the Portuguese Subjunctive

the portuguese subjunctive

The subjunctive mood has been known to break students.

Every serious Portuguese student runs straight into it. Some get hurt. Some get scared. But it doesn't have to be that way. The Portuguese Subjunctive is actually a rose with thorns. It's a beautiful part of the language that should be embraced and used with style, for it is truly cool. And you'll only find it in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.

*A mood is a way of speaking, the tense is the timing - past, present, future.

Portuguese uses the Subjunctive to indicate something is uncertain to happen or to have occurred. There are 3 different degrees of uncertainty: (1) extremely unlikely, (2) plausible, (3) likely.

You will not find this mood in the English language! Portuguese has several unique grammar rules that make it an extremely precise and elegant language.

What Triggers the Portuguese Subjunctive?

Let's look at some sentences in English that are simple, but that activate the Portuguese Subjunctive mood.

If I were to have a unicorn, I'd ride her all the time.
I hope that I have a car when school starts.
When I buy my new Tesla, I'll drive it every day.

The trigger for this mood is always one thing: UNCERTAINTY: expressions that contain something hypothetical, or a wish. I hope you can sense the uncertainty in each of these examples above. Notice that each of these examples conveys a different degree of uncertainty. These 3 degrees of uncertainty translate into 3 flavors of the subjunctive mood: 3 verb tenses.

If I were to have a unicorn, I'd ride her all the time.
» Extremely unlikely » Imperfect Subjunctive

I hope that I have a car when school starts.
» Plausible » Present Subjunctive

When I buy my new Tesla, I'll drive it every day.
» Likely but not a done deal. » Future Subjunctive

I want you to understand that each of these examples not only expresses uncertainty but in different degrees: very unlikely, hopeful, tangible.

These divide the subjunctive into three different tenses: present, future, and imperfect ~ each with its own conjugation rules.

The secret to happiness is to learn certain PATTERNS that occur over and over again. Do_not get overwhelmed by this. It's really not that hard. We're going to show you the most useful and popular uses and leave the less common forms for the advanced student.

The conjugations are no big deal -- it's all about learning when to use it.

Let's translate our three examples above:


If I were to have a unicorn, I'd ride her all the time. » Se eu tivesse um unicorn, andaria tempo todo. (imperfect subjunctive)

I hope that I have a car when school starts. » Espero que tenha um carro quando a escola começa. (present subjunctive)

When I buy my new Tesla, I'll drive every day. » Quando eu comprar meu Tesla novo, vou dirijir todo dia. (future subjunctive)

Since this post is really just a launchpad to individual posts for about of theses subjunctive tenses: present, future & imperfect ~ I'll simply present a description and a useful example of each case. A then link out of here before it gets too Grammarly.

the Portuguese Subjunctive ~ three flavors

The Portuguese Subjunctive is a mood (a manner of expression). Moods come in versions: past, present, and future. We call these verb tenses. And that's the cause of all the anxiety. You have to learn three more conjugations for every verb. But I'm a survivor of all this and no one stressed-out more than eu. And, I'm here to report: it's no_big_deal.  The key is to learn the most-used ones first and let the more complicated versions gradually invade your head.

By using the subjunctive mood you're letting people know how serious you are about a hypothetical situation.

the Imperfect Subjunctive

Also called, the Past Subjunctive.

Use this tense to talk about things that are or were, very unlikely to happen.

If I were to win the lottery, I would buy a new car. > Se eu ganhasse a loteria, compraría um caro novo.

the Present Subjunctive

Use this tense to talk about things that are hypothetical but hopeful to occur.

I hope that you talk to her today. > Eu espero que você fale com ela hoje.

the Future Subjunctive

Use this tense to talk about things that are likely to occur in the future, but that hasn't yet happened. .

I'll call you when I arrive. > Vou ligar para você quando eu chegar.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

If you get existential about these or try to take their definition too literally, your head will begin to ache. So, don't. Just start using it. You will get the feel for it, trust me.

Are you getting this?

Let's find out. Here's a little test. For each of these sentences, I want you to quickly say whether it needs the imperfect, present, or future subjunctive treatment:

(a) If I pay for your drink will you come with us?

(b) I hope that she pays for my drink!

(c) If I were to pay your bar tab, I'd be a poor man.

If you answered future, present, imperfect you are way ahead of the game!

Translated:
Se eu pagar sua bebída, você vem com a gente?
Espero que ela pague minha bebida!
Se eu pagasse sua conta ficaria pobre.
Grammar Geeks:
This mood is called the Subjunctive because it supposes things ~ it's subjective. Here's how Wikipedia puts it:

Subjunctive forms of verbs are typically used to express various states of unreality such as: wish, emotion, possibility, judgement, opinion, obligation, or action that has not yet occurred.