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How to understand The Portuguese Past Participle.
May 18, 2012
Olá! Tudo bem?


Today I'd like to talk to you about the concept of the "Portuguese Past Participle" and why it's so important that you understand exactly what it is and how to use it when you speak Portuguese.

Lately, I have been contacted by many of you with questions about many subjects, but among hundreds of them, this was the particular topic that has triggered me to write to you today.

I have noticed, over the years, that generally speaking, people are afraid of using it of even asking about how the Portuguese past participles work.

Does it ring a bell?

In order for you to understand the Past Participle in Portuguese, you need to understand what it is in your own language, so you can apply it to Portuguese as well.

To begin, I need to ask you a question:

Have you noticed that, in English for instance, you need to use a verb - a doing word - before you use the words "seen" (e.g. I have seen), "broken" (e.g. It was broken), "written" (e.g. She has written), etc?

Yes, the English words "seen", "broken" and "written" are no more than Past Participles, which are parts of a specific verb that can only be used with an Auxiliary Verb - Have, Was and Has respectively in these cases.

But what is an "Auxiliary Verb"? You might be wondering...

As the word implies, an Auxiliary Verb is a verb that helps another verb (the main verb of a sentence) to express itself.

In the sample phrases above, the verbs "Have" (I have seen), "Was" (It was broken), and "Has" (She has written) are auxiliary verbs.

So, on their turn, the words "seen", "broken" and "written" are the Past Participles of the main verbs of the sentence.

Do you get it?

In Portuguese this concept of Past Participle works exactly the same way as it does in English although with a few nuances.

So, in Portuguese you have 3 types of Past Participles:

1. Regular Past Participles,

2. Irregular Past Participles,

3. Double Past Participles.

Regarding Auxiliary verbs, you have 5 auxiliary verbs:

A.Ter (to have),

B. Ser (to be - permanent),

C. Estar (to be - temporary),

D. Ficar (to become / to stay).

E. Haver (equivalent to "To have" and used in Brazilian Portuguese).

Is this all clear so far? OK. Let's carry on!


1.When it comes to regular Past Participles, you have a different ending for AR verbs and ER and IR verbs.

For AR verbs like "Falar", for instance, the ending of the Past Participle is "...ado" -> Falado (Said / Told).

For both ER and IR verbs the ending of the Past participle is "...ido -> so for Comer is "comido" (eaten) and for "partir" is "partido" (broken).

So in order for you to use the past participle well with these regular verbs you just need to juggle with the auxiliary verbs.

Let's see some examples:

O bolo que ele tinha comido era delicioso. - The cake he had eaten was delicious.

A casa foi construida por ele próprio. - The house was built by himself.

Os impostos foram cobrados pelo governo. The taxes were charged by the government.

Ela ficou chateada com os resultados do exame. - She became upset with the exam results.

Note: in Portuguese, the Past Participle agrees in gender and in number with the subject of the sentence when you use the Auxiliars SER, ESTAR or FICAR, but not with TER (which is always either "...ado" or "...ido"). That's why in the last sentence above you say "Ela ficou chateada" where "chateada" agrees with "Ela" (She).

Can you see the pattern here? Easy, isn't it?

2. Irregular Past Participles:

There are a few Past Participles that are irregular and some of the most important ones are as follows:

Portuguese Verb Past participle Translation
Abrir Aberto Opened
Cobrir Coberto Covered
Dizer Dito Said / Told
Descobrir Descoberto Discovered
Descrever Descrito Described
Escrever Escrito Written
Fazer Feito Done / Made
Ganhar Ganho Won
Gastar Gasto Spent
Impor Imposto Imposed
Inscrever Inscrito Enrolled
Pagar Pago Paid
Pôr Posto Put
Satisfazer Satisfeito Satisfied
Ver Visto Seen
Vir Vindo Come

So with these you can make sentences like:

Ela tem gasto muito dinheiro. - She has been spending a lot of money.

Os prémios foram ganhos pelos Franceses. - The prizes were won by the French.

3. Double Past Participles.

Some other verbs have 2 Past Participles at the same time, one regular and one irregular.

The regular form ("...ado" / "...ido") is used when the auxiliary verbs is TER or HAVER, and the irregular form when the auxiliary verb is SER, ESTAR or FICAR.

Follows a list of the most common verbs with double Past Participles:

Verb Past Participle 1
Past Participle 2
Aceitar Aceitado Aceite Accepted
Acender Acendido Aceso Switched on
Eleger Elegido Eleito Elected
Emergir Emergido Emerso Immersed
Entregar Entregado Entregue Delivered / Handed over
Envolver Envolvido Envolto Involved Wrapped
Expulsar Expulsado Expulso Expelled
Exprimir Exprimido Expresso Expressed
Extinguir Extinguido Extinto Extinguished
Imprimir Imprimido Impresso Printed
Isentar Isentado Isento Exempted
Matar Matado Morto Killed
Morrer Morrido Morto Dead
Prender Prendido Preso Arrested
Romper Rompido Roto Torn
Salvar Salvado Salvo Saved
Secar Secado Seco Dried
Soltar Soltado Solto Released
Suspender Suspendido Suspenso Suspended

So with these ones you can make sentences like:

Eles tinham elegido muitos representantes. They had elected many representatives. (with auxiliary verb TER).

O presidente foi eleito. - The president was elected. (with auxiliary verb SER).

Eles tinham acendido as luzes. They had switched on the lights.

As luzes foram acesas. - The lights were switched on.

And that's it for today. I hope this email will help you improve your speaking and/or reading skills in Portuguese.

And yes, please don't forget, if you want to drastically master and enhance your Portuguese vocabulary during these upcoming Summer holidays, check out the language programme I have been creating for you -

I'll call it a day for now.

Do some practice with this email and enjoy your learning, always bearing in mind how you can best use this information to help you achieve your goals.

I hope you have enjoyed this message as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I'll be back with more news soon.

Till then, boas férias (Enjoy your holidays).

Your friend,

Rafa x

PS 1: Questions about any topics? Success stories? Please let me know.

PS 2: Also, no matter how you do it, please spread the word... Tell your friends and family, colleagues at work, about!. This site grows purely by word-of-mouth, allowing many people to "improve their Portuguese", and to attract people just like you, to deliver value towards your success!


Tchau tchau!

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