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One of the things that is important to me while speaking Portuguese is being polite. As far as I'm aware, to sound polite people use the Futuro do Pretérito (the “conditional”), with the exception of the verb querer where the Pretérito Imperfeito (the “imperfect”) is used to form queria.

I just wanted to ask:

  1. Is queria the only instance where the imperfect is used instead of the conditional for this purpose?
  2. Is using gostaria, queria common in day-to-day life, or is it overly formal?
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    Normally, I wouldn't use the imperfect for politeness, and quereria is very ugly and seems wrong, though, in Portugal, they may say gostava, so it may be different there. I would use gostaria with anyone, so it is not overly formal, but people think I am fomal... I do believe, though, it is mostly used when asking a stranger, or a less known person, or when buying something, as «eu gostaria de dois Big Macs, por favor.». I also suspect it is more used by kids, when talking to adults.
    – Schilive
    Nov 12, 2021 at 23:58
  • @Schilive Super, thank you! So "queria" I guess would be the only instance where the imperfeito is chosen over the Futuro do Pretérito
    – Jim stoke
    Nov 13, 2021 at 0:10
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    What exactly do you mean by expressing politeness? Can you provide an example? Are you talking about things like: I'd just like to say that [etc.]? Or what? :) Gostaria and queria are not formal at all.
    – Lambie
    Nov 13, 2021 at 15:49
  • @Schilive Por favor, gostaria de lhe fazer uma pergunta. Queria lhe fazer uma pergunta. Translated as; I'd like to ask you a question. I'd wanted to ask you a question. imperfeito em português. pretérito em inglês.
    – Lambie
    Nov 13, 2021 at 18:45
  • @Lambie polidez ("educação") e formalidade são duas coisas diferentes... embora um discurso mais formal tende a ser mais polido, é possivel ser polido sem ser muito formal Nov 18, 2021 at 12:39

1 Answer 1

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Keep in mind I'm Brazilian and I don't understand the nuances of European Portuguese. Given that:

a) is "queria" the only instance where the imperfect is used for this purpose?

In Brazil, yes, "queria" is the only instance where the imperfect past is used instead of the conditional. The dictionaries register "quereria" and you may use it, but this form is so, so, rare that you will certainly raise everyone's eyebrows and start a discussion about that word.

However, as I learned in this episode from Professor Pasquale Cipro Neto's podcast, in European Portuguese one may use the imperfect in place of the conditional, as in "Eu gostava de um uísque", instead of "Eu gostaria de um uísque", for asking for a whisky.

He also notes that in other constructions, it is very common to replace the conditional tense (also called "futuro do pretérito" [future of the past]) by the imperfect past. For instance:

"Se eu tivesse, eu te dava" versus "Se eu tivesse, eu te daria"
(Both mean "If I had it/them, I would give it/them to you")

The second form sounds more formal to me and I use it less frequently than the first form. By the way, it's possible to go even more formal with "Se eu tivesse, eu dar-te-ia", but this last form is very uncommon and would also raise eyebrows.

Note that in these three forms, although they have different levels of formality, no form sounds more or less polite to me.

To read more:

b) Is using gostaria, queria common in day to day life or is it overly formal?

In São Paulo, Brazil, "gostaria" and "queria" are very common. It depends on the level of formality intended, but as a very rough guess, I use them about 20% of the times I ask for something in the stores.

If your intention is to be polite (note the subtle difference between formality and politeness), you can use both verb tenses or even leave the verb completely out of you phrase, like "Um café, por favor" ("One coffee, please"), but never leave the "por favor" ("please") out of your phrases.

Just as a curiosity, due to this use of the imperfect tense, there is a kind of dad joke when someone uses the verb "queria" for asking for something. Some people say: "Você queria, então não quer mais? 😜" ("You wanted it, so you don't want it any more?"). As I don't condone with dad jokes, most of the time I use "gostaria" instead of "queria".

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    It is basically the same in Portugal as well. "Eu gostava/gostaria de um uísque" though, I'm not sure I've ever heard that sort of thing around here; it's possible with an infinitive, "gostava/gostaria de reservar uma mesa para hoje à noite, se faz favor". You can hear "desejava um whisky", less often than "queria..."
    – Jacinto
    Jul 1, 2022 at 18:13

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