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If you want to avoid learning irregular verbs in English you may say "I did sell it" instead of "I sold it" or "I did sleep well" instead of "I slept well". So you just learn "did" instead of all the irregular verbs in past tense. Yes, the meaning will be slightly different but this will allow you to start speaking without learning all tenses and people will understand you. Is there a similar magic word in Portuguese which changes the tense of a verb next to it?

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  • Portuguese verbs are conjugated, English doesn't conjugate verbs except for an s in the third person present simple. You can't speak Portuguese without conjugating a verb: eu falo, tu falas, ele fala, nós falamos, vós falais, eles falam. All that in English is speak. except for the third person s. So, your question is based on a total misunderstanding of the two languages. Usei declension em vez de conjugation.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 16 at 17:19
  • I did sell doesn't carry the same nuance as I sold it. But to answer the question, there is no analytic past in Portuguese, you have to learn the conjugations.
    – Quaestoria
    Commented May 18 at 23:54

1 Answer 1

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It must be kept in mind that Portuguese is much richer in verbal tenses than many languages — and that many of these tenses, though not all, are actually used regularly, including colloquially. Thus, even though auxiliary verbs are indeed used for some tenses, and may be for a few others, if you restrict yourself exclusively to them, you don't go as far in Portuguese as you might in, say, English.

In particular, I can't think of a good way of (even creatively) using an auxiliary verb to build the past perfect, as in "I slept well." ("Eu dormi bem."). The closest would probably be "Eu tenho dormido bem." ("I have been sleeping well."), which is even more distant from the intended meaning than "I did sleep well.".

But for the future tense the answer is actually yes: You can construct it using ir (to go) as an auxiliary verb. For instance:

Eu vou fazer o bolo amanhã.

in place of

Eu farei o bolo amanhã.

In colloquial Brazilian Portuguese this construction turns out to be even more common than the simple future. And while one could be tempted to, rather literally, translate the first sentence as "I'm going to bake the cake tomorrow." and the second as "I will bake the cake tomorrow.", both have the same meaning in Portuguese (see É correto dizer "eu farei" e/ou "eu vou fazer"?).

The other cases where auxiliaries are used is of course with compound tenses. For instance:

Eu tinha dormido. (I had slept.)
Eu teria dormido. (I would have slept.)

and so on. Further instances are listed, e.g., here.

A perhaps not so obvious instance is the imperfect tense when denoting "used to", as in "I used to sleep well." ("Eu dormia bem."), which is very often constructed with an auxiliary instead: "Eu costumava dormir bem.".

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    Related: É correto dizer "eu farei" e/ou "eu vou fazer"?
    – Jorge B.
    Commented May 15 at 7:47
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    @JorgeB. Thanks for the link, I had completely forgotten this question (which uses the very same example sentence!).
    – stafusa
    Commented May 15 at 7:53
  • Not a great question because it's based on a fallacy. The person doesn't understand conjugations, regardless of tense. There aren't any in English except the s in the third person singular of the present simple, and the verb to be, sort of. Personally, I wouldn't even bother with it.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 15 at 12:45

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