EP word of the week (#105) / Grammar Tips (#21): [o] conjuntivo, the subjunctive mood

Continuing a thread started last Wednesday with vosso and on Sunday with A Portuguesa (the Portuguese national anthem), today’s Word of the Week will showcase another interesting and relevant EP-specific word, this time returning to Portuguese grammar.

This time, we’re talking about [o] (modo) conjuntivo, the EP word for the subjunctive (mood). As you’re probably aware by now, Portuguese has three distinct grammatical moods which clarify the intent of a given verb form: the indicative – [o] indicativo (expressing fact), the imperative – [o] imperativo (expressing a command) and the subjunctive – [o] conjuntivo (expressing a hope, a wish, a desire, a doubt, or a possibility, in relative clauses and if clauses). In Brazilian Portuguese, the word for subjunctive is [o] (modo) subjuntivo, similar to the term used in English, French, Spanish, German and other languages.

Click on the link below for a general explanation of the subjunctive and some tricks to figure out their tense endings, which doubles as a Grammar Tips lesson!

In Portuguese, the subjunctive mood is divided into three tenses:

  • Presente – [o] presente do conjuntivo: expressing a current state of possibility, doubt, hope, etc. Introduced more commonly by que (in normal relative/subordinate clauses).
  • Imperfect – [o] pretérito imperfeito do conjuntivo: doing the exact same thing regarding a past action. Introduced more commonly by que or se, if the action refers to an if clause in the past.
  • Future – [o] futuro do conjuntivo: ditto for the future tense. Introduced more commonly by se or quando.

As you can see, it’s impossible to say which of the tenses to use when you use a given relative pronoun or conjunction; you have to pay attention at the time the action is taking place – that said, the parts of speech in red are the conjugation forms; they are used in online dictionaries and conjugation tools/books to help students memorize each different tense.

The endings for the subjunctive in the three regular conjugation are the following:

1.ª conjugação (regular verbs ending in -ar)

Present Preterite Future
1st person singular (Eu) -e -asse infinitive
2nd person singular (Tu) -es -asses infinitive + es
3rd person singular (Ele/Ela/Você) -e -asse infinitive
1st person plural (Ele/Ela/Você) -emos -ássemos infinitive + mos
2nd person plural (Vós) -eis -ásseis infinitive + des
3rd person plural (Eles/Elas/Vocês) -em -assem infinitive + em

2.ª conjugação (regular verbs ending in -er)

Present Preterite Future
1st person singular (Eu) -a -esse infinitive
2nd person singular (Tu) -as -esses infinitive + es
3rd person singular (Ele/Ela/Você) -a -esse infinitive
1st person plural (Ele/Ela/Você) -amos -êssemos infinitive + mos
2nd person plural (Vós) -ais -êsseis infinitive + des
3rd person plural (Eles/Elas/Vocês) -am -essem infinitive + em

3.ª conjugação (regular verbs ending in -ir)

Present Preterite Future
1st person singular (Eu) -a -isse infinitive
2nd person singular (Tu) -as -isses infinitive + es
3rd person singular (Ele/Ela/Você) -a -isse infinitive
1st person plural (Ele/Ela/Você) -amos -íssemos infinitive + mos
2nd person plural (Vós) -ais -ísseis infinitive + des
3rd person plural (Eles/Elas/Vocês) -am -issem infinitive + em

Important: Pronouns are divided here according to grammatical person (i.e. the tense they each take); if you have doubts/questions regarding their usage, please refer to the Grammar Tips lesson on personal pronouns (subject).

Notice also how there’s a flip in the ending vowels of the present subjunctive vs. the present indicative between the 1st conjugation (generally -a- in the present indicative, but -e- in the corresponding subjunctive) and the 2nd and 3rd conjugations (generally -e- in the present indicative, but -a- in the corresponding subjunctive):

  • Tu amas (pres. ind.) > [que] tu ames (pres. subj.)
  • Tu comes (pres. ind.) > [que] tu comas (pres. subj.)

In a few verbs with irregular forms in the 1st person singular of the present indicative will have that form (minus the ending -o, obviously) as the present subjunctive’s radical for example, fazer has faç[a/as/a/amos/ais/am] [eu faço, present indicative], pôr has ponh[a/as/a/amos/ais/am] [eu ponho, idem], and ter has tenh[a/as/amos/ais/am].

Likewise, their radical for the imperfect subjunctive is also based on the 1st person singular of a past tense, this time the preterite (NOT the imperfect, as one might think). Again, fazer has fiz[esse/esses/esse/éssemos/ésseis/essem] [eu fizI did], pôr has pus[esse/esses/esse/éssemos/ésseis/essem] [eu pus, I placed] and ter has tiv[esse/esses/esse/éssemos/ésseis/essem] [eu tive, I had]. One big difference between at least these three verbs and the 2nd conjugation regular verbs whose endings they seem to emulate is that their stressed e in the imperfect subjunctive is an open E, while the regular verbs have a closed E instead; this different, while it’s only graphically marked in the 1st and 2nd persons plural (see -ê- on the table above and -é- earlier in the paragraph), this sound pattern is present in all 6 forms.

You can also form their future subjunctive radical by taking the imperfect subjunctive form (keeping the first vowel after the radical) and adding -r. For example, for the 1st person singular it’s  fizer, puser, and tiverrespectively.

Irregular verbs following the abovementioned paradigm (here introducing their 1st person singular for each tense – subjunctive present, preterite, and future in that order) include also trazer (traga, trouxesse, trouxer), ver (veja, visse, vir), vir (venha, viesse, vier), dizer (diga, dissesse, disser), ouvir (ouça, ouvisse, ouvir), poder (posso, pudeste, puder), and ler (leia, lesse, ler).

Other verbs with irregular radicals include ser (seja, fossefor); haver (haja, houvesse, houver); dar (dê, desse, der), estar (esteja, estivesse, estiver); querer (queira, quisesse, quiser); saber (saiba, soubesse, souber). Notice how here too the future subjunctive radical is also formed using the imperfect subjunctive radicalvowel + r.

You should also be careful in distinguishing between the future subjunctive and the personal infinitive, two different tenses which have the particularity of taking the same verb forms with regular verbs. The personal infinitive usually implies a means-to-an-end relationship between them – it’s generally introduced by the preposition para (for, in order to, so that).

  • Nós fizemos o bolo sozinhos para aprendermos a receita. We cooked the cake ourselves to [so that we could] learn the recipe. – personal infinitive (cooking the cake was a means to learn the recipe)
  • Quando [Assim que] aprendermos a receita, vamos poder fazer vários bolos diferentes. When [As soon as] we learn the recipe, we will be able to make several different cakes. – future subjunctive (learning the recipe – a hope, wish, desire to be completed in the futurewill allow something to happen).

Once you have a firmer grasp of the language, you’ll be able to tell which tense is being used in a given situation by applying an irregular verb (that is, once with different forms for these two tenses) into a sentence and seeing which tense fits best. Just to give one example, fazer and ter have fizer- and tiver- as their radicals for the future subjunctive [fizer, fizeres, fizer, fizermos, fizerdes, fizerem / tiver, tiveres, tiver, tiveres, tiverdes, tiverem] while the infinitives play their part only in the personal infinitive [fazer, fazeres, fazer, fazermos, fazerdes, fazeremter, teres, ter, termos, terdes, terem].



2 thoughts on “EP word of the week (#105) / Grammar Tips (#21): [o] conjuntivo, the subjunctive mood

    • luisdomingos June 22, 2017 / 10:07 pm

      Hi! Good question – the number varies depending on how you count; sometimes, verbs may have one only verb form or tense where they’re irregular (for example, “dormir”, which only has [eu] durmo + the present subjunctive/imperative), so it’s not that easy to tally. You can check Wiktionary’s list for just a few: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Portuguese_irregular_verbs

      P.S. Keep in mind that not all irregular verbs are irregular in the Past/Future Subjunctive (as per my previous example, dormir is perfectly regular in these two tenses: “dormisse” / “dormir”).

      Liked by 1 person

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