How to learn Portuguese verb conjugation easily and quickly

Verb conjugation is the most difficult thing to learn in Portuguese.

But, by knowing the right learning tools and strategies, you’ll learn this grammar topic faster than you can imagine.

In this article, I’ll show you step by step how to do that.

  1. Conjugation and regular verbs
  2. Irregular verbs
  3. The most frequent verbs in Portuguese
  4. How to learn Portuguese verb conjugation easily and quickly

 

1 – CONJUGATION AND REGULAR VERBS

While English verbs have few inflected forms (e.g. speak, speaks, speaking, spoke, spoken), Portuguese verbs have many more, according to the person (I, you, he, we, they, etc.), tense (present, past, future, etc.) and mood (indicative or subjunctive), Portuguese verb forms consist of a stem and an ending, or inflection.

The pattern of different inflected forms is called conjugation, each class of regular verbs has its own pattern of termination when conjugated.

By classifying verbs into conjugations, it’s easier to remember their many forms. When the verb is regular, all you have to do is to keep the root of the verb and substitute “AR”, “ER” or “IR” for the endings below.

 

PRESENTE (PRESENT TENSE) – VERBOS REGULARES

PRIMEIRA

CONJUGAÇÃO

(First Conjugation)

SEGUNDA

CONJUGAÇÃO

(Second Conjugation)

TERCEIRA

CONJUGAÇÃO

(Third Conjugation)

FALAR (to speak)

Eu fal-o

Você fal-a

Ele fal-a

Nós fal-amos

Vocês fal-am

Eles fal-am

BEBER (to drink)

Eu beb-o

Você beb-e

Ele beb-e

Nós beb-emos

Vocês beb-em

Eles beb-em

ASSISTIR (to watch)

Eu assist-o

Você assist-e

Ele assist-e

Nós assist-imos

Vocês assist-em

Eles assist-em

Examples of other regular verbs: cantar (to sing), amar (to love), comer (to eat), viver (to live), sair (to leave), abrir (to open).

 

2 – IRREGULAR VERBS

Irregular verbs don’t follow a regular Portuguese verb conjugation. There is no way to tell if a verb is irregular just by looking at its infinitive form, we need to see how it is conjugated. Look these four verbs below:

TRAZER (to bring)

Eu trago

Você traz

Ele traz

Nós trazemos

Vocês trazem

Eles trazem

SER (to do/make)

Eu sou

Você é

Ele é

Nós somos

Vocês são

Eles são

COMER (to eat)

Eu com-o

Você com-e

Ele com-e

Nós com-emos

Vocês com-em

Eles com-em

BEBER (to drink)

Eu beb-o

Você beb-e

Ele beb-e

Nós beb-emos

Vocês beb-em

Eles beb-em

Which ones are irregular? You’re right, trazer and ser! They are irregular because their structures change when they are conjugated.

 

3 – THE MOST FREQUENT VERBS IN PORTUGUESE

Below I show you the 100 most frequent / common verbs in Portuguese. 

Since these verbs are present in most day-to-day life situations, understanding how to use them is a high priority for any Portuguese learner. When you learn them, you accelerate your learning and eliminate information overload.

  1. abrir – open
  2. acabar – finish, end
  3. achar – think, find
  4. acontecer – happen
  5. acordar – wake up
  6. ajudar – help
  7. andar – walk/ride
  8. aparecer – appear, show up
  9. aprender – learn
  10. assistir – watch
  11. beber – drink
  12. botar – put, place
  13. chamar – call, call out
  14. chegar – arrive
  15. colocar – put
  16. começar – start, begin
  17. comer – eat 
  18. comprar – buy
  19. conhecer – meet, know
  20. conseguir – get, manage (irregular)
  21. contar – count, tell
  22. conversar – talk     
  23. cozinhar – cook
  24. dar – give (irregular)
  25. deixar – leave, allow
  26. descobrir – discover, find out (irregular)
  27. descer – go down, descend
  28. dever – owe, must
  29. dizer – say (irregular)
  30. dormir – sleep (irregular)
  31. encontrar – find 
  32. entender – understand      
  33. entrar – enter
  34. entregar – deliver
  35. escrever – write     
  36. escutar – listen       
  37. esperar – wait, hope
  38. esquecer – forget
  39. estar – be (irregular)
  40. existir – exist
  41. explicar – explain
  42. falar – speak
  43. faltar – lack, miss
  44. fechar – close
  45. ficar – stay, become (irregular)
  46. funcionar – work, function
  47. ganhar – win, earn
  48. gostar – like
  49. haver – there to be (irregular)
  50. ir – go (irregular)
  51. jogar – play, throw
  52. lavar – wash
  53. lembrar – remember
  54. levantar – get up
  55. levar – take/carry
  56. ligar – call/turn on
  57. limpar – clean
  58. mandar – send/order
  59. morar – reside/live
  60. mostrar – show
  61. mudar – change
  62. olhar – look
  63. ouvir – hear (irregular)
  64. pagar – pay
  65. parar – stop
  66. parecer – seem
  67. passar – pass/stop by
  68. pedir – ask (irregular)
  69. pegar – take
  70. pensar – think
  71. perder – lose
  72. perguntar – ask
  73. poder – can/may
  74. pôr – put (irregular)
  75. precisar – need
  76. preocupar – worry
  77. procurar – search for
  78. querer – want (irregular)
  79. receber – receive
  80. responder – answer
  81. saber – know (irregular)
  82. sair – leave (irregular)
  83. sentar – sit
  84. sentir – feel (irregular)
  85. ser – be (irregular)
  86. subir – go up, climb
  87. tentar – try, test
  88. ter – have (irregular)
  89. terminar – finish
  90. tirar – remove, take off
  91. tocar – ring, play, touch
  92. tomar – take/drink
  93. trabalhar – work     
  94. trazer – bring (irregular)
  95. trocar – change, exchange
  96. usar – use
  97. ver – see (irregular)
  98. vir – come (irregular)
  99. viver – live (irregular)
  100. voltar – come back

 

 

4 – HOW TO LEARN PORTUGUESE VERBS EASILY AND QUICKLY

Why students struggle to memorize verbs

One thing is for sure: there are no shortcuts to learning how to conjugate Portuguese verbs, you need to memorize them. And speaking of memorization, I’d like to talk a little about that before we go to the practical tips.

After you have just learned something, memory retention is 100%. However, it drops rapidly to 42% within just a few days and after that, the decline of memory retention slows down again.

The good news is that, if you repeat or practice something a lot, the information is stored more strongly and the forgetting curve becomes much shallower. 

After learning something, our memory of it will decline over time unless we review it. The more we review it, the stronger we make the memory, the longer we can remember it.

When exposed to the same content repeatedly, it takes less time to pull the information from your long-term memory. And here is where most language learners fail: they don’t have the patience to review, they don’t give the brain time to retain what they’ve studied.

Therefore, you’ll only memorize conjugation if you stay in constant contact with verbs, practicing, reading, listening, speaking…

Studies suggest that around 60% of learners are ‘passive’ learners, only 10% are ‘active’ learners, and the remaining 30% are ‘blocked’.

In summary, if you don’t want to struggle with verb conjugation, you need to:

  • Be consistent;
  • Review;
  • Be active.

Going to practice

Now I’ll show you the same strategies my students use in Português Fluente, and I can assure you that they work. 

One step at a time, start with the 40 most used verbs in the present:

  1. ser – be (irregular)
  2. estar – be (irregular)
  3. ter – have (irregular)
  4. fazer – make/do (irregular)
  5. ir – go (irregular)
  6. querer – want (irregular)
  7. poder – can (irregular)
  8. dever – must, owe, should
  9. ficar – stay/get
  10. dizer – say (irregular)
  11. saber – know (irregular)
  12. falar – speak
  13. ver – see (irregular)
  14. achar – think/find
  15. dar – give (irregular)
  16. precisar – need
  17. conhecer – know, meet, get to know
  18. deixar – let, leave
  19. haver – there to be, exist (irregular)
  20. botar – put
  21. colocar – put, place
  22. gostar – like
  23. sair – leave, go out (irregular)
  24. vir – come (irregular)
  25. chegar – arrive, be enough
  26. conseguir – get obtain (irregular)
  27. trazer – bring (irregular)
  28. acabar – end, finish, terminate
  29. terminar – end, finish
  30. começar – start, begin
  31. entender – understand
  32. passar – pass, exceed
  33. pegar – take, pick up, grab 
  34. levar – take, carry
  35. pôr – put (irregular)
  36. pedir – ask, request, order (irregular)
  37. perguntar – ask, question
  38. tentar – try
  39. encontrar – find, discover
  40. voltar – return, come back

 

STEP 1 – Create your own table conjugation in your notebook. And if you pay close attention, It’s only necessary to memorize the conjugation of four people: eu, você, nós, eles.

PRIMEIRA

CONJUGAÇÃO

SEGUNDA

CONJUGAÇÃO

TERCEIRA

CONJUGAÇÃO

FALAR (to speak)

Eu fal-o

Você fal-a

Ele fal-a

Nós fal-amos

Vocês fal-am

Eles fal-am

BEBER (to drink)

Eu beb-o

Você beb-e

Ele beb-e

Nós beb-emos

Vocês beb-em

Eles beb-em

ASSISTIR (to watch)

Eu assist-o

Você assist-e

Ele assist-e

Nós assist-imos

Vocês assist-em

Eles assist-em

STEP 2 – Create flashcards on Quizlet, a free website and app providing learning tools for students. Besides flashcards, Quizlet also has game modes, making your learning experience more pleasant and effective.

When creating your flashcards, you need to take 2 things into consideration:

  • Instead of writing isolated verbs, make short sentences. Example: Eu bebo água, você bebe vinho, nós bebemos cerveja, eles bebem cachaça;
  • Make sure these phrases are correct and they are actually used in the context you’ll use them (ask a teacher or a native speaker to check them).

Study these verbs everyday, and when you master them in the present, follow the same steps above with verbs in the past. Use this website to check all Portuguese conjugations.

You won’t become fluent just by memorizing verb conjugation, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You need to have good listening, good pronunciation, wide vocabulary, conversation practice etc.

So, if you want to learn Portuguese for real, enroll in my complete course for beginners.

Até breve!