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I have seen estar com [noun] frequently and think I grasp the meaning:

  • When a living creature esta com an abstract object (like cold or thirst), they feel it; and
  • with other objects, they have temporary possession.

However, I am not clear on when it can or should be used. Here is an example:**

Eu estou com a sua TV.

I read this as "I have your TV." Could I use Eu tenho a sua TV instead? Coming from Spanish, that sounds a lot more natural to me. If I can use it, does it carry a different meaning? More generally, in which cases is one (of estar com and ter) a good fit, while the other is ungrammatical or sounds unnatural?

** I took the example from a Brazilian Portuguese course on Duolingo.

  • I suspect estar com is specific to Brazil, but won't tag it unless someone tells me that's the case. – Frank Jul 16 '15 at 2:43
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    Eu tenho a sua TV sounds wrong in Brazil. Ter does transmit a sense of stability, although it can be used to mean something temporary or fixed in time depending on the context. – bfavaretto Jul 16 '15 at 3:09
  • I'm pretty sure the example sentence is wrong (in all variants of Portuguese). What are you trying to say? – someonewithpc Jul 16 '15 at 21:08
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    @someonewithpc I suspect is is a dialect thing, with the "estar com" version being preferred in Brazil (even if it is, in some sense, wrong). As you see in the comment above, bfavaretto finds the "ter" version unnatural-sounding. – Frank Jul 16 '15 at 21:19
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    @Jacinto É normal no Brasil sim. – bfavaretto Oct 21 '15 at 12:15
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"Eu estou com a sua TV" means "I've got your TV"― probably I borrowed it from you and didn't give it back to you yet. Or you forgot you left it in my house, and I'm reminding you.

If I say "Eu tenho a sua TV" (I have your TV), it would sound like I stole it or took it away from you and now it's in my possession. In my experience, it would also sound strange, and people use "estou com" more often.

You can also use it when you want to say that there's someone else with you, like in this conversation:

―Você está sozinho? (Are you alone?)

―Não, estou com meu irmão. (No, I'm with my brother)

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    I've always thought this question needed a better answer, or at least another point of view. Good you wrote one. But I don't think English speakers will say "I'm with your TV"; "I've got your TV" is better. – Jacinto Feb 28 '17 at 19:48
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    @Jacinto I agree that "I've got your TV" is better. I added it to the answer, thanks! – user1798 Feb 28 '17 at 19:51
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    This is a very interesting pattern that I didn't know existed in Portuguese, but with an underlying logic that appears in many languages: "being with X" or "being next to X" is often a periphrasis for possession. The logic is the same that makes uma rosa com muitos espinhos equivalent to uma rosa que tem muitos espinhos. – pablodf76 Feb 28 '17 at 22:44
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    Hugo, I don't know if you were going for the shock value, so I didn't edit. But, instead of kidnapped, you could go with stole or taken away. – Ramon Melo Mar 1 '17 at 2:40
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    Hugo, I've just made a few minor changes. I trust you like long dashes. You know where the rollback button is if you don't. – Jacinto Mar 1 '17 at 8:26
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The estar com construction is much more common than the transliteration to be with in English (although it does also mean that).

In many cases it is better translated idiomatically as have. This tends to occur more for something temporary than fixed ones; much like ser/estar, but it's a less concrete rule. Generally ter is used to indicate possession; as a general rule, where an English "I have..." couldn't be logically substituted for "I possess...", it's more likely that you'd use "Estou com..." than "Tenho...".

In many cases "estar com" will be much more common, but ter isn't wrong per se, just a little stilted and old-fashioned sounding.

Examples:

For things on your person:

"Você está com a chave?"
"Do you have the key?"

For things you "have" that aren't yours.

"Ainda estou com o livro dele"
"I still have his book"

Many adjectives in English only have a noun in Portuguese, for example, in Portuguese you cannot "be thirsty", only "have thirst".

For feelings or emotions expressed with a noun

"estou com medo."
"I'm afraid." ("I am with fear" > "I have fear")

"Estou com esperança que vai dar certo"
"I'm hopeful that everything will work out"

For descriptions of temporary characteristics which use nouns (usually these are achieved with adjectives in English).

"Estou com fome"
"I'm hungry"

"O meu celular está sem bateria"
"My phone is out of battery"

(This applies to Brazilians; I think ter might be more common in Portugal.)

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    I have some intuitions about the semantic distinctions between ter and estar com in some specific situations, but I'm not 100% confident about them. In any case, that warrants it's own question (which I may well post in the near future). – Some_Guy Mar 1 '17 at 15:48
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    Yes, ter is more common in Portugal: "tenho o teu livro" ("I've got your book) is perfectly idiomatic in Portugal. Those adjectives do exist in Portuguese, even if we tend to say estou com/tenho + noun: estou sedento/sequioso, receoso, esperançado/esperançoso, faminto/esfaimado. – Jacinto Mar 1 '17 at 19:06
  • @Jacinto I didn't know most of those words, thanks. I've never heard anyone say "está sonolento?" or "estou invejoso" etc. Maybe it's one of those things like "I feel a lot of happiness" or "I have a lot of fatigue" which aren't technically wrong, but just aren't idiomatic? – Some_Guy Mar 2 '17 at 9:26
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    Estou invejoso is not idiomatic (but "ele é um invejoso" is); the others are idiomatic, just not nearly as common as estou com/tenho + noun (estou cansado is common). Some have their own conotations or are more likely to be used metaphorically, e.g. sedendo de poder; I say estou esfaimado humorously to mean that I'm very hungry, etc. – Jacinto Mar 2 '17 at 10:11
  • Estou cansado was in response to your "I have a lot of fatigue"; not the same as sonolento or ensonado, no, – Jacinto Mar 2 '17 at 10:36
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To be with.

I'm with my brother (Eu estou com meu irmão) I'm with your television (Eu estou com sua televisão) I'm with your bicycle (Eu estou com sua bicicleta)

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    "I'm with your television" não faz muito sentido em Inglês, amigo. Parece que você e o televisão saíram juntos, e tá comendo um sushi no shopping. "Estou com o seu televisão, chega aí vamo dar um rolê" kkk. – Some_Guy Mar 7 '17 at 22:27

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