Imperatives (Look! Enjoy! Dream!)

July 14, 2008 at 5:05 pm 2 comments

Imperatives – what are they?

Imperatives are a strange beast in Portuguese. An imperative is a way of forming a verb to add emphasis. It is used for commands and orders, instructions (for example in recipes) and to sell products in advertising or in speech to stress what you want somebody else to do or understand. In other words, it’s what you think is “imperative” for other people to act on.

If you never studied English grammar (like me) I’m sure you’d never stopped to think about them before. This is because in English imperatives are the same as the present simple tense. We say “You look at the shop” and “Look at the shop!” and we use the same word in both sentences “look”. Or, “They read the instructions” and “Read the instructions” have different meanings and stress but the same word “read”.

Yes, but in Portuguese – what are they?

In Portuguese, you change the ending of the verbs like this: -ar verbs finish with e, and -er and -ir verbs finish with a. (Click here to read more if you don’t know what I’m on about). This totally scrambled my brain when I was taught it in Portuguese class a few years ago. It wasn’t until I came to Brazil and it heard it in practice that I could comprehend the strange logic behind it. I now think having this extra way of providing emphasis lends Portuguese a subtlety lacking in English.

Anyway, let’s get to some examples. Common imperatives I have to use while raising my two year old son are:

Olhe! = Look! (from the verb olhar)
Pare! = Stop! (from the verb parar)
Sente! = Sit! (from the verb sentar)
Coma! = Eat! (from the verb comer)

And some from adverts…

Aproveite! = Enjoy! (from the verb aproveitar)
Relaxe! = Relax! (from the verb relaxar)
Aprenda! = Learn! (from the verb aprender)
Sonhe! = Dream! (from the verb sonhar)

An example of the last one is given in the video above. The video is an adidas advert, in English with Portuguese subtitles, featuring famous footballers visiting San Marino. The adidas slogan for this campaign is Sonhe Grande – Dream Big. The video also includes an irregular imperative – the verb ver (to see) which becomes veja and not va. Veja (see!) is also the name of Brazil’s most popular news magazine.

Irregular Imperatives

The are several irregular imperatives which, if you need more help, I recommend looking up in a grammar book. But, here are four important ones:

The verb ir (to go) is vá. For example: A mother says to her child “Vai para cama” (You go to bed) and then when the child disobeys she turns the suggestion into an order “Vá! Agora!” (Go! Now!)

The verb ser (to be) is seja. For example: Seja bemvindos – Be welcome
The verb estar (to be) is esteja. For example: Esteja aqui – Be here
The verb come (vim) is venha. For example: Venha cá – Come here

Portuguese that looks like English

Finally, it’s strange to me that some regular imperative -ar verbs, by losing the -ar and gaining an -e, end up looking exactly like English. The following four verbs appear exactly the same in English as in Portuguese: Imagine! Compare! Ignore! Use! The only problem, of course, is we don’t pronounce them the same…

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Entry filed under: Famous People, Grammar, Imperatives, Other stuff, Sport, Vocabulary. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • […] imperatives and other forms of verb conjugation in Portuguese. (Read here for an introduction to imperatives). Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to the song and listen out for how the 14 […]

    Reply
  • 2. gabriel  |  September 7, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Only one small correction: you should say “sejam benvindos”, and not “seja”. The imperative form is correct, but you should add that “m” in the word, because “benvindos” is plural and the verb should agree in plural too.
    Thats curious to think that some imperative forms in portuguese are written exactly like the main verb form in english. I always remember about that Lennon song, “Imagine”, which can be translated exactly like it is writter in english, “imagine”. Like “Imagine there’s no heaver”, “Imagine que não há paraíso”, or, you could just write “Imagine, não há paraíso” (comma is essential here, since you arent using “que”.
    Your blog is really good, you really looks like someone who deeply understand languages and you understand brazilian portuguese not only as the language works, but like a brazilian would think the language. Congratulations.

    Reply

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