When you decide to learn a new language, one of the most challenging things to master is the grammar. Grammar is, at its core, the building blocks of any language, and helps to dictate things such as:
- How verbs should be conjugated and what tense should be used;
- Word order in sentences; and
- Whether particular cases are required in a sentence, such as the nominative, accusative or dative cases.
Although learning grammar can feel challenging at first, whether you’re starting to learn Portuguese, Spanish, or another language entirely, having a good grasp of the grammatical principles of the language you’re studying can really help set you up for success and may make it easier and quicker for you to increase your proficiency in your chosen language. This is especially true if you're a complete beginner when learning a new language.
As such, the main thing is not to lose heart if you find yourself overwhelmed at the prospect of mastering Portuguese grammar. The best place to start is to get a grip on the very basics of Portuguese grammar, and then work your way up from there. By doing this, your proficiency in Portuguese grammar should increase over time.
As such, below are some tips and tricks to help you learn basic Portuguese grammar.
How To Learn Grammar
When it comes to learning the basics of Portuguese grammar, there are a few ways you can approach your learning journey.
Identify Which Aspects Of Grammar Are Most Important To You
Learning grammar can be a daunting prospect, so try to make your job easier by identifying which aspects of Portuguese grammar are most important to you. For example, are you more interested in learning about the different tenses and how to conjugate verbs, or would you rather develop your knowledge of basic Portuguese vocabulary?
Another thing to consider is which kind of Portuguese you would like to study. Although Portuguese is spoken in many different countries around the world, typically Portuguese lessons and teachers focus on teaching either Brazilian Portuguese or the Portuguese that is spoken in Portugal.
Although the language is the same (just like American English, British English, and Australian and New Zealand English) there are differences in things such as pronunciation and how certain words are spelt, so having an idea of the particular branch of Portuguese you'd like to study before beginning lessons can really help.
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Try To Get Your Head Around The Alphabet
One of the absolute basics of any language is its alphabet. As a result, learning the Portuguese alphabet should be your first port of call.
There are a number of reasons why the alphabet can be the best thing to learn first, such as:
- You can learn to recognise Portuguese words, which will help develop your reading skills;
- You’ll be able to write Portuguese words, which is good for your writing skills; and
- You can begin to recognise how certain letters, and combinations of letters, are pronounced.
If you’re looking for the Portuguese alphabet, you can find an outline of it here.
Master The Pronouns And Basic Verb Conjugations
Another fundamental of learning Portuguese is learning what the common pronouns in Portuguese are.
Learning about pronouns will not only help you when you’re speaking Portuguese, as you will be able to address people correctly, but pronouns are also so commonly spoken, written, and heard that you won’t get particularly far in learning Portuguese if you don’t learn them by heart.
For reference, here are some basic Portuguese pronouns:
- I – eu
- You – você /tu
- He – ele
- She – ela
- We – nós
- They – eles / elas
Aside from Portuguese pronouns, it’s also a very good idea to learn some of the most common Portuguese verbs and how to conjugate them correctly in the present tense.
Conjugation essentially means that a verb agrees to its subject. An example of conjugation at work in English is the following:
Verb: to play
Example of conjugation: he plays / I play (note that there is an “s” at the end of "he plays", whereas there is no “s” after "I play")
Verb: to be
Example of conjugation: he is / I am
Conjugation in Portuguese is slightly trickier than in English, but it’s by no means impossible to master. The main thing to remember is that there are regular verbs and irregular verbs. Regular verbs conjugate by following a consistent set of rules, whereas irregular verbs don’t conjugate along typical lines, meaning you’ll just have to memorise how to conjugate irregular verbs.
To put things back in an English-speaking context, the verb “to play” is a regular verb, while “to be” is an irregular verb.
Initially, just focus on learning how to conjugate verbs in the present tense. Once you become more comfortable with your knowledge of conjugation and know a wider range of verbs, it may be time to branch out and learn how to form sentences in the past and future tenses, for example.
Another aspect of learning Portuguese that may be new to many native English speakers is the fact that Portuguese nouns actually have their own gender. There are two genders in Portuguese. Specifically, there are masculine nouns and there are feminine nouns.
Masculine nouns are typically indicated by the letter “o” e.g. “o homem” (the man).
Feminine nouns, on the other hand, are typically indicated by the letter “a” e.g. “a mulher” (the woman).
Note that there are also plural versions of both masculine and feminine nouns.
When learning a new noun, try to also remember whether that word is masculine or feminine. It may be a struggle at first, as English nouns do not carry a gender, but with practice, it should become second nature.
Grow Your Vocabulary
If you are still thinking for ways to improve your knowledge of basic Portuguese grammar, it can also help to develop your basic Portuguese vocabulary. This is because learning common words or phrases can really help you when learning to read, write, listen, and speak Portuguese, simply because these words and phrases often appear in different Portuguese written works or in conversation.
For instance, try to learn the numbers one to ten in Portuguese, as well as common phrases such as “how are you?” “what is the time” and common greetings such as hello and goodbye.
Keep Practicing Your Portuguese Grammar Skills
As with anything, learning a new skill takes a number of things, including:
- Patience; and
Learning a new language is no different.
If you work at mastering the basics of Portuguese, then you’ll find that developing your knowledge of the language should become much easier, as you already have strong foundations of knowledge to build upon.
As a result, don’t feel too disheartened if some days it feels like you’re not making any progress, or if you’re frustrated that you aren’t quite at the level of proficiency that you’d like to be. Provided that you continue to practice your Portuguese every day, you should be able to see improvements as the weeks and months progress, regardless of whether you're a complete beginner or you're an intermediate to advanced Portuguese speaker.
To that end, you might be wondering what are the best ways to practice your Portuguese skills?
There are a number of different ways you can practice your Portuguese, whether you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese or the Portuguese spoken in Portugal.
One of the least stressful ways to keep on top of your language learning and to continue improving your knowledge of Portuguese grammar is to use a language app such as Duolingo or Babbel.
These apps often don’t require much time commitment and they can be easy to use when you’re on the move. For example, if you’re on the bus or train, you can try out a variety of different exercises that can help you practice basic grammatical principles and develop your knowledge of common words and phrases and expand your knowledge of Portuguese vocabulary.
Another way to practice and develop your knowledge of Portuguese grammar is to use a tutor on Superprof. Superprof has a range of tutors within its network, and there are many Portuguese tutors on the site that are happy to provide tuition in either Brazilian Portuguese or Portuguese.
A Superprof tutor can give you regular exercises to help consolidate your existing knowledge of Portuguese grammar, and they can also give you lessons on new grammatical areas, all while motivating you to do the best you can.
Tutors are available for one to one tuition, group tuition, as well as online tutoring. Take a look at Superprof’s network of tutors today to find your next tutor!