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From Beginner to Pro: How to Use Querer in Brazilian Portuguese

We all want something.

Hence, the verb corresponding to “want” is arguably essential in any language.

And in Brazilian Portuguese, that wouldn’t be different.

“Querer” is one of the most important verbs in Brazilian Portuguese.

It is used to express desires, wants, requests, and commands. In Brazilian Portuguese, querer is one of the “handle” verbs — verbs that come before other verbs to change their meaning. Other verbs in this group are poder, conseguir, ir, and many more.

You’ll also see examples of “querer” used in everyday conversation and idiomatic expressions. (Brazilian Portuguese relies on idioms a lot!)

By the end of this post, you will have a solid understanding of how to use “querer” in Brazilian Portuguese.

Understanding the verb Querer

The verb “querer” can be translated as “to want” or “to desire” in English.

However, it has a broader range of meanings in Portuguese. For example, in informal contexts, “querer” indicates the future, as in the sentence “está querendo chover” (it looks like it’s going to rain).

In addition to expressing desires, “querer” can also be used to make requests and give commands (as in “I want you to do something” or “will you please stop?”). It is a versatile verb that is used in various contexts.

Examples of how “querer” is used in everyday conversation:

  • Eu quero um café. (I want a coffee.)
  • Ela quer ir ao cinema. (She wants to go to the movies.)
  • Nós queremos jantar em um restaurante italiano. (We want to have dinner at an Italian restaurant.)

Basic conjugation of Querer in present tense

To conjugate “querer” in the present tense, you need to remove the -er ending and add the appropriate ending for each pronoun. You should keep in mind that it is an irregular verb. As such, the “you / he / she” form doesn’t have an ending.

Eu queroI want
Você querYou want
Ele/Ela querHe/She wants
Nós queremosWe want
Vocês queremYou all want
Eles/Elas queremThey want

Examples of “querer” in the present tense:

  • Eu quero um sorvete. (I want an ice cream.)
  • Você quer sair hoje à noite? (Do you want to go out tonight?)
  • Ela quer estudar medicina. (She wants to study medicine.)

Using Querer to express desires and wants

“Querer” is commonly used to express desires and wants, the simplest meaning you’ll find with this verb.

Examples of “querer” used to express desires and wants:

  • Eu quero viajar pelo mundo. (I want to travel the world.)
  • Ele quer um carro novo. (He wants a new car.)
  • Nós queremos ser felizes. (We want to be happy.)

But that’s simple. The more advanced stuff comes next.

Using Querer to make requests and give commands

“Querer” can also be used to make requests and politely give commands. When used in this context, it is often followed by the word “por favor” (please).

When you use “querer” in this way, it sounds polite but insistent. It’s better to use this form than the imperative (sounds more educado), but depending on the tone of your voice, you may sound angry.

Examples of “querer” used to make requests and give commands:

  • Você quer me passar o sal, por favor? (Could you pass me the salt, please?)
  • Querem fazer silêncio, por favor? (Could you all please be quiet?)
  • Queiram me ajudem com essa tarefa, por favor. (Y’all help me with this task, please.)

Using Querer with indirect object pronouns

“Querer” can also be used with indirect object pronouns (lhe, me, te, nos…) to indicate who the desire or request is directed towards.

(If the direct and indirect object pronouns aren’t clear for you and you need a refresher, please check out this article on indirect object pronouns in Brazilian Portuguese.)

Examples of “querer” used with indirect object pronouns:

  • Eu quero te ver amanhã. (I want to see you tomorrow.)
  • Ela quer nos convidar para a festa. (She wants to invite us to the party.)
  • Eles querem lhe dar um presente. (They want to give you a present.)

Using Querer in the past tense

“Querer” is conjugated in the past tense to express past desires or wants. The root of the past tense of “querer” is “quis”.

Eu quisI wanted
Você quisYou wanted
Ele/Ela quisHe/She wanted
Nós quisemosWe wanted
Vocês quiseramYou all wanted
Eles/Elas quiseramThey wanted

Examples of “querer” used in the past tense:

  • Eu quis comprar aquele livro, mas estava esgotado. (I wanted to buy that book, but it was sold out.)
  • Ela quis viajar para a praia no verão passado. (She wanted to travel to the beach last summer.)
  • Nós quisemos assistir ao filme, mas não tínhamos tempo. (We wanted to watch the movie, but we didn’t have time.)

If you haven’t noticed, “querer” in the preterite has a special meaning in Brazilian Portuguese.

When you say “eu quis viajar,” native speakers will understand that you tried but failed to do so. There was an attempt. If you use the imperfect past tense (eu queria), we understand that’s a desire you haven’t tried to fulfill yet.

You can see this meaning in the song “bem que se quis” (“one’s really tried” in my translation).

Using Querer in the future tense

“Querer” is conjugated in the future tense to express future desires or wants. The future tense of “querer” is “quererei”. But we rarely use this conjugation; we prefer to use “ir + querer” instead.

Examples of “querer” used in the future tense:

  • Eu quererei [vou querer] estudar no exterior no próximo ano. (I will want to study abroad next year.)
  • Ela quererá [vai querer] comprar uma casa nova quando tiver dinheiro suficiente. (She will want to buy a new house when she has enough money.)
  • Nós quereremos [vamos querer] viajar para a Europa nas férias de verão. (We will want to travel to Europe during summer vacation.)

In fact, we don’t like the simple future as much. You can learn more about it in this article about the future tense in Brazilian Portuguese.

Common idiomatic expressions with Querer

Several idiomatic expressions in Portuguese use the verb “querer,” many of them dealing with the same general concept – if you’re interested, you’ll do something to get whatever it is that you want. Here are a few examples:

  • Quem quer faz, quem não quer manda.Those who want to, do; those who don’t, delegate.” Meaning: Those who truly desire something act to achieve it, while those who aren’t interested simply delegate the task.
  • Quem quer vai, quem não quer manda.Those who want to, go; those who don’t, send others.” Similar to the previous proverb, with the same meaning.
  • Quem quer, acha bonito; quem não quer, acha defeito.Those who want, find it beautiful; those who don’t, find fault.” Indicates that the perception of things depends on a person’s interest.
  • Quem quer, arranja tempo; quem não quer, arranja desculpa. – “Those who want, find time; those who don’t, find an excuse.” Similar to the sixth proverb, highlighting the difference between those who act and those who justify themselves.
  • Quem quer, faz acontecer.He who wants it makes it happen.” Reinforces the idea that those interested in something act to achieve it.

One of the interesting idiomatic uses of “querer” is with its imperative form – “queira” [singular] or “queiram” [plural]. It sounds extremely polite (almost with a “por favor” embedded in it) and can be used for requests.

  • Queira esperar uns minutinhos. Please wait a few minutes.
  • Queira ter a paciência! Please be patient!

Now you’ll want to use Querer in Brazilian Portuguese every day, right?

“Querer” is a fundamental verb in Brazilian Portuguese used to express desires, wants, requests, and commands. You’ll use it every single day.

By understanding how to conjugate “querer” in different tenses and with different pronouns, you can communicate your desires effectively and wants in Portuguese. Additionally, by familiarizing yourself with common idiomatic expressions that use “querer,” you can understand and use the verb more naturally and nuancedly.

Keep practicing and using “querer” in your conversations, and you will continue to improve your Portuguese language skills.

Oh, and one quick thing: when you use Querer + que (quero que ele vá, for instance), it requires the subjunctive. And you can learn more about the subjunctive in this in-depth guide.