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Once I tried to explain what a phrasal verb is by utilizing a similar example in Portuguese. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of any example, which makes me think: are there phrasal verbs in Portuguese?

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How do you define "phrasal verb"? – Artefacto Mar 16 at 14:34
I think we can consider Cambridge Online Dictionary definition: a ​combination of a verb and an ​adverb or a verb and a ​preposition, or both, in which the ​combination has a ​meaning different from the ​meaning of the words ​considered ​separately. Also, there are some examples on Wikipedia. – falsarella Mar 16 at 14:49
Good question. I guess I had assumed all languages had a number of these. Hadn't realized it could be particular to English. – Dan Getz Mar 16 at 15:48

English phrasal verbs are combinations of verbs and prepositions where the meaning of the expressions as a whole cannot be completely understood just from the meaning of the individual parts. Syntactically, there are only minor differences between phrasal verbs and actual combinations of verbs and prepositions, it's more of a semantic concept, with a lot of gray area between the two fields (see for instance Dixon, The grammar of English phrasal verbs, 1982 [subscription required]).

So if the question is whether there are verbs that, combined with a preposition, take a different meaning, the answer is yes. Just look at special entries in dictionaries under a verb. For instance, with estar (Aulete):

Estar para 1 Estar prestes a, na iminência de: Ela está para ter neném por estes dias.

However, the preposition cannot stand alone, it always introduces a prepositional phrase. This would be analogous to prepositional phrasal verbs, as Wikipedia puts it (citing The Collins Cobuild English Grammar). But nothing like the particle phrasal verbs or particle-prepositional phrasal verbs, at least admitting that the particle (which then has an adverbial role) has to function also as a preposition. If we relax this requirement, then we can think of expressions such as dar-se bem (com qualquer coisa). If you deem do well (for oneself) a phrasal verb, this would probably also qualify as such.

There are also prefixes that can be added to verbs that can also work as prepositions, like sob (sobpor). However, 1) this would not analogous to phrasal verbs, more like to verbs such as understand (under + stand), 2) at least with sobpor the meaning can be deduced from the parts and 3) the are very few prefixes that also have a preposition counterpart, unlike say Dutch, where most (simple) prepositions can also function as a prefix for a separable verb (except a few like via and tijdens and some others that take a different form like met / mee).

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I'm not sure this is a good example, I think that She's just about to have a baby doesn't actually sound like a phrasal verb example. I specially like your last paragraph examples, but I kind of also agree those aren't entirely analogous. Thanks for the input! – falsarella Mar 16 at 15:27
@falsarella I didn't write She's just about to have a baby, I wrote Ela está para ter neném por estes dias. Your question was whether phrasal verbs existed in Portuguese, not whether phrasal verbs exist in Portugese whose translation in English (of which there are several anyway) also has a phrasal verb. – Artefacto Mar 16 at 15:35
@falsarella how could you tell from a translation if it's phrasal in another language? I don't understand what you're saying. But I also find it hard to be certain if something's a phrasal verb when its verb is something like estar, ser, ficar. – Dan Getz Mar 16 at 15:46
@ANeves Well if you don't like «estar para», you can think of «dar(-lhe) de/para» (ex. from Aulete: «Ultimamente ele deu de roer as unhas.»). The problem is that phrasal verbs are more of a semantic concept. They don't have syntactic properties as marked as separable verbs in Dutch (and German). Under a purely semantic analysis, it is true that in Portuguese (and I guess most languages) some verbs change meaning when combined with some prepositions or adverbs. – Artefacto Mar 17 at 10:57
@ANeves Sure, but how do you think phrasal verbs or any fixed expression come to being in the first place? There's a relationship with the meaning of the constituent parts that gets thinner as time goes by. Plus, that still doesn't explain the «dar de» in the example. – Artefacto Mar 17 at 14:31

After some research, I've found an example at Wikipedia:

O fenômeno dos "phrasal verbs" também ocorre na língua portuguesa. Contudo, não é muito comum. É mais encontrado no português coloquial falado no Brasil e não deve ser utilizado em contextos formais.


"Não quero mais saber de você! Cai fora!" (cair fora = sair, retirar-se);

"Depois de ter sido xingada, ela partiu para cima dele com uma faca." (partir para cima = atacar algo ou alguém).

"Cai fora" is analogous to "Get out", and both seems to be great examples of phrasal verbs.


This is really interesting! All Portuguese examples given by the answers here are slangs or informal/casual, being mostly used in spoken language. And it also seems that the use of English phrasal verbs has a slight difference in formality when compared to its one-word counterparts, which indeed makes much sense.

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O Oxford Learner's Dictionaries classifica eat out como phrasal verb. É exatamente equivalente a comer fora, jantar fora, almoçar fora. – Jacinto Mar 17 at 15:48
@Jacinto I think that's very dubious. Oxford Dictionaries itself doesn't. – Artefacto Mar 17 at 17:17
@Artefacto Quer-me parecer que o Oxford Dictionaries apresenta os phrasal verbs sem os classificar como tal. – Jacinto Mar 17 at 17:36
@Jacinto Não é verdade. Vê em baixo. – Artefacto Mar 17 at 18:20
@Artefacto Já vi, tens razão. Eat out está então na gray area que tu referes na tua resposta: uns classificam-no como phrasal verb, outros não. – Jacinto Mar 17 at 18:30

Although I can't give you any references, I dare say there aren't any phrasal verbs in Portuguese. That has been widely cited as one of the several differences between English and Portuguese. We do have, however, slang phrases that might sound like a phrasal verb: e.g. "entrar bem", where "entrar" means "enter", "go in", and "bem" means "well". Together, they mean "entrou pelo cano", "não se deu bem"

"Ele tentou enganar o professor mas no final entrou bem".

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Could you explain why slang phrases like your example would not be phrasal verbs? The difference is not clear to me. Is there a grammatical difference, or is there some sense in which entrar bem is the sum of its parts instead of a new meaning? – Dan Getz Mar 16 at 16:03
I have never heard of "entrar bem", but I do think you have a good example! – falsarella Mar 16 at 16:08
And it is interesting the fact of being a slang, I have also found another slang examples. Maybe phrasal verbs aren't part of regular Portuguese itself, but they are actually still being introduced to Portuguese by spoken language? – falsarella Mar 16 at 16:14

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