Two weeks ago I mentioned the reasons why I haven’t used many verbs as Words of the week, but I’m trying to change this slightly but highlighting aspects of verb forms that are different between EP and BP, which is hopefully help you get a better idea of the main differences between variants overall.
If with descolar the focus was in spelling changes, today’s word is a slightly more complicated issue and one that most people don’t notice: the fact that 1st person plural forms on the preterite in verbs of the 1st conjugation (ending in -ar) have a different spelling of the stressed vowel a (á, which also shows a change in its sound).
To break all this confusing information apart, I’ll use some bullet points to make sure you understand this properly:
- The first conjugation of Portuguese verbs includes almost all verbs whose infinitivee ends in -ar (amar – to love; falar – to speak/talk; assar – to roast; saltar – to jump; ficar – to stay; ajudar – to help; gostar – to like; chegar – to arrive; etc.); this rule does not include irregular verbs such as estar or dar.
- The preterite is the verb tense that deals with finished/completed events in the past (similar to the basic use of the past simple as long as we’re talking about events that are fully concluded/ended; everything else will fall under the mantle of the imperfect).
- The 1st person plural is the Nós [“we”] form, used when the subject is part of a group of more people and is speaking in name of the whole group.
In this first conjugation, the forms for the 1st person plural in the present and the preterite are identically spelled and pronounced in BP (for example, for amar both take the form amamos); in standard EP¹, there’s a change in sound between the two in the stressed syllable: the present has a [ɐ] sound; the preterite has a low/open a, [a] sound; this is marked graphically by an acute accent on the stressed syllable (which here is always the next-to-last, which precedes the 1st person plural ending -mos) in the preterite forms:
- [Nós] amamos (We love) > [Nós] amámos (We loved)
- [Nós] falamos (We speak) > [Nós] falámos (We spoke)
- [Nós] assamos (We roast) > [Nós] assámos (We roasted)
- [Nós] saltamos (We jump) > [Nós] saltámos (We jumped)
- [Nós] ficamos (We stay) > [Nós] ficámos (We stayed)
- [Nós] ajudamos (We help) > [Nós] ajudámos (We helped)
- [Nós] gostamos (We like) > [Nós] gostámos (We liked)
- [Nós] chegamos (We arrive) > [Nós] chegámos (We arrived)
¹ Much like BP, European Portuguese’s northern accents don’t make any distinction between the present and the preterite here, pronouncing both like the present form (again, just like BP, spelling differences aside); but unlike BP, it is expected for people in Northern Portugal to use the form with -á- in their contacts with other EP speakers when speaking about the past (since that’s the standard spelling and a useful way to distinguish between the two tenses).