I am aware of the rules of pronoun positioning in Portuguese.

When are pronoun affects a verb (and there is nothing to make it preceed the verb), it will come after the verb it's affecting, eg:

Vou usá-lo hoje.

Vou falar-lhe hoje.

However, I have seen many examples of the following:

Não o vou usar hoje.

Não lhe vou falar hoje.

Why is it that, when in the negative, the pronoun now chooses to precede the initial verbs (in this case, poder, and ir, rather than the verbs they actually affect (usar, and falar)?

  • 2
    What do you mean "why"? Are you asking for some unified gramatical model of clictic placement in European Portuguese? Because there are many...
    – Artefacto
    Apr 25, 2018 at 2:00
  • 3 words: Próclise, Ênclise e Mesôclise, próclise is more common on pt-BR
    – jean
    Apr 30, 2018 at 18:50

2 Answers 2


Some verbs (mainly auxiliary and semiauxiliary verbs), when followed by a simple infinitive clause, can see the clitic "climb" outside the infinitive clause. That's the case with poder and ir. You could also say:

Vou-o usar hoje.
Vou-lhe falar hoje.

In the negative, proclisis must be used, so we get:

Não o vou usar hoje.

Now, it is true that clitic climbing is more common with proclisis. In particular, with poder, the enclisis is arguably marginal, depending on who you ask:

Não te posso ver ao fim da tarde.
(?) Posso-te ver ao fim da tarde.

Another question is why a proclisis to the infinitive verb is not possible, as it is in Brazilian Portuguese:

*Não vou o usar hoje.

Verbs that take a preposition (like por or de, but not a), can have proclisis to the infinitive verb and admit clitic climbing. But the presence of a context forcing proclisis in the main clause doesn't seem to affect the position of the clitic in the infinitive clause:

Começou-lhe por dizer que não gostava dele.
Começou por lhe dizer que não gostava dele.
Começou por dizer-lhe que não gostava dele.
Não lhe começou por dizer que não gostava dele.
Não começou por lhe dizer que não gostava dele.
Não começou por dizer-lhe que não gostava dele.

Nem assim o deixaram de fazer/deixaram de o fazer/deixaram de fazê-lo.

  • Must pronouns be raised with atratores (absent prepositions) or is it optional? While não vou-o usar sounds bad to me, não vou usá-lo or even não vou poder usá-lo don't, but I also readily admit they may sound okay to me from influence of other languages. How do they sound to you? Jan 4, 2019 at 15:34
  • @guifa, they sound to me just as they sound to you: you don't say não vou-o usar, but can say any of the other two.
    – Jacinto
    Jan 4, 2019 at 16:02
  • @Jacinto perhaps Artefacto might want to generalize the answer then to handle infinitives that aren't preceded by prepositions as well (since the same applies: attach to the infinitive, but preceded the conjugated verb). Also crazier but possible (albeit these days virtually only in writing): que lhe não começou por dizer Jan 4, 2019 at 16:06
  • @guifa, we have this question about ainda o não merecemos; I'm not sure I've seen that syntax with auxiliary verbs, but can't see why one shouldn't do it.
    – Jacinto
    Jan 4, 2019 at 17:56
  • @guifa I'm not sure what you mean. The behavior is not the same depending on whether the preposition is there or not (and not all verbs that take a preposition behave the same way; for instance, all verbs that take a do not admit a clictic between a and the infinitive verb: *estou a lhe dizer). As for interpolation, be it with não or / ali / etc., I don't see how it's directly relevant to the question of clictic placement (it can at most gives clues about the underlying structure of the sentences).
    – Artefacto
    Jan 4, 2019 at 18:24

As an european portuguese native, it is simple. When the sentence is in the negative form, the pronoun order is simply switched out (in most cases Look at this article referred by jean ). In older european portuguese uses could be different. eg.

Lhe quero muito bem. - a few centuries ago; Quero-lhe muito bem - currently.

You'll gain the skill by practising reading and hearing natives speak.

  • YT Fan, welcome to the PortugueseLanguage site. It appears to me the question is a little different: why we say "não lhe vou falar" rather than "não vou lhe falar"?
    – Jacinto
    Dec 31, 2018 at 18:39
  • it's não lhe vou falar. Some natives lack education and say não vou falar-lhe but that is completely wrong. Jan 1, 2019 at 19:17

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