When It Comes to The Future Tense, Portuguese Does Make It Easy
When it comes to the future tense, Portuguese does make it easy.
Not as easy as you have it in English, for sure.
The convenience of using “will” or “going to” exists only in English. But Portuguese comes close to it.
And in this short article, you’ll find out:
- How to use the future tense in Portuguese:
- Why you don’t need both ways to express yourself.
First Things First: the Formation of the Future Tense in Portuguese.
Here we’re talking about the simple future tense — in one word rather than two.
In a moment, you’ll see how to use two words to express the same idea.
When I was a child, I heard a story about the formation of the future tense in Portuguese.
I was told that in Latin there was no simple way to talk about the future. So, people started attaching the verb “habere” (conjugated) in front of the verbs. It told others that they were talking about upcoming events and stuff like that.
I don’t know if this is a true story, but if you take a look at the common endings for all the verbs, you start to wonder.
- eu… -ei
- você, ele, ela… -á
- nós… -emos
- vocês, eles, elas… -ão
And in the table below, you see those endings in use.
Simply put, you just append them to the end of the verbs in the infinitive.
And that works for every verb but three.
(We going to talk about those three irregular verbs in a moment.)
|Ele, ela, você||Estará||Será||Sairá|
|Eles, elas, vocês||Estarão||Serão||Sairão|
And here you have it — you’ll never worry about the conjugation of the future tense in Portuguese in your life.
Simple Future — What Does It Mean?
It corresponds roughly to “will” in English.
When I say roughly, it’s just that there isn’t any difference between this and the next one — the compound future.
Some Brazilians might say, “oh but they’re different”.
And sure, they are.
But not in the way you might think, my friend.
When we use the simple future, we’re talking about anything that will happen any time from now.
It doesn’t matter if it’s one minute or one month… Or even ten years.
See examples below.
- E agora? O que faremos? Now what? What will we do?
- Amanhã, o shopping abrirá pontualmente às 2:00 da tarde. Tomorrow, the shopping mall will open punctually at 2 PM.
- Primeiro ele terminará de limpar a casa e em seguida mostrará tudo a todos. Todos terão uma surpresa. First he’ll finish cleaning the house and then he’ll show everything to everyone. Everybody will have a surprise.
- A que horas o médico chegará? Os pacientes não se sentem muito bem, não sei se aguentarão. At what time will the doctor arrive? The patients don’t feel very well, I don’t know if they will resist.
But you don’t want to use this tense in a conversation.
You’ll sound extremely formal if you do so. (“You shall.”)
The simple future is most commonly used in writing, like official documents and high-brow literature.
I said above that the table and the endings work for every verb of the Portuguese language but three.
And those three verbs are actually irregular verbs to start with.
We don’t use the infinitive as the base form. The following “roots” are used instead:
The endings don’t change. Don’t worry about that.
You just have to remember that the root changes — a lot.
- O que dirá José desse assunto tão escabroso? What will Joseph say about this indecent subject?
- A construção do estádio só trará problemas para nossa cidade. É uma idiotice. Building the stadium will only bring problems to our town. It’s is stupid.
- O que vocês farão se eu desaparecer? What will you do if I disappear?
A Common Use of the Future Tense… Not Talking about the Future
Portuguese is a quirky language.
Some features of it are like pickles — they don’t look nice, but they go well with anything.
And that’s the case with the simple future.
You can use it when asking questions or wondering about something.
- Será que o João vem mesmo hoje? I wonder if John is really coming today.
- O que terá acontecido para a Marta ainda não ter ligado? Será que ela está viva? What may have happened to Martha for her not having called yet? Is she alive?
- O que será que está acontecendo ali dentro? Eu escutei uma barulheira vindo de lá. What is happening inside there? I heard a loud noise coming from there.
- Quem será que vai ser o próximo encarregado? Só o tempo dirá. I wonder who will be the next boss? Only time will tell.
Some discussion is in order here.
In the first, third, and fourth examples, the word “será” is a kind of intensifier.
You could remove them and keep the same basic meaning.
But when you include it, you convey to your interlocutor that you really want to know something or that you are wondering if something is the case.
And in the second example, you are actually wondering about something that might have happened in the past.
The answer would require the simple past. And if you used the simple past to ask the question, it would make your question not as insistent and pressing as it is now.
The Big Winner — Compound Future in Portuguese
I already talked about this when I covered the verb ir in Portuguese in another article.
If you want to tell your friends you’re going to visit Aunt Ida tomorrow, just use the verb ir (conjugated) + the infinitive of the main verb.
And this works for every single verb in the dictionary.
- Não sei exatamente se vou sair agora ou só depois. Estou um pouco indecisa. I don’t know precisely whether I’m going to go out now or only later. I’m a bit indecisive.
- Professor, vou chegar atrasado um pouco. Tudo bem? Teacher, I’m going to be late a bit. Is that okay?
- Eu vou ler um livro, o que é o melhor que eu faço. Conversar com vocês não vai me levar a lugar nenhum. I’m going to read the book, which is the best thing I do. Talking with you all isn’t going to take me anywhere.
Some people might say — use ir + infinitive when you want to talk about an event in the near future. And, use the simple future talk about things that will take place in ten years from now.
Nice. But untrue.
That might be true in Portugal and other countries, but in Brazil, that difference just about died.
As I said, the difference lies in formality, not in the meaning or comprehensiveness of a tense.
In everyday conversations, you’ll hear I’m going to go out a lot.
But in writing emails — especially if it’s official communication — I will do it will pop up more often.
The Three Big Don’ts
You’re an adult. You probably know that most rules are there for people who like rules.
Brazilians don’t like rules.
So, we break the first and the second don’ts a lot.
But the third don’t, no. We never break it.
First Big Don’t — Don’t Use Irá + Infinitive
The reason is simple — you either choose ir + infinitive or append the endings for the future. You don’t need to use both together.
- O ministro irá fazer* um importante comunicado mais tarde. The minister will make an important announcement later.
Second Big Don’t — Don’t Say Are “Vou ir”
It’s just unnecessary.
- Para onde você vai ir* mais tarde? Where are you going to go later?
Third Big Don’t — Don’t Insert “a” between Ir and the Infinitive
This is for my Spanish-speaking friends out there.
You have an analogous tense in Spanish, but you insert that little “a” to connect both verbs.
Not so in Portuguese.
(If you do, you’re actually using an alternative to the gerund, something that people from Portugal will recognize instantly.)
- Vou a* viajar para a República Dominicana no ano que vem. I’m going to travel to the Dominican Republic next year.
- Although Portuguese has two simple ways to express the future tense, only one has gotten prominence in speaking.
- I only have to worry about the simple future tense in Portuguese when I am writing or reading.
Now It’s Your Turn
Tell me in the comments section below:
“O que vai fazer no fim de semana que vem?”
I’ll take a look at your sentences and help you if needed.
And if you’re like me, you probably like practicing better than theory. Well, it’s your lucky day.
I’m offering a free fifteen-minute consultation with no obligation whatsoever to my website readers.
But if you’re thinking about taking advantage of this offer, do so quickly. I’m a solo teacher and may need to take it down anytime.