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I have been told that there are two ways to position pronouns in Portuguese, when the verb is in the future or conditional tense. One of these involves intercalating the pronoun in-between the verb. It appears as follows:

Intercalated:

a) O leão comer-te-á por tu cheirares como o rosbife.

b) Os médicos ter-me-iam contado se tinham sabido o que aconteceu.

However, there is another form, which involves placing the pronoun behind the verb (I don't actually know what this form is called):

Pre-Verb:

a) O leão te comerá por tu cheirares como o rosbife.

b) Os médicos me teriam contado se tinham sabido o que aconteceu.

Now I know that there are certain situations in which the intercalated form is not used (such as in negative statements, or after adverbs). However, I was just wondering whether the intercalated form is commonly heard in European conversational Portuguese? Would I be viewed as overly formal for using it, or is it commonly used?

Thanks in advance for your responses!

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    When you write "Continental Portuguese" I understand "Portugal excluding Madeira and Azores". But you added the portugues-brasileiro tag. Can you please clarify the scope of the question? :) – ANeves Nov 4 '15 at 12:42
  • @ANeves Thanks for highlighting that. I have removed the Brazilian tag. – Mr Chasi Nov 4 '15 at 12:44
  • When we're talking about Portugal, continental refers to the mainland as apposed to the islands, but when we're talking about the Portuguese language, continental doesn't mean anyting. After all Brazil and three Portuguese-speaking African countries are in a continent as well. It would be best to substitute European Portuguese for Continental Portuguese. – Jacinto Nov 4 '15 at 12:52
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    @Jacinto I have made the needed amendments. Thanks! – Mr Chasi Nov 4 '15 at 14:08
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The "intercalated" ("mesoclitic") position used with the simple future and the conditional ("futuro do pretérito") simply replaces the enclitic (after the verb) position of the other tenses. The same rules as with choosing between the proclisis (before the verb) and the enclisis apply.

While the mesoclisis is not particularly formal per se, you should realize that in the spoken language:

  1. the simple future is usually replaced with the present, or the periphrases with "ir" and "haver" (except in a few cases expressing doubt),
  2. the conditional is usually replaced with the imperfect,
  3. some people do indeed have trouble using the mesoclisis, so they may either prefer to avoid those two tenses altogether or just use the (usually deemed wrong) enclisis ("teria-se")

What people won't do is just replace the mesoclisis with the proclisis, even if the proclisis would be acceptable in the particular situation. This sentence is hardly acceptable:

Os médicos me teriam contado se tivessem sabido o que aconteceu.

It sounds somewhere between emphatic/Brazilian/just wrong. People with low education would sooner use the incorrect "teriam-me". The most likely sentence, though, would be:

Se tivessem sabido o que aconteceu, os médicos tinham-me contado.

In this case, it's best to put the apodisis at the end, otherwise its imperfect may garden path the listener.

  • Great answer. However, I have seen such sentences as; "O médico podia-me dizer o que se passava" many times before. Why is it that the pronoun always seems to come after the verb 'poder', when in fact, it belongs to the subsequent verb - in this case "dizer"? – Mr Chasi Nov 11 '15 at 9:46

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