It’s time to learn how to use the gerund in European Portuguese! 🥳 So what is the gerúndiogerund exactly? Simply put, for English speakers, it corresponds to the verb form ending in -ing.
The Portuguese gerund has 2 forms:
- simples (simple): Refers to the process of an action and ends in –ndo – This is the type we’ll cover in this Learning Note!
- composto (compound): Refers to an event that took place before the main clause, using the construction gerúndio + particípio passado
How to Form the Gerúndio
The gerúndio is one of the 3 formas nominais dos verbos (nominal verb forms), along with the impersonal infinitive and the past participle. These forms do not indicate verb tense, mood, or person on their own. They depend on context (i.e. the surrounding conjugated verbs) for that.
The gerúndio is invariable (it doesn’t change according to gender or number) and it’s formed the same way for both regular and irregular verbs. You simply take the infinitive form, remove the r, and append –ndo. For example:
- the gerúndio of comerto eat is comendoeating
- the gerúndio of sonharto dream is sonhandodreaming
Don’t Use It As A Noun
Be careful! Despite the literal translation of “gerund”, grammatically it corresponds more closely to the English present participle. Unlike the English gerund, the Portuguese gerúndio cannot act as a noun. For example:
- ❌ Fumando faz mal à saúde – Incorrect. The gerúndio cannot be used here as a noun.
- ✅ Fumar faz mal à saúdeSmoking is harmful to your health – Correct. Use the infinitive verb form here instead. This refers to “the act of smoking” as a noun.
The Gerúndio in European Portuguese
You may recall fromthe present continuous unit, that there are some differences in how the gerúndio is used among the different Portuguese dialects. For example, in European Portuguese, you typically don’t use the gerúndio for the present continuous. Just to quickly review:
- In European Portuguese, the present continuous / present progressive is typically formed with estar + a + the infinitive. For example: Eu estou a estudar gramática.I am studying grammar.
- In Brazilian Portuguese, the gerund is used here instead: Eu estou estudando gramática. As you can see, the BP variation is more similar to the English “I am studying grammar” than the EP one.
That said, although not super common, there is still a time and place for the gerúndio in European Portuguese! In EP, the gerúndio simples is generally used in 3 ways:
- As a gerúndio adverbial (adverbial gerund) within a dependent clause or
- connecting 2 coordinated clauses (as a replacement of the conjunction eand )
- Expressing progress / gradualness, with the help of the auxiliary verb ir (the most common use case ⭐️ )
(The adverbial uses are less common in Brazilian and African dialects of Portuguese.)
Start familiarizing yourself with the gerúndio by exploring examples of each of the primary uses below. We’ll also mention more popular alternatives to using the gerúndio (when relevant) throughout the rest of this Learning Note.
Adverbial Gerund in Dependent Clauses
Orações gerundivas (short for orações subordinadas adverbiais gerundivas) are dependent clauses in which the verb is in the gerúndio and that function like an adverb to the main clause. They can hold the semantic value of manner, time, causality, consequence, condition, and concession (or sometimes a combination of multiple values). Again, don’t confuse this with “gerund phrases” in English grammar, which function as a noun.
It’s more common to see these clauses at the beginning of a sentence, but they can appear in the middle or at the end as well. Let’s see some examples of each type:
Some adverbs characterize the manner or way an action takes place, such as: depressaquickly , bemwell , lentamenteslowly , etc.
With gerundive clauses, you can also characterize the mode or manner in which an action, such as running or speaking, takes place:
- Ele foi até casa, correndo pela cidadeHe went home, running through the city – The way he went home (manner of travel) was by running through the city.
- Note: A more common way of saying the same thing could be Ele correu pela cidade até casaHe ran home through the city
- Já vou! - disse o Pedro, bocejandoBe right there! - said Pedro, yawning
- The gerund with the value of manner is mostly used in the 3rd person, as if narrating an event.
Instead of using conjunctions such as depoislater, then, after ora seguirsubsequently, next, after, following , you can convey temporal relationships using the gerund. This could indicate something happening before, after, or at the same time.
- Deitando-se na cama, a Maria adormeceuLying on her bed, she fell asleep – She lay down before falling asleep.
- A Maria tropeçou, partindo os pratosMaria stumbled, breaking the plates – She broke the plates right after stumbling.
The gerúndio can also appear in clauses that indicate the cause of the action expressed in the main clause. The gerundive clause can appear at the beginning or at the end of the sentence. Instead of using conjunctions such as porquebecause , comoas, since, like , dado quesince , etc., you could say something like:
- Estando com febre, o Pedro faltou às aulasPedro missed school because he had a fever (Being with fever, Pedro missed classes)
- Alternatively, you could say O Pedro faltou às aulas porque estava com febrePedro missed school because he had a fever
- Consegui comprar uma televisão nova fazendo horas extraordináriasI was able to buy a new TV (by) doing extra hours
- In other words: Because I did extra hours at work, I was able to pay for a new TV.
Similarly, the gerúndio can also appear in the clause which describes the consequence of the action described in the main clause, so naturally that is atend of the sentence. This use is somewhat rare, but you can replace conjunctions like pelo quetherefore , de modo queso that, in such a way that , etc., as in:
- Nós comemos demasiado, sendo impossível sair da mesaWe ate too much, so it was impossible to leave the table
- Or we could put the gerund in the other clause, to denote causality, but leaving us with essentially the same meaning: Comendo demasiado, foi-nos impossível sair da mesaHaving eaten too much, it was impossible for us to leave the table
Instead of using the conjunctions seif and casosupposing, in case to express a condition, we can go with the gerund. In most cases, it’s at the beginning of the sentence:
- Ficando sozinhos, os cães começam a ladrarIf left alone, the dogs begin to bark – “Staying alone…”
- Não tendo positiva no teste, tenho de repetir a cadeiraIf I do not pass the test, I have to repeat the course – “Not having positive on the test…”
The gerúndio can sometimes replace conjunctions like emboraalthough and apesar deeven though, despite . However, it should be used with the conjuction mesmoeven, indeed in order to make the meaning of concession clear.
- Mesmo estudando todos os dias, tirei má nota no testeDespite studying every day, I got a bad grade on the test
Replacing the Conjunction e (and)
Above, we’ve talked about gerund being used in dependent clauses but it can also be used to connect two coordinated clauses, in place of the conjunction e (and).
- A Raquel vai jantar fora, ficando o Pedro em casaRaquel is going out for dinner, while Pedro stays home
- Instead of A Raquel vai jantar fora e o Pedro fica em casaRaquel is going out for dinner and Pedro stays home
- Os habitantes fugiram do fogo deixando tudo para trásThe inhabitants fled the fire, leaving everything behind
- Instead of Os habitantes fugiram do fogo e deixaram tudo para trásThe inhabitants fled the fire and left everything behind
(It’s possible, in these cases, for the gerund to also have one of the values mentioned previously, particularly the time value. For example, in the first example shown above, Raquel is going out and Pedro is staying home at the same time.)
ir + gerúndio
Using the verb irto go with the gerúndio helps us express a sense of progress or gradualness. This is one of the most common ways of using the gerund in European Portuguese. Here are some examples:
- É uma questão de ir passando aqui na lojaIt's a matter of stopping by the store – This would imply that it’s a matter of stopping by the store probably more than once (a repeatable event).
- Fomos fazendo obras cá em casaWe kept doing (construction) work here at home
- Vai-se andandoIt's going – Common expression to say that life’s not good, not bad, just “going”.
Sometimes, the use of ir + gerúndio is basically the same as using a simple verb tense:
- Vou andando para casaI'm going home and Vou para casaI'm going home both mean the same thing. (Remember that andando doesn’t necessarily mean walking: How to Use the Verb Andar.) It’s just a common expression you can use just before saying goodbye to someone.
- Fui lendo o livro aos poucosI read the book little by little is practically the same as Li o livro aos poucosI read the book little by little , because of the adverbial phrase aos poucos, which already gives a sense of gradualness.