I viewed a video and one of the functions of this tense was described as:

Falar de algo que ja foi realizado em relação ao passado.

E.g. "'Nós não acreditamos que ela tenha feito isso."


However, is that not the function of the pretérito mais-que-perfeito. I am not sure how the two tenses don't overlap here, seeing as both can describe a past event relative to the past.


2 Answers 2


The pretérito perfeito do subjuntivo doesn't overlap with the pretérito mais-que-perfeito do indicativo because they express different moods (in the linguistic sense), namely, subjunctive and indicative. While the latter is used, e.g., for statements, the former conveys suggestions, hypothesis, desires, etc.

In English the is often is only visible from the context, but there are examples where the conjugation is different from the indicative:

Indicative: "John eats if he is hungry."
Subjunctive: "John would eat if he were hungry."

(João come se ele está com fome. João comeria se ele estivesse com fome.)

Taking you example:

Nós não acreditamos que ela tenha feito isso.
("We don't believe that she has done [or did] that.")

An indicative version could be:

Nós sabemos que ela não fez isso.
("We know that she hasn't done [or didn't do] that.")

By the way, there also a pretérito mais-que-perfeito do subjuntivo composto, which expresses:

possibilidade, hipótese ou desejo anterior a outra ação verbal, que, por sua vez, é anterior ao momento da fala.

As in Se eu tivesse falado para ela, nada disso teria acontecido ("If I had told her, none of that would have happened.").

  • Stafusa, that was fast!
    – Schilive
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 16:52
  • @stafusa Thanks a lot! Would it be possible however to also use the Pretérito perfeito composto do subjuntivo to refer to an event that occurred prior to another in the same sentence such as in «Espero que você ainda não tenha feito a sobremesa, porque o almoço foi cancelado.» because is that not reserved for mais que perfeito tenses?
    – Bigbadant
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 17:27
  • 1
    Bigbadant, the mais que perfeito is not much used in spoken language. However, you have used the tempo composto of the mais que perfeito and your sentence is super good.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 17:51
  • @Bigbadant As you said yourself in the comments in Schlive's answer, since the mood is different, your example here is correct: since, being a hope, the mais-que-perfeito do indicativo wouldn't be the most appropriate.
    – stafusa
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 22:12

Pretérito perfeito composto do subjuntivo

"Nós não acreditamos que ela tenha feito isso."

We do not believe that she had done that.

The subjunctive is used to express doubt in Portuguese. "We do not believe" expresses doubt.

If there were no doubt, it would be:

Nós acreditamos que ela fez isso.

These are tempos compostos of verbs. In English translation, they are verb with auxiliaries, basically. [ter feito, have done, tinha feito, had done]. In this case, in Portuguese, there is the added difficulty of the subjunctive, which does not carry over into the English.

This one is used like this:

Here is a full description of them: tempos verbais compostos

"Uso dos tempos compostos do subjuntivo Pretérito perfeito composto do subjuntivo:

Indica uma ação que já está concluída e que é anterior a outra. Exemplo: Ninguém imagina que eu tenha visto seu irmão."

Please note: Where it says that one action is finished and comes before another, that is contextual and not given in the actual sentence. So, it's something like:

"Ninguém imagina que eu tenha visto seu irmão [antes de que ele foi embora]."

No one imagines I had seen your brother [before he left.]

The subjunctive there is also there for the "doubt factor" of the verb to imagine in Portuguese. Compare that to:

Ninguém pensa que eu tinha visto seu irmão [antes de que ele foi embora].

Both are translated as had seen in English.

In English, it's basically the same thing regarding an earlier action. We use past perfect when another action has taken place or is implied.

I am taking this next explanation from this text: Pretérito mais que perfeito You can see the conjugations in the text.

The pretérito mais que perfeito is not much used in spoken language. It corresponds to past perfect in English.

  • Quando o noivo apareceu, a noiva já chegara na igreja.

What is used in spoken language, is the form with the auxiliary (tempo composto). Also, past perfect in English.

Quando o novio apareceu, a noiva já tinha chegado na igreja.

The pretérito mais que perfeito thus is either formal (chegara, for example, in the third person singular) or in spoken language ter + the past participle (ter chegado). In some cases, haver + the past participle.

  • Amazing, thank you! So it is possible to use it to describe event A that preceded event B but the two events are not directly compared in the sentence? Such that if you said "Ninguém imagina que eu tenha visto seu irmão antes de que ele foi embora" that would no longer be correct because it is then stated outright rather than implied? And would require a verb to be in one of the mais-que-perfeito tenses. This has been bothering me for weeks, so this is really helpful. Thank you!
    – Bigbadant
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 17:57
  • @Bigbadant Not exactly. That one you re-cited from me IS correct. What I mean is that the EARLIER event is not always stated outright. It's like English, you don't always know the prior event, it can be implied By then, he had already arrived. See? By then, [by the time we arrived= earlier event].
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 18:25
  • 1
    @Bigbadant Your sentence is right but it's the pretérito perfeito do subjuntivo composto. In writing, your sentence could be: Espero que ele fora capaz de etc.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 19:17
  • 1
    @Lambie In your last example, "Espero que ele *fora capaz de", I believe the verb should be in the subjunctive, either "tenha sido capaz", or "seja capaz", etc. OR "espero" should be in a past tense, such as "esperava" or "esperara".
    – stafusa
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 21:56
  • 1
    @Bigbadant Your last comment here is spot on. About the first, I'd write Lambie's example differently: instead of "Ninguém imagina que eu tenha visto seu irmão antes de que ele foi embora", I'd say "Ninguém imagina que eu tenha visto seu irmão antes de ele ter ido embora".
    – stafusa
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 22:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.