Grammar Tips (#18): Personal pronouns (4): prepositional pronouns

Portuguese also has a special set of pronouns that are to be used when they are objects of (i.e. when they precede) a preposition; these are called prepositional pronouns.

They are divided into two types: one of them used with com (“with”), the other with every other preposition.

Corresponding subject pronoun (referent) Prepositional pronoun Prepositional pronoun with com
Eu mim comigo
Tu ti contigo
Você si consigo
Ele ele 

(reflexive: si)

com + ele/ela

(reflexive: consigo)

Ela ela

(reflexive: si)

Nós nós con(n)osco¹
Vocês vocês convosco

com vocês

Eles eles

(reflexive: si)

com + eles/elas
Elas elas

(reflexive: si)

¹ Connosco is the EP form pre-Spelling Reform, conosco is the BP form and post-Spelling Reform

#1: This means that all those pesky verbs (or iterations of a verb) that are always followed by a preposition have to receive one of the pronouns of this table (and not the other clitic pronouns we’ve talked about the last two times).

The first example students usually run into in their learning journeys is gostar (de) [to like], whose direct objects (the people/things you like) are objects of the prepositions deand therefore have to take the corresponding form from the central column afterwards:

  • [Eu] gosto de ti. I like you.
  • [Tu] gostas deles. You like them.

Make sure you create the proper contractions between the prepositions de and em with the third person pronouns ele[s] / ela[s] (just like you do with articles and demonstratives):

  • [Eu] estive a pensar nele a tarde toda. I was thinking about him all afternoon. [pensar em + ele]
  • [Nós] vivemos nesta casa. A casa é dela. We live in this house. The house is hers.

#2: It’s grammatically wrong to use a preposition + prepositional pronoun combo in situations where another clitic pronoun is readily available.

This happens a lot with the indirect object, with some popular speach registers commonly using + prepositional pronoun instead of the proper indirect object pronoun:

  • Eu dei-lhe esta pulseira. I have him/her this bracelet. (correctvs.
  • Eu dei esta pulseira a ele/ela (wrong)

That means a + indirect object should be marked using the indirect object pronouns whenever possible/needed (when you’re substituting the proper object with a pronoun).

Nonetheless, it is possible to use this option when you’re answering a question without restating the whole sentence.

  • A quem é que [tu] deste esta pulseira? Whom did you give this bracelet to?
    • Possible answer: A ti. To you [sing.]

A + indirect object pronoun is also a possibility when you’re singling out many referents by use of numerals:

  • Ela ofereceu a pulseira a nós os dois. She gave the bracelet to the both of us. Here, the speaker is clarifying that there are only two people included in the idea of us [one of them being the speaker], but Ela ofereceu-nos a pulseira would have sufficed if it was clear who the members of this group were [e.g. if you were talking to just one person, he/she would have to be the second party in this scenario]. Also possible is Ela ofereceu-nos a pulseira aos doisjust a different way of getting to the same idea

#3: Keep in mind that the forms with com outside of ele[s]/ela[s] are contractions of that preposition with the prepositional pronoun.

Just like pelo (a contraction of preposition por + definite article o) substitutes both contracted elements (and stops them from appearing separately), so do the contractions with com:

  • [Eu] preciso de falar contigo. I need to speak with you [pl.] (correct) vs.
  • [Eu] preciso de falar com ti. 

As an exception, Com vocês is somewhat accepted by some grammarians [1] (hence it’s inclusion above), but I personally prefer convosco.

#4: When it comes to forming reflexive statements, make sure you change the third person pronouns accordingly.

When it comes to 3rd person pronouns, the prepositional pronouns change from ele/ele to si when the action is reflexive (just see si as the prepositional form of the reflexive pronoun se).

In all other cases, the single prepositional pronoun you see on the middle column can also be used in reflexive clauses:

  • Eu fiz isto por mim, não por ti. I did this for myself [for my sake], not for yourself [for your sake]. Here, [por] mim is a reflexive pronoun (eu = mim, same referent for the action of the verb fazer), while [por] ti is a regular prepositional pronoun (eu ≠ ti]

For all prepositional pronouns, the timely addition of forms of mesmo (inflected for gender and number, as usual) after the pronouns themselves help clarify the reflexiveness/reciprocity of the action. This is especially important in the aforementioned case of si, since using these clarifiers can distinguish between the si and consigo which are prepositional pronouns of “você” and the exact same forms which work as reflexive/reciprocal pronouns of “ele[s]/ela[s]”.

 

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