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A Reference Manual

A boon for students and instructors of the language, culture, and literature of the Portuguese-speaking world, this language resource manual delves beyond the realm of traditional language textbooks.

January 2011
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
378 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 1 map |

An essential, comprehensive guide for all who are interested in learning the Portuguese language and mastering its complexities, Portuguese: A Reference Manual supplements the phonetic and grammatical explanations offered in basic textbooks. While the Manual focuses on Brazilian Portuguese, it incorporates European Portuguese variants and thus provides a more complete description of the language. Accessible to non-linguists and novice language learners, as well as informative for instructors of Portuguese and specialists in other languages, this guide incorporates the Orthographic Accord (in effect since 2009–2010), which attempts to standardize Portuguese orthography.

The Manual reflects the language as it is currently taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by providing detailed explanations of the sound and writing systems and the grammar of the principal Portuguese dialects. A reference guide rather than a textbook, the Manual also provides extensive verb charts, as well as comparisons of Portuguese with English and Spanish.

  • The Portuguese-Speaking World
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations, Symbols, and Diacritical Marks
  • Phonetic Symbols
  • Linguistic and Grammatical Terms in English and Portuguese
  • Definitions of Linguistic and Grammatical Terms
  • Orthographic Reforms
  • Sound System
    • Oral Vowels
    • Oral Diphthongs
    • Nasal Vowels
    • Nasal Diphthongs
    • Portuguese and Corresponding Spanish Vowels and Diphthongs
    • Consonants
  • Writing System and Accentuation
    • Alphabet
    • Letters Used to Transcribe Portuguese Sounds
    • Capitalization
    • Punctuation Marks and Commonly Used Typographic Symbols
    • Diacritical Marks
    • Syllables and Word Division
    • Stress and Accentuation
      • Words Stressed on the Second-to-Last Syllable (Proparoxytones)
      • Words Stressed on the Next-to-Last Syllable (Paroxytones)
      • Words Stressed on the Last Syllable (Oxytones)
  • Portuguese, Spanish, and English Cognates
    • Cognates
    • Portuguese and Corresponding Spanish and English Sounds and Letters
    • Portuguese and Corresponding Spanish Sounds and Letters
    • Portuguese and Corresponding Spanish and English Prefixes
    • Portuguese and Corresponding Spanish and English Suffixes
    • Differences in Stress between Portuguese and Spanish Cognates
    • True, Partial, and False Cognates
  • Grammatical Categories
    • Articles
      • Definite and Indefinite Articles
      • Contractions of Prepositions with Articles
    • Nouns and Adjectives
      • Adjectives
      • Plural of Nouns and Adjectives
      • Gender of Nouns and Adjectives
      • Differences in Gender between Portuguese and Spanish Noun Cognates
      • Placement of Adjectives with Nouns
      • Diminutives and Augmentatives
    • Numbers and Numerals
    • Adverbs
    • Comparatives and Superlatives
      • Comparisons of Equality
      • Comparisons of Superiority and Inferiority
      • Relative Superlatives
      • Absolute Superlatives
    • Personal Pronouns
      • Subject Pronouns
      • Forms of Address
      • Prepositional Pronouns and Contractions with Prepositions
      • Direct Object Pronouns
      • Indirect Object Pronouns
      • Placement of Object Pronouns
      • Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs
    • Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns
    • Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns
      • Contractions of Prepositions with Demonstratives
    • Relative Words
    • Interrogative Words
    • Affirmative, Negative, and Indefinite Words
    • Prepositions
      • Verbs and Corresponding Prepositions
    • Conjunctions
    • Verbs
      • Impersonal and Personal Infinitive
      • Past Participle and Compound Tenses and Forms
      • Passive Voice
      • Indicative Mood
        • Present Tense
          • Forms
          • Uses
        • Present Perfect Tense
        • Imperfect (Preterite Imperfect) Tense
          • Forms
          • Uses
        • Preterite (Preterite Perfect) Tense
          • Forms
          • Uses
        • Preterite versus Imperfect
        • Simple and Compound Past Perfect (Pluperfect) Tense
        • Future Tense
        • Future Perfect Tense
        • Conditional Tense
        • Conditional Perfect Tense
      • Subjunctive Mood
        • Present Tense
        • Present Perfect Tense
        • Past (Imperfect) Tense
        • Past Perfect (Pluperfect) Tense
        • Future Tense
        • Future Perfect Tense
        • Subjunctive in Subordinate Clauses
          • Subjunctive in Noun Clauses
          • Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses
          • Subjunctive in Adverb Clauses
          • Subjunctive in Conditional Sentences
        • Subjunctive in Common Expressions
      • Present Participle and Progressive Tenses and Forms
      • Imperative Mood
      • Impersonal Verbs and Expressions
      • Verbs That Take an Indirect Object without a Direct Object
      • Ser versus Estar
      • Ficar
      • Ter and Haver
      • Haver and Fazer in Expressions of Time
      • Acabar
      • Saber versus Conhecer
  • Verb and Other Grammar Charts
    • Regular Verbs: Derivation of Tenses and Forms
    • Regular Verbs
    • Irregular Verbs
    • Verb Tenses and Forms
      • Present Indicative
      • Imperfect (Preterite Imperfect) Indicative
      • Preterite (Preterite Perfect) Indicative
      • Simple Past Perfect (Pluperfect) Indicative
      • Future Indicative
      • Conditional
      • Present Subjunctive
      • Past (Imperfect) Subjunctive
      • Future Subjunctive
      • Personal Infinitive
      • Past Participle
      • Compound Tenses
      • Present Participle and Progressive Tenses
      • Imperative (Command Forms)
    • Verbs and Expressions That Require the Subjunctive
    • Personal Pronouns and Possessives
    • Contractions of Direct with Indirect Object Pronouns
    • Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns, and Contractions
    • Contractions of Prepositions
    • Relative Words
    • Interrogative Words
    • Affirmative and Negative Words
    • Indefinite Words
    • Irregular Comparatives and Relative Superlatives
    • "Synthetic" Absolute Superlative Adjectives
    • Adverbs and Adverb Phrases
    • Prepositions
  • Verb List
  • Works Consulted
    • Reference Works
    • Textbooks
  • Index of Topics
  • Index of Portuguese Words and Phrases

Sheila R. Ackerlind is Professor Emerita at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She taught Portuguese and Spanish for forty years.

Rebecca Jones-Kellogg is Assistant Professor of Portuguese at West Point and has traveled extensively throughout Portugal, Brazil, and Lusophone Africa.


Portuguese: A Reference Manual is designed to be a comprehensive guide for students and instructors of the language, culture, and literature of the Portuguese-speaking world, as well as for specialists in other languages who are interested in learning more about the Portuguese language. It was originally written for university-level students of Portuguese to complement the few Portuguese-language textbooks available and to supplement the phonetic and grammatical explanations that those textbooks offered. In recent years, interest in learning Portuguese has steadily increased and has led to the publication of new textbooks that emphasize the global nature of the language. This reference manual complements these textbooks as well by reflecting the Portuguese language as it is currently taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It provides detailed explanations of the sound and writing systems as well as the grammar of the principal Portuguese dialects. It also incorporates the new Orthographic Accord (in effect since 2009–2010), which attempts to standardize Portuguese orthography.


Portuguese is classified as a Romance language because it derives from Latin, the language of Rome. Following the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 218 B.C., Latin gradually evolved into Galician-Portuguese, a language spoken in the Roman provinces of Gallaecia (the present-day Spanish region of Galicia) and northwestern Lusitania (present-day Portugal). "Lusitania" has come to be synonymous with "Portugal," and its root word luso has traditionally signified "Portuguese-speaking" or "related to Portuguese," as in "Lusophone." Over time, Galician and Portuguese developed into separate dialects. Galician would remain in Galicia, and Portuguese would extend southward to become the language of all Portugal. During the Age of Discoveries, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Portuguese explorers and settlers spread their language, culture, and religion to Africa, South America, and Asia. Although the influence of the Portuguese empire waned in the following centuries, the Portuguese language has continued to thrive; Portuguese is, in fact, the second most spoken Romance language in the world today, after Spanish.


Portuguese is currently the official language of eight countries on four continents—Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mozambique, and East Timor—as well as the co-official language of Macau. These eight countries are also referred to as the CPLP (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa), or Community of Portuguese-Language Countries. An estimated 250 million people in these countries are native speakers of Portuguese, which is also spoken by several million Portuguese, Brazilians, and Africans living in immigrant communities throughout the world. Despite the variations in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar which have developed in each country and community, the Portuguese language continues to unify diverse countries and peoples. The increasing number of students who study Portuguese at U.S. universities each year attests to the growing importance of the language, the countries in which it is spoken, and their vibrant culture and literature.


Recent worldwide interest in the Portuguese-speaking world has also been sparked by prestigious awards granted to three Portuguese speakers: the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998 to the Portuguese author José Saramago (1922–2010), and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 to José Ramos Horta (1949– ) and Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (1948– ) for their efforts on behalf of East Timorese independence.


There are two principal dialects of Portuguese: European Portuguese (EP), spoken in Portugal, Lusophone Africa, and East Timor; and Brazilian Portuguese (BP), spoken in Brazil by the vast majority of Portuguese speakers worldwide. The Portuguese spoken in Brazil, Lusophone Africa, and East Timor has been influenced to varying degrees by indigenous languages. To complicate Portuguese dialectology further, pronunciation and even grammar often differ among and within regions of Portugal and especially of Brazil. Although dialectal and subdialectal variations abound in Portuguese, we have endeavored to employ "standard" Portuguese throughout this manual. We define the official standard (padrão) of Portuguese as the form of the language that is generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of literate speakers; standard Portuguese is understood by all native speakers, is taught in Lusophone universities, and is the form of the language presented in traditional Portuguese-language textbooks for non-native speakers. Because standard Portuguese unifies countries and peoples, learning standard Portuguese enables a non-native speaker to communicate effectively in any Portuguese-speaking country or community.


Although we use standard Portuguese grammar in the examples, we also address frequently used variations of "colloquial" Portuguese, a term that we define as informal, unmonitored speech and written communication (email, blogs, etc.) in which content matters more than correct form. We occasionally footnote the term nonstandard Portuguese when we refer to those usages of slang and colloquial speech that do not follow traditional grammar rules and are considered incorrect in standard Portuguese. We caution the reader about using colloquialisms before learning their nuances, however, since colloquialisms uttered by a non-native speaker might seem strange, inappropriate, or even offensive to a native speaker; in addition, a native speaker of one Portuguese dialect might misunderstand a colloquialism of another dialect.


We define the term formal Portuguese as monitored speech and texts in which both content and correct form are important and expected by the listener or reader (communiqués, reports, scholarly articles and books, etc.). We occasionally use the term literary to refer to classical written works, which tend to have a more formal structure, and archaic to refer to those elements of Portuguese that are no longer used in either formal or colloquial Portuguese but that appear in literary texts written from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. In order to assist students to read these texts, this manual includes archaic forms, which are often excluded from Portuguese textbooks (and even grammars of modern Portuguese) because they are not frequently used in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese. By becoming familiar with more formal and even archaic Portuguese, students will be able to recognize the structures that native speakers recognize as a result of having heard them in formal speeches and read them in literary works.


In accordance with the general tendency of Portuguese-language instruction in the United States since the end of World War II, we give preference to Brazilian vocabulary and grammar when European Portuguese variants occur. However, our intent is not to focus entirely on Brazilian Portuguese—which other books have already done—but also to incorporate variants of the language that are often found in Portugal, and consequently, in Lusophone African countries. By including these variants, we hope to provide a more complete description of the Portuguese language. Newer textbooks of Portuguese are likewise addressing non-Brazilian as well as Brazilian Portuguese, and this trend is common in postgraduate Portuguese studies.


We begin the manual with an explanation of the various abbreviations and symbols used throughout the book so that readers can become familiar with the terminology before encountering it in a particular section. Most of our phonetic symbols adhere to the International Phonetic Alphabet; the minor variations are intended to simplify an alphabet that might otherwise be confusing to nonlinguists. In addition to defining the linguistic and grammatical terms that we use, we provide a list of linguistic and grammatical terms in English and Portuguese so that readers will better understand the Portuguese terminology that their textbooks occasionally use. We have simplified the terminology used in the manual without excluding any information necessary for beginning-level learners to understand a particular concept. We use technical terminology only when necessary, and in those cases we provide definitions and/or explanations. In the last part of the front section, we outline the principal changes in Portuguese orthography as codified in the recent Orthographic Accord; by implementing these changes, readers will be able to write Portuguese in its most up-to-date form.


Since we expect that the Portuguese-language learners who use this book will generally have an English and/or Spanish language background, we employ the methodology of contrastive analysis, which we have found essential in teaching a foreign language to learners who already speak a sister language (in this case, Spanish) or a cousin language (English). By comparing and contrasting Portuguese patterns with those found in Spanish and English, we address a range of issues that students may encounter while learning Portuguese.


The "Sound System" section provides a description of the most common sounds found in Brazilian and European Portuguese, sounds that all Portuguese speakers recognize regardless of their dialect; consequently, a learner could emulate these sounds without risk of being misunderstood in either dialect. We have chosen not to focus exclusively on the sounds of either Brazilian or European Portuguese, nor do we attempt to give their subdialectal variations, which books specifically written about dialectology have effectively done. We do pay special attention to nasal vowels and diphthongs, which are a distinctive feature of Portuguese pronunciation.


The "Writing System and Accentuation" section begins with a description of the letters used to transcribe Portuguese sounds. Once we identify the sound or sounds associated with each individual letter, we compare and contrast the Portuguese letters or letter sequences with those used in Spanish and English. After describing Portuguese punctuation and diacritical marks, we discuss the Portuguese system of written accentuation, which differs considerably from the Spanish system.


The "Cognates" section shows how to recognize and form cognates by learning and applying the patterns that correspond between Portuguese, Spanish, and English; students who learn and apply these patterns can dramatically and easily increase their vocabulary. The chapter on true, partial, and false cognates gives advanced-level students the opportunity to see how or why they might be cross-contaminating Portuguese with Spanish and/or English.


The greater part of this manual is devoted to grammar. We address the grammatical topics found in current Portuguese textbooks, and we endeavor to provide cohesive and concise explanations that address the issues associated with these topics. Since we consider Portuguese a single language, with dialectal variants that learners should recognize, we emphasize the commonalities of Portuguese grammar. When a European Portuguese variant occurs, we adhere to Brazilian Portuguese usage, but we clearly state the variant either in a footnote or in parentheses. We do make the assumption—admittedly problematic—that European variants tend to apply to the Portuguese spoken in Lusophone Africa.


Throughout this manual, in both the text and the footnotes, we offer explanations of issues commonly discussed in the language classroom. They include (a) Portuguese phonetics, word formation, and grammar; (b) comparative/contrastive Portuguese, Spanish, and English phonetics, word formation, and grammar; and (c) Portuguese etymology and historical linguistics. Numerous "Notes to Spanish Speakers" are included to highlight significant differences between Portuguese structures and their Spanish counterparts. Also included are details on historical linguistics, which we have found through classroom experience especially useful for learners who have studied Latin or another Romance language and who have questions concerning the evolution of Portuguese (and Spanish) from Latin.


Since this manual is intended for beginning as well as advanced learners of Portuguese, we provide extensive verb charts to complement material found in most textbooks. The charts are arranged not only by verb but also by verb tense, and they should be especially useful for beginning-level students, who must often understand the patterns of a tense before they are able to apply them to a particular verb. These charts can serve equally well as a reference tool for instructors. We also include other grammar charts (on pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, etc.), as well as a list of all verbs used or mentioned in the text, footnotes, and charts—including certain rather obscure verbs that exemplify rare or archaic grammatical points.


For readers who would like to continue their studies by specializing in one particular dialect of Portuguese, we provide at the end of the book a list of reference works.


We would like to thank our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages at the United States Military Academy (West Point)—in particular, the Portuguese Section—for their support and collegiality. We are grateful to the following current and former Brazilian exchange officers assigned to West Point for their invaluable help in proofreading the manuscript: Maj. Gen. Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, Maj. Gen. Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz, and Lt. Col. Fernando Civolani Lopes. We are also grateful to two former visiting professors at the Academy, John B. Jensen (Florida International University) and Antônio R. M. Simões (Kansas University), for their insightful and constructive comments. We also extend our thanks to Geri Smith (French Section) and Laura Vidler (Spanish Section) for their encouragement and assistance during the revision process. We would like to thank the University of Texas Press for its dedication to publishing monographs in the field of foreign languages, Jim Burr (Humanities Editor) and Victoria Davis (Manuscript Editor) for their professionalism and promptness in responding to myriad questions, and Sheila Berg for her thoroughness in copy-editing the manuscript.


It is our hope that this manual will be a useful reference tool to readers who are learning the Portuguese language and mastering its complexities.


15 August 2010



“This book provides an incredible wealth of information, including details and examples not found elsewhere. A worthy project.”
John Jensen, Professor of Modern Languages, Florida International University, retired