Posted in English, Portuguese

Se, Se, Se What You Want, But Don’t Play Games With Conjugation

I’ve been reading “Doze Segredos Da Língua Portuguesa” with a particular eye to reflexive verbs and verbs with impersonal pronouns, following on from discussions I’ve been having with a portuguese teacher resident in britain, about some of the more complicated aspects of the language that I’m not able adequately to describe to my usual portuguese teacher owing to my inability to express the question in portuguese! The specific point of grammar is the one described in a blog post a few months back.

Anyway, here are some examples that jumped out at me during chapter:

Diga-se o que se disser, a verdade é que os portugueses desprezam activamente tal parente, que, coitado, não merece tal sorte. [2x subjunctive tenses in the passove voices – bringing the grammaticla thunder: means something like “whatever might be said, it’s true that the portuguese don’t really care about such a parent that hasn’t deserved such a fate”]

Ora a identidade vai alimentar-se daquilo que distingue os vários povos uns dos outros [True reflexive verb ir+inf: means something like “Now, identity will always feed on that which distinguishes groups of people from one another”]

Que se fale galego na Galiza e espanhol no mundo que isso do português não pode interessar a espanhol que se preze. [2x passive voice present subjunctive: means something like “because galician is spoken in galicia and spanish in the world, the question of portuguese isn’t interesting to a spanard who knows his own worth” but I’m not sure – in fact I’m not even sure I didn’t make a transcription error when I wrote it down!]

…o facto de o Brasil se ter mantido como território unido… [manter used reflexively: means something like “…the fact of brazil having stayed as a united territory…”]

Muitas pessoas que se divertem a apontar os erros dos outros estão a proteger uma ideia de pureza associada a ideia de língua nacional, que deve ser protegida como se dum cristal se tratasse. [two reflexive verbs – one presente indicative, the other imperfect subjunctive: Means something like “many people who amuse themselves pointing out other people’s errors are protecting a notion of purity linked to the idea of a national language which must be protected as if it were a crystal”]

Os exemplos acumulam-se [reflexive: means “the examples accumulate”]

Se olharmos para a lista das dez línguas de Portugal que acabámos de ver, apercebemo-nos de uma grande diferença entre as primeiras e as últimas. [aperceber-se is a reflexive verb that means “notice”so…: Means something like  “If we look at the list of the ten languages of Portugal, we notice a big difference between the first and last”]


Posted in English

Time for a Change of Strategy

I’ve been having a bit of a rethink lately. I’m not making the progress I should, really. I did what I sometimes do: listened to some language-learning podcasts, namely The Fluent Show with Kerstin Cable.

I think the main things I need to do are:

  • Pay more attention to start times (I have drifted into a habit of starting late)
  • Warm up properly (starting a lesson directly from work or from some other aactivity is never healpful. My brain has to already be in Portuguese mode)
  • Ask my teacher to be more interrupty. In general, I don’t like to be interrupted too much because it disrupts my flow, but have a feeling I am maybe being allowed to develop bad habits as a result of saying so, and maybe
  • Get more structure – look at exercises in teh lessons and follow them up between lessons instead of just pursuing a completely separate curriculum as soon as the call ends
Posted in English, Portuguese

Unexpected Prepositions

Just straight doing my homework online now: this is about grammar and unexpected prepositions in sentences. For example

  • “O cheiro a gasolina” (literally “the smell at petrol”)
  • “Eu conheço apenas dois abrunheiros ao alcance dum homem de meia idade numa bicla” (“I know of only two blackthorn trees to the reach of a middle aged man on a bicycle”… which is a phrase most of us use every day)
  • “As mulheres que fizeram parte da luta para os direitos das mulheres votarem” (the women to took part of the struggle for women’s suffrage”)
  • “Viciado no Facebook” (“addicted in Facebook”)

I was hoping there’d be a way of thinking about prepositions, or the meaning of prepositions that would make it easier to select one if I came across a situation, in the wild, that seemed to need one. Currently what I do is translate in my head from an english phrase I want to say and choose the portuguese preposition that matches. So with the last one, for example, I would have said “Viciado ao Facebook”.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to this – you just have to learn the whole phrase – viciado em… and use it as much as possible to make that way of talking stick. Presumably, after a while, it gets easier…

Incidentally, sometimes different prepositions can be used in different contexts. For example, O Cheiro a gasolina” is the smell of gasoline in the abstract, whereas if you are being more specific it would be “o cheiro de gasolina” and if you were talking about an actual puddle of it you’d use “da”. In Hugo Lourenço’s book Ruínas he writes of his memory of car journeys with his family: “E poucos segundos depois o cheiro a gasolina infiltrava-se as narinas e eu inspirava-o com prazer. Sempre gostei do cheiro da gasolina, hoje não é diferente”. I think in the first instance he’s talking about a gasoliney smell and in the other he’s talking about times when he has smelled actual gasoline.

Petrol. I mean Petrol.

I don’t think it’s very clear-cut though. For example, I’ve seen two versions of a well-known quote from Apocalypse Now, which gives me an excuse to photoshop it twice:


So I think that’s “I love a Napalmy smell in the morning” on the left and “I love smelling whatever Napalm happens to have been dropped on the village in the morning” on the right.

Anyroadup, I’m meant to do three examples of each so here goes. I’ll count the photoshop as one.

O cheiro a…

  • O cheiro a lavanda lembra-me da minha avó.
  • Lembro-me do verão de 1976: o calor, os dias compridos e o cheiro a relva cortada no ar.

O cheiro de…

  • Abri o guarda-roupa e o meu nariz foi assaltado pelo cheiro de lavanda.
  • Nunca mais voltarei para o restaurante: a comida foi mal cozinhada e o cheiro de suor do empregado era nojento!

Ao alcance

  • O preço destes moveis está ao alcance de alguém, de qualquer nível de rendimento.
  • Amarrei o cão a uma árvore e deixei uma tigela de água ao alcance da corda.
  • O golo dos espanhóis encontrou-se ao alcance do pé de Ronaldo mais uma vez

Fazer parte de

  • Quando era jovem, fiz parte duma peça de teatro.
  • O governo de Trump não faz parte da aliança das nações do oeste tal como na época do presidente Obama, ou os seus antecedentes.
  • Quero fazer parte duma corrida de dez quilómetros no final do verão.

Viciado em

  • Durante a minha adolescência, fiquei viciado em cafeína.
  • O sistema económicas do mundo está viciado em óleo cru.
  • A minha filha está viciada em shippar personagens de mangá

Update – a couple of days later

O cheiro a…

  • Durante os anos, a escola ficou permeada pelo cheiro a couve.

O cheiro de…

  • O cheiro de couve informou-me que o jantar estava quase pronto.

Ao alcance

  • Se trabalharmos juntos, um aumento de desempenho de 50 por cento está ao nosso alcance.

Fazer parte de

  • Se quiseres fazer parte da peça de teatro, é preciso ensaiar muito connosco

Viciado em

  • Durante os anos oitenta, a minha avó ficou viciada na série “Dallas”
Posted in English

The Shipping Forecast

I think this might be my favourite example of weird english slang being absorbed into portuguese. So far I have only come across brazilian examples, but like the US and UK, these things have a way of making their way across the atlantic. For those of you who don’t have kids of a certain age, “shipping” is when you speculate/imagine/fantasise about two people, real or imaginary, who are, or should be in a relationSHIP. From what I can tell, tween girls seem to do it a lot with males: fictional characters, pop stars, or whoever. I’m not sure why their being gay should be so exciting, but who can understand anything when it comes to tweenagers? Often there’s a ship name like Rydon (Brendon Urie and Ryan Ross) or Klance (Keith and Lance from the series Voltron). It’s always kinda been around in celebrity gossip (Brangelina, for example) but seems to be a huge deal in fandoms, with people arguing over matches between diverse and unlikely characters.

I just love that it’s become a proper portuguese verb, although I’m a little sad to see it’s not on yet. Most new additions to the language from english end up being AR verbs because they’re more regular than ER or IR.

The video below contains (a) brazilian accent and (b) coraçõezinhos

Posted in English

Possessive Pronouns and Round Skirts

So I’m trying to sort out some basic grammar that I probably should have worked out a long time ago. To do this, I’ve been working with a different teacher who lives in the UK, simply because I don’t have the skills to be able to even ask the question in Portuguese and I needed someone

Today: What’s the difference between these ways of exressing possession.

  • A sua propriedade
  • Propriedade sua
  • A propriedade dele

It always seems a bit random and I’ve never quite been able to spot a pattern. The third one is the obvious odd one out because it’s the only one that makes it clear that it’s the property of “him”, whereas the others could all be him, her, them, or, if you’re being formal, the person you’re speaking to, so in a way that helps – you could use when you wanted to be very specific about who it belongs to. In practice, I’m told, it’s also used in less formal, spoken situations.

As for the first and second, the answer seems to be simpler than I thought though: it just depends whether you have a definite article in there. If it’s a specific thing: this is his property, it’s “a sua propriedade”, whereas the second quote, which comes from my review of the film Comboio de Sal e Açúcar is about the subject’s attitude: he treated the passengers as his property.

There are some examples given here on Ciberdúvidas:

  • O livro é de um amigo meu [indefinite article: it belongs to a friend of mine]
  • O livro é do meu amigo [definite article: it belongs to my friend]

Now, here’s the shock though: I had been thinking of these words – seu, meu, minha, etc as possessive pronouns, but they’re not, they’re determinantes – more like adjectives, really: In “o meu amigo”, “amigo” is the noun and “meu” just determines whose friend he is. Meu can also be a possessive pronoun but only when it stands in for the noun.

“O Donald, as suas mãos são pequenas; as minhas são grandes”. In this sentence, “suas” is another determinant but “minhas” is a possessive pronoun because I’m using it instead of saying the whole noun again “as minhas maãos”. In english it’s doing the job of “mine” instead of just “my”. There are some other examples, explained in portuguese on Ciberdúvidas.

OK, simple, I can understand a couple of simple rules like that. I guess, though, it’s like most rules in english: you obey them only insofar as you can do so without writing something ugly. So I cam across a counter-example within about ten minutes of this conversation happening in the song “Saia Rodada” by Carminho. I’ve pasted the lyrics below and highlighted forms that match in green and the one that doesn’t in red.

Vesti a saia rodada
P’r’ apimentar a chegada
Do meu amor
No mural postei as bodas
Rezei nas capelas todas
Pelo meu amor
Vem lá de longe da cidade e tem
Os olhos rasos de saudade em mim
E eu mando-lhe beijos e recados em retratos meus
Pensa em casar no fim do verão que vem
Antes pudesse o verão não mais ter fim
Que eu estou tão nervosa com esta coisa do casar
Meu Deus
Vesti a saia rodada
P’r’ apimentar a chegada
Do meu amor
No mural postei as bodas
Rezei nas capelas todas
Pelo meu amor
Por tantas vezes pensei eu também
Sair daqui atrás dos braços seus
De cabeça ao vento e a duvidar o que faz ele por lá
São os ciúmes que a saudade tem
E se aos ciúmes eu já disse adeus
Hoje mato inteiras as saudades que o rapaz me dá


I think all that’s happening here is that she’s stretched the normal rules to make the rhyme with “adeus” work in the next triplet. I’ve added it to my list of questions for next time.

Anyway, as a side note, I wondered what a “saia rodada” was anyway. A round skirt? I googled it and saw a load of pictures of… well… skirts. So I asked online and was told it would all make sense if I searched for videos of “saia rodada danca” but it didn’t work because there’s an insupportable brasilian rock band called saia rodada and this is the first video I got.

But then a portuguese guy mentioned that it was “folclorico” so I added that into my search and had more luck. Apparently it’s a long, swishy skirt that is used in a lot of dances because of the way it moves. Here are some people demonstrating. Tag yourself, I’m the guy in the grey trousers.

WHew! It’s been a long time since I wrote this much about grammar and general musings. Well, come for the determinantes possessivos, stay for the grupo folclórico.

Posted in English


Posted in English


I’m in Wales for the Hay festival and… Made a linguistic observation….

🇬🇧 I took this last night and I'm interested to note the similarity between that word "llyfrau" which I take as meaning "book" and the Portuguese word "livro" (and cognates in French and Spanish). I don't think of Welsh as sharing much of a common history with the romance languages but that _can't_ be a coincidence. I noticed the word for church is eglwys too, similar to eglise in French and (to a lesser extent) "Iglesia" and "igreja". I need to get myself a big book on linguistics. 🇵🇹 Tirei esta fotografia ontem de noite e depois percebi a palavra galesa "llyfrau" que é muito parecida com "livro" e palavras cognatas em francês e espanhol. Não me customo de pensar em galês como relacionada com as línguas românicas mas não pode ser uma coincidência. A palavra "eglwys" soa como se é relacionada com "eglise" em francês e igreja/iglesia nas línguas da peninsula ibérica também. É tão interessante! Hei de obter um livro sobre linguísticas. #welsh #Portuguese #languagelearning #linguistics #livro #llyfrau #hayfestival2018

A post shared by 18ck (@18ck) on

Posted in English

Dois Falsos Amigos

m000093415It’s been a while since I posted any of those “Key Learnings” from lessons and I should probably do it more to give my crap memory a bit of a nudge to do its job. So here are couple of things I picked up from today’s Aula. They’re both really close near-cognates with subtly different meanings:


This word looks like a straight-up cognate but it’s diverged slightly from the english meaning and stayed closer to “consensus” than “consent”.

É consensual no meio cientifica nao haver o direito de modificar o patrimonio hereditário da espécie humana.

…means something like “It’s agreed by everyone in the field of science that we don’t have the right to modify the human genetic heritage”


This word obviously comes from the same root as the verb “to present” but it isn’t used in the positive sense – presenting people with gifts or medals, for example, only ironically in negative situations.

O objectivo é conseguir substâncias capazes de corrigir os efeitos com que a natureza vai presenteado os homens

…means something like “The objective is to find substances that can correct the symptoms with which nature has presented people”