A Simple Guide to Portuguese Verbs with Prepositions
Yeah, you can hold your own in a conversation entirely in Portuguese. But when it comes to using Portuguese verbs with prepositions, you sometimes scratch your head.
After all, they are arbitrary by nature.
Let me tell you one problem I have.
I can speak English with some confidence. Especially if I’m talking to Brazilians. But when I speak with my American friends, I stutter.
I don’t know what preposition goes with what verb.
Very funny. I’ve been speaking English for about twenty years in my life. I should know better than that!
The problem is — those prepositions are arbitrary (well, not entirely if you’ve seen this article about the prepositions of place and their simple rules).
Or can you explain to me the following verbs: bend over backward, make up for a loss, man up, bog down?
(You probably can; it’s just a rhetorical question 🙂
So. Using Portuguese verbs with prepositions may be hard. But it can be made simple.
In this guide, I tried to simplify the matter. And I also give you some tools to help you become independent.
And, if you prefer, I have a short video lesson on it (in English):
Do we have verbs with every existing preposition in Portuguese?
Yes, we do.
But to appease your little heart, I’m glad to tell you that a small group of prepositions account for most of the verbs we have.
Talk about Pareto rule!
The prepositions you’ll find most often with Portuguese verbs are:
One important thing you should bear in mind is that these prepositions always go after the verb.
And, as I mentioned, you’ll see other prepositions. But let’s focus on these five.
After all, we all have a life to take care of.
Verb + Portuguese Preposition “A”
When we are talking about verbs of movement, most of the time we use “a” or “em“.
With this kind of verb, prepositions work as an attachment. They are an extra leg in a three-legged stool. Unnecessary but nice.
Because verbs of movement with specific prepositions form a different and vast group, I decided to leave them out of this article.
Here, you’ll see uses of the preposition “a” in instances where it is idiomatic — it makes part of the verb and can’t be separated. It’s one of the legs in a three-legged stool.
Forget it, and your ass is on the ground.
- Eu me acostumei a ter aulas muito cedo pela manhã. I got used to having classes very early in the morning.
- Eu voltei a falar português depois que vim para o Brasil. I started speaking Portuguese again after I came to Brazil.
- Não sei por que ela se agarra a essa ideia estúpida de ficar rica fazendo day trade. I don’t know why she clings to this stupid idea of becoming rich by doing day trade.
Verb + Portuguese Preposition “Com”
When verbs require the preposition com, you can imagine some kind of junction or combination.
As is the case with the verb “to agree.” It’s as if your idea is are fusing with someone else’s ideas to become only one.
- Olha, não sei se concordo muito com essa sua ideia. Acho que tem uns erros aí. Listen, I don’t know if I agree much with your idea. I think there are some mistakes there.
- Você precisa se preocupar mais com sua saúde. Essa pandemia não está para brincadeira. You need to worry about your health more. This pandemic is no child’s play.
- Você pode acabar com essa barulheira aí? Estou tentando estudar. Can you put an end to that noise? I’m trying to study.
- A minha gata já se acostumou com a presença do cachorro. My cat already got used to the dog’s presence.
Verb + Portuguese Preposition “De”
When not idiomatic, the preposition de corresponds roughly to “from, of”.
It usually denotes the cause of something (to die from…) or the object of a talk (speak of…).
- O Leandro gosta muito de churrasco. Leandro likes barbecue very much.
- Preciso de sua ajuda com um dos projetos que estou fazendo. I need your help with one of the projects I’m doing.
- Eu suspeito do João. Acho que ele não está fazendo o trabalho dele direito. I suspect John. I think he’s not doing his job correctly.
- Você se lembra da Maria? Aquela muito alta. Do you remember Maria? That very tall one.
- Desisto de tentar fazer você entender que agora não é hora para jogar videogame. I quit trying to make you understand that now isn’t a good time to play video games.
- Ai, me esqueci das chaves. E agora? Oh, I forgot my keys. What do I do now?
Verb + Portuguese Preposition “Em”
When not idiomatic — that is, when you can use it separately from the verb — the preposition em usually denotes the location where something is at or and “into” direction.
- Você acredita em mim? Então vamos comigo. Do you believe me? Let’s go with me then.
- Depois de seis horas diante do computador, não consigo me concentrar em nada. After six hours in front of the computer, I can’t concentrate on anything.
- Eu não confio muito nessa ponte. Ela não parece segura. I don’t trust this bridge. It doesn’t look safe.
Verb + Portuguese Preposition “Por”
Well, the preposition por and its sister para are so complicated that they deserved an article for themselves.
- Meu filho não se interessa por nada. My son doesn’t take an interest in anything.
- Ele acabou por mudar de ideia. He ended up changing his mind.
- Não vou mais esperar por eles. Eles sempre se atrasam! I’m not going to wait for them anymore. They are always late.
Verbs With Different Prepositions
You’ve probably noticed that some verbs accept more than one preposition (acostumar-se com, acostumar-se a).
Why does that happen?
Just like when we are with different friends and behave differently, verbs behave differently with different prepositions 🙂
And in our case, the behavior is this:
Depending on the preposition that follows them, some verbs accept other verbs as a complement. But many verbs accept only noun as a complement.
Why is that combination important?
First, you sound odd if you employ the wrong preposition.
This is if someone gave you a knife and fork for you to eat and you use your hands instead.
(Not a problem with that if you come to my house, but…)
Secondly, the meaning sometimes changes completely — just take a look at the verb acabar.
|Put an end to
Just done sth
|Get used to
|Get used to
|com (ou –)
Need to do
|Think about sth
Think about doing sth
Interest in doing
|Worry about sth
Worry about doing sth
|Por, em, a, –
|Get used to
Get used to
Pro Tip to Become Independent
But Eli, your list doesn’t look like an exhaustive list. Thank you for that, but what can I do to find out what prepositions go with what verbs in Portuguese?
You have two ways. (Actually, more than that, but let’s keep it down to two.)
First, you can visit this dictionary.
When you look a verb up in it, check to see if there are three special letters: “vti.” It’s stands for Verbo Transitivo Indireto. In good English, these are the verbs that require prepositions.
Then, look at the examples they provide.
But if you’re more comfortable reading Portuguese and want to challenge yourself, go to google.com and search for [insert needed verb] regência verbal.
Regência verbal is the part of our grammar that teaches us the Portuguese verbs with prepositions.
There is a plethora of websites dealing with that subject.
One that I trust a lot is CiberDúvidas.
And another solution would be buying the best dictionary for dealing with Portuguese verbs with prepositions (affiliate link).
Unfortunately, it has been forever out-of-print in Brazil. And I don’t recommend it if you’re not majoring in Portuguese.
The casual learner will benefit from Google alone.
- Portuguese verbs change their meaning according to the preposition that follows.
- There is no way to guess what preposition goes with what verb. My best bet is to memorize the combination.
- Some prepositions, like por and para, are more complicated. But luckily I can read this article on how to use por and para in Portuguese.
Now It’s Your Turn
Choose one of the verbs from the table above and write a complete sentence in the comments below.
I’ll take a look at them and help you if you need help.
And in case you’d like to have a better understanding of your current level, plus some pointers as to what to study from now on, click here to take our free assessment.