Power Up Your Portuguese Easily with the Portuguese Verb Ir
The Portuguese verb Ir has some secrets it won’t tell anybody.
No Brazilian can actually go a day without using this verb at least a hundred times — and I did count my own use of it.
And, there is something for everybody here — the beginner will benefit from it, the intermediate level student will love it for its flexibility, and the more advanced speaker will add some elegance to their already sophisticated Portuguese.
You probably know that ir in Portuguese means “to go”.
And you probably understand that some prepositions are involved in the usage of ir.
Let’s take a look at some examples first.
- Eu vou para a farmácia. I go to the pharmacy.
- Eu vou à farmácia. I go to the pharmacy.
As you see, both sentences mean the same.
The difference lies in the use of the prepositions “para” and “a”.
They have the same “value” — “to” as in “going from one place to another place”.
With some verbs or in specific situations not relevant to the purpose of this article, you have to choose them correctly.
But here, when using it with the verb ir, you don’t really need to worry. You can use either.
The little accent over the “à” in the second example is called “crase”. And believe me, many Brazilians find it humiliating that they can’t use the crase properly.
The crase signifies the combination of “a” (the preposition) and “a” (the article). It’s like a + a = à.
Quick Tip to Power Up Your Portuguese Now
But we don’t say it like that when talking to our friends.
We use “para a” so often. And you know, just like what happens with clothes you wear them too often, this combination has worn out and changed.
Now in speaking, Brazilians say mostly “pra”. Just that.
So it becomes:
- Vou pra farmácia.
(In some books the authors state that there’s a difference between “para” and “a” when used with “ir”. There certainly should be, but whatever it was is already dead in Brazil.)
What Happens When the Next Word Is Masculine?
Good question. The following happens:
- Eu vou para o shopping. I go to the shopping mall.
- Eu vou ao shopping. I go to the shopping mall.
And as you see, we can also combine “para o”. The result is a resounding:
- Vou pro shopping.
But I heard it differently. Most of my friends say “vou no shopping.” Is that correct?
Yes, it is.
If you are a history buff like me, you’ll like this story.
The preposition “em” that we have in Portuguese comes from Latin.
In vulgar Latin — the language of the people, as opposed to the royalty and “the learned” — it was used with the accusative case to indicate movement (into somewhere).
But it was vulgar Latin… even then grammarians turned up their noses at that usage.
But you know, grammarians are few and scattered, the people are many and spread over everywhere. The earlier die at a much faster rate than the latter.
And it’s the usage of the latter that prevailed.
(That’s a fancy way to say that even today there are very few grammar Nazis in Brazil. They’ll tell you off if you use “vou no shopping.” Avoid them.)
In the following examples, sometimes I write pra and sometimes I wrote para a. Whenever I choose the reduced form, it’s because the sentence is rather informal.
Still for the Beginner — Talking About the Future
There are a complicated way and a simple way of talking about the future in Portuguese (and you can see both ways in this article dealing solely with the future tense).
I don’t know about you, but I’m very lazy. Whenever there is an easy way to simplify what I do, I choose that way.
If you want to talk about the future in Portuguese, just use the verb ir (conjugated) with the infinitive of the main verb.
- Oi, Paula, o que você vai fazer nesse fim de semana? ‘Tá livre? Hi, Paula, what are you going to do this weekend? Are you free?
- Eu não vou fazer nada. Vai me convidar pra sair? I’m not going to do anything. Are you going to ask me out?
- Eu vou conseguir comprar uma casa. Mesmo que demore 30 anos. I will get to buy a house. Even if it takes me thirty years.
There are some grammar books and textbooks that teach you differently.
They say that you can use ir + infinitive whenever you’re talking about the near future.
That distinction would be nice, but it’s just adding an extra layer of difficulty where it doesn’t belong.
In Brazil, we don’t really see any difference between this kind of future and the other way.
As you saw in the last example, you can talk about plans that you have for thirty years ahead.
Things Get Harder — the Portuguese Verb Ir for the Intermediate Student
Now, if you’ve read up to this point, it means that you are either curious or a bit more advanced.
And although I say intermediate, the hard-working beginner will probably grasp the explanations in here.
Talking About Actions in Progress
We have different ways to talk about actions in progress in Portuguese.
But this way sounds really idiomatic — if you want to impress your friends or be more precise, this is what you going to use.
First, take a close look at the examples below. Explanations follow after the translations.
- Vai fazendo aí a comida que eu já chego em casa. You continue preparing the food and in a moment I’ll get home. (as a suggestion)
- Eu vou terminando logo trabalho aqui enquanto você não chega. I”ll be finishing this work already while you don’t arrive. (this is a good idea as I still have time to spare.)
- Mesmo com todos os problemas, a gente vai levando. Even with all of the problems, we go on living.
- Enquanto eu dito o documento, você vai escrevendo. While I dictate the document, you write it down. (but because both actions are simultaneous, I want to emphasize the “doing” on your part.)
- Enquanto a aula não começa, eu vou preparando os documentos. While the lesson doesn’t start, I’ll be preparing the documents. (I can almost see myself sorting out the docs, it’s in progress in my mind.).
This structure — ir + gerund — emphasizes the progression of simultaneous action.
And by the way, if you are unsure of what the gerund is, you can read this article on the gerund and its most common uses.
It also reinforces the gradual nature of something taking place.
You probably won’t be able to use it right now. That’s expected.
But I do suggest you pay attention to how Brazilians speak. Give your mind as much evidence as you can. It’ll sort things out for you.
And let me give you a bit of evidence — this superb song by Tom.
The Little Engine That Would
Now is a good time to think happy thoughts. You’re about to be a bit depressed.
Think of all the plans you had but couldn’t make come true. Think of all the ideas you wanted to put into practice but didn’t.
Whenever you want to express that in Portuguese, you can resort to the following structure — ir + past imperfect tense.
- Ainda bem que você chegou. Eu já ia fechar a casa toda é levar a chave. Thank goodness you’re here. I was about to lock the whole house and take the key along with me.
- Eu ia estudar português hoje, mas estou muito cansada. Acho que amanhã volto a estudar. I was going to study Portuguese today, but I’m too tired. I think I will resume my studies tomorrow.
- Ai, meu Deus, você descobriu tudo! Eu ia te contar antes, mas não deu. Oh my God, you found out everything! I was going to tell you before but it wasn’t possible.
And a Note to Everybody
This short article is just an eye-opener for you.
You should always do your best to see how people use the Portuguese verb ir in daily life. Being a good listener helps greatly when learning Portuguese.
If you’ve been learning Portuguese for some time but still struggle with choosing the right tenses,I have the perfect solution for you.
And if you want to practice right now, tell me the comments below:
- O que você vai fazer no fim de semana?
- O que você ia fazer, mas desistiu?
I’ll check all your answers.
The PwE Continuing Education Program
At last, a resource to help you understand more of what you hear in Portuguese. This program is the only one to provide you with an in-depth lesson each week without you having to show up! Learn more.