Present and Past ParticiplesVirtually all English words that end with ‘ing’ are present participles – if you remember, participles are words that are formed from a verb, but can be used as adjectives. For example…
‘These are my painting gloves’ – the present participle ‘painting’ is being used as an adjective.
‘I had been painting for hours’ – a compound form from the verb ‘to paint’ which uses two auxiliary verbs (‘had’ from ‘to have’, and ‘been’ from ‘to be’), and the present participle ‘painting’.
In English, the present participle is always the ‘ing’ form of the verb – interestingly, even irregular verbs in English all have an ‘ing’ form.
In Portuguese, the present participle always ends with the letters ‘ndo’. First conjugation (ar) verbs have the ending ‘ando’, second conjugation (er) verbs have ‘endo’, and third conjugation (ir) verbs use ‘indo’. So ‘trabalhando’ means ‘working’, ‘escrevendo’ means ‘writing’, and ‘discernindo’ means ‘discerning’. As with English, even the irregular verbs follow the same pattern, which makes it nice and easy to form words like ‘tendo’ (having), ‘fazendo’ (making or doing), ‘indo’ (going) etc.
One thing you should be aware of though, is that the present participle in Portuguese is not actually used very much. It is never used as an adjective – instead, they usually append the noun with the words ‘de’ + the infinitive of the verb (eg. ‘luvas de pintar’ – ‘painting gloves’, where ‘pintar’ is the infinitive ‘to paint’).
Also worthy of note, is that although in English we sometimes use the present participle as a noun, this is never done in Portuguese. So whereas we might refer to ‘a painting’, you would never refer to ‘um pintando’ – you would have to use the correct noun form, which is ‘uma pintura’.
So you use the present participle only as a verb that equates to the ‘ing’ form of the verb in English. Even then though, European Portuguese will try to find a way to avoid using the present participle. When you are referring to something that is currently happening, for example ‘I am working’, although Brazilians are quite happy to say ‘estou trabalhando’, European Portuguese prefers to use the word ‘a’ followed by the infinitive – ie. ‘estou a trabalhar’. A bit strange really, but there you go. There are many strange things in Portuguese!
By the way, the present participle is also known as the ‘gerund’, which is pronounced ‘jerund’.
The past participle is a little more complicated – it can have irregular forms, and can easily be confused with the preterite. The principle is the same as for the present participle though – a past participle can be used as an adjective, but it refers to a past or completed action or description. Unlike the present participle, which is not used adjectively in Portuguese, the past participle is used as an adjective in Portuguese – in the same way that it is used in English.
In English, past participles usually end in ‘ed’, and just to confuse you, are also usually (but not always) spelt the same as the preterite forms. If you’re not sure whether you are dealing with a preterite or a past participle, just remember that if used with an auxiliary verb, or as an adjective, it must be the past participle. For example:
She completed the work
She has completed the work
past participle (compound verb with auxiliary ‘has’ from ‘to have’)
The work was completed
past participle used as an adjective
I have done all that he asked of me
past participle (irregular)
I did all that he asked of me
Note, a common grammatical error in English (for verbs where the preterite and past participle are not the same) is to use the past participle without an auxiliary, or in a place where the preterite should be used (for example: ‘I done my homework’).
In Portuguese, regular past participles end in ‘ado’ for first conjugation verbs, and ‘ido’ for both second and third conjugation verbs (‘er’ verbs do not use ‘edo’ as you might expect). When used adjectively, to describe a feminine noun, ‘ado’ becomes ‘ada’, and ‘ido’ becomes ‘ida’.
I am sure you will be delighted to know, that some Portuguese verbs have more than one past participle (usually one regular, and one irregular), and the one to use can depend on the context, as well as whether it is being used as an adjective or as part of a compound verb. These idiosyncrasies are easier to learn by exposure than by trying to remember the rules, so I won’t bog you down with the details.
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