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While thinking over this question in Latin community and pounding the differences in the use of composite past in French and Portuguese, I discovered that conjugation tables, discussions of Portuguese past tenses, or even Wikipedia sometimes do not even mention the composite variety of simple past (pretérito perfeito composto, aka eu tenho falado), discuss only pretérito perfeito (eu falei).

Is this tense somehow less important or very rare in modern Portuguese? Or does it have to do with the differences between the European and Brazilian Portuguese?

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    I hope I understood your question correctly. That said, the problem is that in Portuguese our "perfect", despite existing, doesn't carry the same concept of perfect in English or in ancient Greek, where an action in the past still "reverberates" in the present. That said, for 98.74% of Portuguese speakers (source: Fakedata inc.) things like "eu falei" have no perfect tense meaning whatsoever. If you want to deliver the idea of the perfect tense, you use the composite: "eu tenho falado" (which means: I started speaking in the past but I'm still speaking in the present). Oct 25, 2022 at 3:56
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    (continuation) Thus, it's not rare at all, it's very commonly used for giving the perfect tense idea. However, you won't find it in the conjugation tables (unlike those for English, that normally show the auxiliary verb) because their construction is trivial (for native speakers), as the answer below explains. Oct 25, 2022 at 4:01
  • @GerardoFurtado you won't find it in the conjugation tables (unlike those for English, that normally show the auxiliary verb) because their construction is trivial - this is precisely what perturbed me, since the conjugation tables in French, English in German usually go through the trouble of showing all the composite tenses.
    – Roger V.
    Oct 25, 2022 at 7:32
  • You are not using the right name for these verbs: they are called tempos verbais compostos and here you have them: conjugacao.com.br/tempos-verbais-compostos Those are called compound tenses, not composite. And in French, they say: les temps composés.
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2022 at 18:18

2 Answers 2

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No, it's not rare at all, even if it's of course not the most common tense.

I think this conjugation website gives the most common reason for conjugation tables to omit some or all of the compound tenses [1]:

Is the given verbal conjugation complete?

No.

For compound tenses conjugation is not shown, since those are easily constructed from the verb's past participle and an auxiliary verb

In general, there is a number of compound tenses (see also here), as well as the so-called locuções verbais, which might look quite like tenses themselves, and they're all for the most part fairly commonly used.


[1] Freely translated from the [original](https://conjuga-me.net/):

A conjugação verbal apresentada está completa?

Não.

Para os tempos compostos não aparece conjugação pois estes formam-se facilmente com o particípio passado do verbo e com um auxiliar

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It is used! But there's a catch: it is not equivalent to the pretérito perfeito simples as it would be in other romance languages (or like it is with mais-que-perfeito (by the way, that's why one of them disappeared))!

If I say "comprei uns carros", it means "I bought some cars". But if I say "tenho comprado uns carros" it means "I have been buying some cars", so it refers to another aspectual meaning, something related to frequency!

And yes, conjugation tables usually only contain simples tenses, since they are usually used to show the endings in each tense, person and number.

So, it exists and it is used very often, but it just has a different meaning compared to other romance languages!

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  • Tenho comprado uns carros. = I have bought some cars. Not: been buying. Tenho estado comprando carros ultimamente.
    – Lambie
    Nov 21, 2022 at 13:57
  • Not at all, @Lambie, are you a native speaker? If so it must be a very specific regional variation. Nov 21, 2022 at 15:23
  • Nem sei o que responder. Mas isto: "But if I say "tenho comprado uns carros" it means "I have been buying some cars"" está errado. Tenho comprado uns carros = I have bought some cars. A palavra em inglês é *frequency". E é Romance languages, com maiúscula.
    – Lambie
    Nov 21, 2022 at 15:54
  • I think I've been buying some cars is a reasonable translation (though it probably matches more closely tenho andado a comprar uns carros). Another possibility is I've bought some cars lately. I agree that I've bought some cars is a worse translation. The point is that there is an idea of repetition, and the pattern of action must continue up to the present. You can say I've bought this car at an auction, but not tenho comprado este carro num leilão.
    – Artefacto
    Nov 21, 2022 at 17:14
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    @ErgativeMan certo, embora não seja o caso com verbos que exprimem estados, e.g. desde que nasci que tenho vivido em Lisboa.
    – Artefacto
    Nov 21, 2022 at 23:53

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