Is the Portuguese "Futuro do pretérito" ever actually used for the "future in the past" literally, or in modern Portuguese is it just used for conditional structures?

By analogy, the English word "would" is today mainly used for the conditional mood in English, however you can see by looking at it that it comes from the past of "will". This meaning of "future in the past" is still visible in structures like reported speech, such as "He told me he would come".

This can also be formed periphrastically with "to be going" as in "He told me he was going to come", and indeed, for most uses of "future in the past", we use the periphrastic form.

Portuguese has almost exactly the same phenomenon (peculiar, since English isn't a Romance language). Except that whereas English has a modal and a "go" periphrasis Portuguese has an inflected and a "go" periphrasis.

So you have, loosely speaking (usages are different in other situations, but for the sake of analogy):

Eu jogarei     =   I will play
Eu jogaria     =   I would play
Eu vou jogar =   I am going to play
Eu ia jogar    =   I was going to play

My question is this: while I am very familiar with the use of jogaria in conditional structures (in fact, I believe in Portugal you don't call it the futuro do pretérito but the condicional), are there any uses of this conjugation to mean an actual future of the past in the sense of "He told me he would be here" or "I knew that you would do well". I know I can say Ele falou que ia estar aqui and Eu sabia que você ia mandar bem but can I say this, or something like this, using the pretérito perfeito forms?

I'm interested in any dialect of portuguese, thanks in advance

  • I really do not understand the issue here because the "was going to come" and "would come" happen to be very straightforward in Portuguese "ia vir" and "viria". Is your native language somehow interfering with this?
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


Yes, the futuro do pretérito is also used meaning "future of the past". Some examples:

Bolsas foram deixadas nos estabelecimentos, como garantia de que mulher voltaria. [A Gazeta]

Ele me disse que viria de vez em quando e me ajudaria com o dinheiro da ração. [Folha]

[...] e ela me disse que viria com uma saia de vinil. [Chic]

And this usage is also mentioned in the Wiktionary (emphasis added):

futuro do pretérito m (uncountable)

(grammar, chiefly Brazil) a Portuguese verb form used to express the conditional tense, futurity from a past perspective or to make polite requests

I'd say that the reason one doesn't encounter this construction too often is a preference for the periphrastic form - a preference which is rather prevalent, at least in pt-br, for instance, also for the pretérito mais-que-perfeito ("tinha tentado" is much more common than "tentara"), and for the future tense ("vou tentar" vs. "tentarei").

  • Thanks for the response. I'm thinking harder and harder about this and now I've thought about it more, it's hard for me to get my head around the actual conceptual differences between "I was going to buy the boat (but didn't)" and "I would have bought the boat" in my own language, let alone the difference between "Eu ia comprar o barco mas não dava" and "Eu compraria o barco". The line between "future of the past" and "hypothetical" aren't nearly as clear as I was thinking, so I really need to think through what I'm trying to ask here
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 0:29
  • I'll get back to this in a while once I've straightened it all out in my own head. But again, thanks very much for the response
    – Some_Guy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 0:30
  • You're welcome. Maybe I can help a bit. The conditional doesn't need the "would", it's valid to say "if the plane is late tomorrow, I will miss your wedding" or "if you gave her the medicine, she survived"; you need "would" to denote something unreal/unlikely/hypothetical only. So, "I would have bought the boat" already implies you didn't, while "I was going to buy the boat" has indeed to be complemented by "but didn't" to convey that (you could say instead "that's why I'd bought a license"). You can check about the 3 conditionals.
    – stafusa
    Sep 6, 2018 at 3:20
  • @Some_Guy Also, I'd say there's no real difference between "Eu ia comprar o barco, mas não deu" and "Eu compraria o barco, mas não deu.". To clearly denote either unreal conditional or future of the past you need context, such as "mas não deu" or, instead, "Eu não sabia na época que compraria meu próprio barco assim que completasse 16 anos.". Besides "compraria" one can also say "iria comprar", "viria a comprar", or, more informally, "ia comprar".
    – stafusa
    Sep 6, 2018 at 3:37
  • The line between "future of the past" and "hypothetical" isn't clear because they may coincide. Let's take the example "Bolsas foram deixadas nos estabelecimentos, como garantia de que mulher voltaria."; we presume the owner of the "estabelecimento" had the return of the woman as a hypothesis. On the other hand, there's no such a hypothesis in this sentence: "Naquele tempo, eu não sabia que me casaria com ela vinte anos depois." ("That time, I didn't know I would marry her twenty years later.") Aug 21, 2019 at 23:07

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