Prescriptivists have often criticized the widespread use of verb “ter” in Brazil, when you really mean “haver” or “existir”.

  • Tem gente que não sabe como…

  • Tem alguém aí fora

  • Tem muito tempo que...
  • Tem três anos que eu...
  • Tinha uma menina na minha turma que...
  • Tem mais estrelas no céu do que...

I’ve never paid attention to this before and cannot recall whether the Portuguese have the same verbal habit. My question is:

1.Is it acceptable in formal writing? For example, when writing a composition for an examination.

2.Is one likely to be frowned upon if they say "tem uma coisa que eu gostaria de dizer a todos os presentes" at a formal speech?

3.Is there any region in Brazil where people rarely use "ter" in such contexts?

4.Do people ever use it anywhere in Portugal?

Edit: An answer to this question can be partially found in Há muito a considerar. --- Haver vs Ter

  • Can you explain why you are asking this question in English? Personally, for time, I don't say tem muito tempo que, I say: Faz muito tempo que. I think the two time ones are the only really objectionable ones.
    – Lambie
    May 9, 2019 at 22:09
  • 2
    @Lambie Fi-lo porque assim o quis. Não é a primeira vez que o faço e nem é a única pergunta formulada em inglês no PL.
    – Centaurus
    May 9, 2019 at 23:49
  • 1
    I can only speak to 4) while such of ter is certainly not unheard of in Portugal, it's not widespread: most people will use only haver. Tem três anos que is even rarer, by far the most frequent is há três anos que, with faz três anos que a distant second, sounding a bit popular or dated. I'm talking about middle-class Lisbon people here.
    – Artefacto
    May 10, 2019 at 0:44
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    we do say vai fazer três meses que, as you cannot express the same idea with haver. I'm not sure that's the same of usage of fazer though, I think it just means completar there, as in ele faz três anos em Janeiro.
    – Artefacto
    May 10, 2019 at 1:11
  • Expanding on @Artefacto's comment, for me the only one I would expect in portugal is the fifth: "Tinha um traquinas na minha turma que só armava banzé." But haver would be more commonly used.
    – ANeves
    May 10, 2019 at 14:02

2 Answers 2


I'm not a linguist, but I'll try to answer your question from a native speaker's point of view. Also, since I'm not Portuguese, I don't think I'm in a position to answer your fourth question. As for the other three...

To begin with, "tem muito tempo que eu..." and "tem três anos que eu..." don't sound particularly informal. Most of the time, people will use the verb "fazer" in this context ("faz muito tempo que eu...", "faz três anos que eu..."), so using "ter" in these cases is actually sort of uncommon. As for your other examples, "ter" is clearly the informal option, whereas "haver" sounds a lot more formal.

With that in mind, this usage of "ter" with the meaning of "haver" should be avoided in formal writing, and it would seem "off" in a composition. However, in a speech, even a formal one, this does not sound so weird. Of course, this depends on how formal the situation is and on the tone you want to convey. For instance, if you have to deliver a formal speech, but you want to sound accessible or open to the audience, this would probably be OK. In your example, "tem uma coisa que eu gostaria de dizer a todos os presentes" sounds pretty OK if this is to be said in a formal speech at a wedding or a formal dinner, for instance, or maybe if this is a thank-you speech you're thinking of. If you're thinking of a more formal ceremony, maybe you should be a litlle bit more cautious.

As to your third question, as far as I know, this usage of "ter" is widespread in Brazil. I don't think there is any region where this is uncommon.

  • Native speaker from Rio de Janeiro. "Q: quando foi que aconteceu? A: Ah, isso já tem muito tempo." is quite common here. Just as common as "faz muito tempo". "Há" would sound awkward here.
    – Centaurus
    May 12, 2019 at 21:48
  • First you say "it's sort of uncommon". Then "I don't think it's uncommon".
    – Centaurus
    May 12, 2019 at 21:55

None of those example is used in Portugal. As said in the linked question, the verb ter os always used with a subject - that can be omitted - while the sentence don't have a subject, in which case the verb haver should be used.

  • 1
    Welcome to PL. Feel free to answer in Portuguese.
    – Centaurus
    May 10, 2019 at 16:47

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