RESPONDING WITH VERBS
So, you decided to study Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, and, of course, your teacher, if you have one, is teaching you more the formal, standard variants of the language. If you are learning how to answer questions in Portuguese, probable your teacher asks you to give the “complete response”, and they have a reason: she or he aims to develop your language skills.
But the thing is: in a normal conversation, we don’t do this when answering a question, we don’t give the “complete response”, we like more to respond using just the verb. If you are an English speaker, this is something familiar for you, as you will see.
Reading this article you will delve into your knowledge about Brazilian Portuguese to speaking like a native. Have fun!
Você fala Português? Falo!
In a conversation, if somebody asks you: do you speak Portuguese?, your answer probably will be: (yes) I do or (no) I don’t, not the “complete” one: yes, I speak Portuguese or No, I don’t speak Portuguese.
And in Portuguese, we do the same. WHY? To make a long story short, in general, Language is a lazy thing, always trying to save energy, so, for what lose power and time articulating four words if it is possible to communicate the same content using just two?
Thus, the interesting question is: HOW do this in Portuguese?
In Portuguese, doesn’t exist the auxiliary verb “do”, which in English is used to replace the verb that appeared in the question:
- Do you want to marry me? Yes, I do.
- Does he drink beer? He doesn’t.
What do we do? We just repeat the question verb! But it is necessary to conjugate it in time and in the correct verbal person. Let’s see some examples:
There are in the examples three verbs: Gostar (to like), Comer (to eat), Ser (to be). All of them in present simple. Do you known or remember how to conjugate those verbs?
If we take a look at the first example: Vocês gostam de bolo de chocolate? the complete response for this question would be: Sim, nós gostamos de bolo de chocolate. The question was made using the second person of plural (vocês – you) and naturally answered with the first person of the plural (nós – we). But, as you know now, we simplify our language use by saying just gostamos, instead of Sim, nós gostamos de bolo de chocolate.
Look how much time we saved omitting the subject and the object! And I have to say: we do this all the time. Sometimes we add the words sim (yes) or não (no), if we want to emphasize our position, but normally just the verb is enough.
To enrich your vocabulary and comprehension, read some examples of yes or no questions and pay attention to the verb conjugation and its meaning.
After read in silence, read once more loud to train your pronunciation. Don’t forget that you have to raise your voice intonation when making questions in Portuguese.
Note: The abbreviation lit. means literal translation.
The Language’s laziness
Language is not static, on the opposite, it changes so much that is totally comprehensible that a person who lives in the XXI century is not able to fully understand a text wrote two hundred years before, even when the text is written in his native language. The changes continue in a permanent flow, because of this it is possible to find true gems in world Literature.
By the way, Literature is the field of Art that really tries to employ language in all its creative possibilities: the writer, the poet and the translator touch its Poetic function, as pointed out by the Russian linguist Roman Jakobson. But in daily use of the Language, in fact, the speaker tries to communicate as much as possible saying as less as possible, the result: we gather sounds, letters, reduce phrases, eliminate words, entire grammatical classes, we simplify the language…
The purist ones can say that by doing this we are impoverishing our idioms, but I don’t agree with them. I think, by doing this, we are just adapting this amazing tool, the Language, to our necessities: the world now moves fastly and we communicate with different kinds of devices, not just using our voices or face to face.
Personally, I have the feeling that to speak Portuguese and answer questions in this way (just using the verb) you really need to pay attention to your interlocutor, because if you respond to a question just saying yes or not, we, Brazilians, will think inevitably “maybe you didn’t understand us or even didn’t heard us”, but if you respond with the verb, we will be totally sure you comprehended the question or paid attention to us.
Reading this article you could know a particular aspect of the Brazilian Portuguese Language: the most common way to respond to yes or no questions to speaking like a native.
You also read some examples taken from real conversations between Brazilians to improve your language skills, vocabulary and comprehension.
Note that during the learning process, it is totally fine if you give the complete response to questions because you can train different and more complex structures in Portuguese just by saying one phrase, but in a real conversational situation with a Brazilian speaker, this is the way we will talk to you, so, it’s good to know both of them.
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Diana Soares Cardoso, Brazilian Portuguese teacher at Brazilingo.