Ask Luís! (#12): Translation of “claro” / Text revision

Hello, everyone! Here’s a new question from Yuliya (and for all of you, of course):

Olá, Luís!

Vou perguntar te de novo. Esta vez sobre do verbo para a palavra “claro”. Como é que é correto “está claro” ou “é claro”? Na Internet vejo ambas formas usadas.

E segunda pergunta é sobre o tempo passado que deve ser usado para dizer “It was clear”. Foi claro? Era claro? Ou esteve(estava) claro?

Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem.
Obrigada, Yuliya

Hi, Yuliya!

Thank you so much for your question – I’m sorry it took me so long to reply, but I’ve been a bit busy as of late and I had to take some time to put my thoughts (and my readings) in order to give you an appropriate answer to your question :)

Claro, besides being an interjection meaning of course!, it’s also an adjective (meaning clear, bright, obvious); like most adjectives, it has many different meanings, and it can be used with ser and estar depending on whether you’re talking about a general statement, whether real or assumed (ser) or about a certain state of being, changeable and applied to a specific moment.

Following Infopédia‘s PT-EN-dictionary [1]let’s run through the meanings of claro present therein [2], with sample sentences with ser and estar:

1. (light) bright; clear; [i.e. luminous]

  • No verão, os dias costumam ser mais claros do que no inverno.  days are usually clearer/brighter in the summer than during winter.
  • A sala está clara porque ainda é cedo. The room is bright [right now], because it’s still early.

2. (colour) light, light-coloured; pale

  • A camisa é azul clara. The shirt is light blue.
  • Este cachecol é demasiado claro; não combina bem com a minha pele. This scarf is too light-coloured; it doesn’t match [go well] with my skin tone.
  • A Júlia está muito clara; deve estar doente. Julia is very pale [right now]; she must be ill.

3. clear; distinct; unequivocal

  • Ela falou de forma clara. She spoke in a clear, distinct way.
  • O discurso foi bastante claro. Тhe speech was very clear.

4. (without dirt) transparent; limpid; clear;

  • A água deste ribeiro é clara. The water from this creek is clear.
  • O copo está claro depois de ter sido lavado. The glass is limpid [clean] after being washed.

5. (audible, of a sound/voice) clear.

  • A voz dele era clara e fácil de entender. His voice was clear and easy to understand.

6. clean-cut, well-defined.

  • O teu rosto tem contornos claros. Your face as well-defined features.


Furthermore, both verbs can be used with claro in an impersonal way (solely in the 3rd person singular, without a subject) to imply knowledge about something. In the present, Estar claro [que] implies knowledge or a realization about something – the obviousness of something that happened.

  • Está claro que eles fugiram durante a noite. It’s clear [obvious, blatant] that they escaped during the night.

Meanwhile, ser – É claro [que] – is an extension of claro! as as interjection, when you have to say “of course” in attachment with a clause; when used like this, the verb is not mandatory:

  • É claro que vou! Of course I’ll be there [somewhere, present at some event]. or
  • Claro que vou! 

In other tenses, it carries the same meaning as estar claro, detailing about the certainty or clearness of something:

  • Isso não era claro. That wasn’t clear (i.e. something wasn’t immediately obvious, clear).

The choice between the two here again depends on the general distinction between ser and estar; the first implies something more defined and relatively unchangeable (or at least harder to change), the second a more changeable quality (i.e. something wasn’t clear in a given moment, but it may have become clear right after or after some time).

Regarding your second question, I’d say that an appropriate translation will always depend on the context behind it; as you can see, ser and estar can be used with this word in different ways, and the choice of tense (in your examples, between the preterite and the imperfect) should reflect the distinction between finished action [preterite] and unfinished, disturbed, interrupted action [therefore imperfect action, i.e. not completed or disturbed for some reason]:

  • The day is cloudy now, it was clear before. O dia agora está nublado, antes estava [esteve] claro. (the imperfect signals a progression between two different states – clouds interrupted the clear day, it used to be bright but now it’s cloudy; the preterite a simple observation – the weather was clear for a certain period of time).
  • It was clear they couldn’t beat the other team. Era claro [óbvio] que eles não conseguiam derrotar [vencer] a outra equipa.
  • The goal was clear in his mind; he had to find a new job. O objetivo estava claro na sua mente; ele tinha de encontrar um emprego novo. [here, estar means “to present itself”]


Finally – and this is already quite a long post (sorry about that), the text revision (changes in bold and blue, cuts in strikethrough):

Olá, Luís!

Vou perguntar-te de novo. Esta vez sobre do verbo para a palavra “claro”. Como é que é [está] correto, “está claro” ou “é claro”? Na Internet vejo ambas as formas usadas.

E a segunda pergunta é sobre o tempo passado que deve ser usado para dizer “It was clear”. Foi claro? Era claro? Ou esteve(estava) claro?

Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem.




  • All in all, a very good effort! I’m glad to see you’re improving; the very last sentence (starting with Se…) is perfect – it shows a perfect use of several grammatical features: the future subjunctive (importares), the imperfect-as-conditional (gostava [de]), the negative construction with regard to clitics (não te) and the tricky and unique personal infinitive [3] (para reveres). Great job!
  • “De novo” could also be replaced with “outra vez”, but both are perfectly fine.

4 thoughts on “Ask Luís! (#12): Translation of “claro” / Text revision

  1. gaih April 21, 2017 / 1:46 am

    Great answer Luís!


    • luisdomingos April 21, 2017 / 3:03 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad it was somehow helpful! :)


  2. julkastarter April 23, 2017 / 6:56 am

    Olá, Luís!
    Muito obrigada pelas tuas resposta e explicação. Agora está claro que ambas as formas são corretas e tenho de analisar o contexto para escolher o verbo correto. Claro que não é facil as vezes. :)
    Obrigada pelo elogio, mas tenho de confessar que a última frase não é minha. É tua. :) É da minha primeira pergunta que tu corregiste. Porém, agora acho que sei como usá-la.
    Se não te importares, gostava de te mandar as outras perguntas que tenho. :)


    • luisdomingos April 23, 2017 / 1:41 pm

      Olá, Yuliya!

      De nada, o prazer é todo meu!

      Fico feliz por estar a ser útil :) Estás à vontade para enviar mais perguntas, claro :)



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