Do I understand correctly that phrases like "lhe dizer" and "dizer-lhe" are identical in terms of meaning but the stress is different? In the former, it's "lhe" (to you, not to anyone else) and the former it's the verb (say or tell, not whisper or look at).


By stress I mean emphasis.

For instance

E como era o meu dever (ainda que me custou, realmente custou-me), lembrei-lhe que...

2 Answers 2


If I understand your question, yes, the position of the clitic can change the meaning of sentence, although there are not many situations where 1) you can choose between enclisis and proclisis and 2) the choice is material to the meaning of the sentence.

There are situations where the choice between enclisis and proclisis is arbitrary, for instance, infinitive clauses introduced by a preposition (except a and com):

Não gostei de o ouvir.
Não gostei de ouvi-lo.

There is no change in meaning between the sentences. There are other situations when the choice is arbitrary.

But let's get the more interesting (but rarer) cases, where the choice exists and is not arbitrary. When you have a pre-verbal constrastive focus (usually with an adverb, but not necessarily), you use the proclisis. These are more or less equivalent to cleft sentences. However, this pre-verbal constituent might also have a topicalized reading that can be triggered by the use of the enclisis. Example:

Dificilmente o vejo daqui. (I can hardly see him from here/It will be difficult to see him from here).
Dificilmente, vejo-o daqui. (I see him from here with difficulty).

Muitas pessoas se manifestaram. (It was many — not few — people that protested).
Muitas pessoas manifestaram-se. (There was a large group of identifiable people that protested).

  • I must say that I don't agree with either of the two last examples — for me both versions of each example mean exactly the same. It might be a pt-PT vs. pt-BR difference, though.
    – stafusa
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 13:46
  • @stafusa yeah this is of course for European Portuguese. Enclisis essentially doesn't exist in Brazilian Portuguese. Gramática do Português gives this example for muitos: muitas pessoas se suicidam todos os anos (= o número de suicídios anuais é grande), #muitas pessoas suicidam-se todos os anos (nonsensical, = há muitas pessoas que todos os anos se suicidam)
    – Artefacto
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 13:52
  • It's nice to be able to be less ambiguous in pt-PT. I wanted to point out this difference explicitly for the sake of the readers, who'll likely not be aware of it.
    – stafusa
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 13:55
  • Enclisis does exist in pt-BR and I use it. I don't see any difference in meaing between your examples, though. Nor do I think the average brazilian would.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 20:46
  • @Centaurus the average Brazilian doesn't use any enclisis. I talk with and hear Brazilians every day. I'd be hard pressed to find an instance of enclisis except for foda-se. Even more formal texts that use the enclisis frequently use it in a non-standard way (probably over-correction). I think it's fair to say that the enclisis barely exists in the actual (i.e. spoken) Brazilian Portuguese. I described the standard as it exists, but even in Portugal (esp.) the younger generation has expanded the usage of the enclisis to a point that I imagine they'd have trouble making a distinction.
    – Artefacto
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 13:55

No. This pronouns that can be moved are unstressed, in both cases the tonic is the final syllable of "dizer".

lhe dizer


That's why these pronouns "me", "te", "se", "o", "a", "lhe" etc are often called "pronomes átonos", which litteraly means unstressed pronouns!

The stressed ones are the ones that are the subjects of sentences (such as "eu", "tu", "ele", "ela" etc) or that come with a preposition (such as "mim", "ti", "si" etc).

I just didn't understand what do you mean when you say "(say or tell, not whisper or look at)", could you clarify this part of the question?

  • by stress I meant the emphasis. But you've explained stress as a tone of the voice. Meaning "I TELL this to you" vs "TO YOU I tell this"
    – Camila326
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 4:48

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