I sometimes have trouble understanding what lhe stands for.

Entretanto, a tal carta de liberdade era obra do próprio João Romão, e nem mesmo o selo, que ele entendeu de pespegar-lhe em cima, para dar à burla maior formalidade, representava despesa porque o esperto aproveitara uma estampilha já servida.

I'm not really sure what lhe replaces in that sentence, my guess is it's "da carta"... am i right?

É o selo que ele entendeu de pespegar-lhe em cima. <=> É o selo que ele entendeu de pespegar em cima da carta.

O senhor de Bertoleza não teve sequer conhecimento do fato; o que lhe constou, sim, foi que a sua escrava lhe havia fugido para a Bahia depois da morte do amigo.

Here I think my problem comes from the verb "constar", how is it constructed? What/who is the subject of constar and what/who is "lhe" in that sentence?

Does it work like "be admited" in english? Like "What (o que) was admited by him (lhe)..." with the subject being "o que"

Thanks for your time.

  • 2
    "o que lhe constou" here means "what he heard".
    – ANeves
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 4:02

2 Answers 2


Yes, "lhe" in the sentence you quote refers to "carta", and we easily understand that by context (stamps will be attached to letters). In the second sentence, "constar [a]" (meaning "to be known [to]", "to be understood [by]") is in this case indirect transitive, meaning that is object has to be preceded by a preposition, and that is why "lhe" is used.

Here's how the same excerpt could be written, without the pronoun "lhe".

O senhor de Bertoleza não teve sequer conhecimento do fato; o que constou a ele, sim, foi que a sua escrava havia fugido dele para a Bahia depois da morte do amigo.

Which could be translated this way:

Senhor de Bertoleza didn't even have knowledge of the fact; what was understood by him, yes, was that his slave had fled from him to Bahia after the death of his friend.

  • 6
    English speakers often stumble over the different ways that the clitics used for indirect objects (lhe, lhes) connect the verb to the person referenced by that pronoun. As you are right to demonstrate, substituting it for a prepositional phrase does not always yield a plus a subject pronoun, because the old datives were not always used for meaning “to someone” alone. Other relationships are possible, such as the one expressed by the de relationship for what in English would be “from someone”. Roubar is another verb that works this way with an indirect object: a paz que eu lhe roubei.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 19:18

"Lhe" is the objective personal pronoun for the nominative "você", "ele" ou "ela". If you begin addressing a person using nominative pronoun "tu", you have to use "te" as its objective form. If you are using "você", you have to use "lhe". e.g. Tu estás a me perguntar pelo livro? Ora, eu te devolvi ontem. (or "devolvi a ti"). Você já sabe que ela vai lhe contar tudo o que aconteceu. Remember, in Portugal "você" is rarely used. People use "tu" instead. Consequently, when they use "lhe", it refers to "ele" or "ela"

  • 1
    The same can be said of o and a: they’re objective clitics. The key point is that lhe is an indirect object (or dative) clitic, while o and a are direct object (or accusative) clitics. It is uncommon to have datives without accusatives, but because Portuguese, unlike its sister tongues, is not merely a subject-dropping language but also an object-dropping one, things like Te devolvi ontem are possible with an understood accusative o being omitted. Also, there are Brazilians who use te with você.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 1:30
  • @tchrist "Concordance" and "Regency" are ignored by most brazilians. They mix "tu" and "lhe", they use "o" when "te" should be used, and so on. The Portuguese, on the other hand, use only "tu" and consequently never mix.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 1:32
  • So have I observed.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 1:33
  • @tchrist Then again, if you try to follow the rules in the spoken language ALL THE TIME, you'll sound like a nineteenth century book. If a pickpocket has just got your wallet and you want the people around to catch him, nobody would ever shout "peguem-no", which is the correct form. 100% of Brazilians would shout out "pega ele, pega ele".
    – Centaurus
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 1:40
  • I wouldn't say "ignored". If that was true, we'd be speaking so much nonsense it would be hard to understand each other.
    – bfavaretto
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 5:10

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