo entender no meu nível do estudo. :)


        • luisdomingos November 3, 2016 / 8:28 pm

          Don’t worry – it’s hard for me just to get my head around it, so I can only imagine how hard it must be for you.

          But don’t worry, you’re doing great! Sometimes the hardest part about learning a language is putting in the effort, and you’re clearly excelling at that, so I’m sure you’ll develop your sense of language eventually and quite soon (and all of this will just become second nature to you).

          Good luck with your studies :D


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