Learning Portuguese is challenging. Learning the subjunctive in Portuguese is even more challenging! The vast majority of Portuguese people do not know what the Indicative or the subjunctive mode is. Portuguese speakers speak Portuguese naturally, instinctively. They use the words and grammatical structures that “sound” best in each sentence. But it is also true that Portuguese speakers often use the subjunctive mode incorrectly. It is not easy to use the subjunctive mode correctly even for a Portuguese citizen born and raised in Portugal. If it is not easy for natives, imagine for those learning Portuguese…
INDICATIVE vs SUBJUNCTIVE in Portuguese
The indicative mode is the one we use in the vast majority of our everyday sentences. The indicative mode is used, essentially, to describe facts, real and concrete things. Here are some examples:
- Tomorrow I will work at the beach! (sentence in the future describing a fact)
- I drink three cups of coffee every day (present tense sentence describing a real routine)
- Yesterday I went to the movies (sentence in the simple past perfect that describes a complete action in the past)
We use the subjunctive mode to talk about hypothetical events, to talk about wishes, doubts, hopes, fears, and feelings. Here are some sentences in the conjunctive mood!
Learning the subjunctive in Portuguese is challenging, but teaching the subjunctive is not easy either! The first students to whom I tried to explain the subjunctive did not have an easy task! As a Portuguese teacher, I did not have enough experience and even knowledge to choose the best path for those students. And the truth is that there is no single path in the teaching-learning processes. And there is certainly no single path in teaching the subjunctive in Portuguese either. It is important to know each student well in order to be able to choose his or her learning path. The subjunctive should be taught throughout the B1 and B2 levels.
WHERE TO START TO LEARN AND CONSOLIDATE THE SUBJUNCTIVE IN PORTUGUESE?
The subjunctive has simple structures and compound structures (subjunctive compound tenses). At the B1 and B2 levels, simple structures are taught. At the C1 and C2 levels, the compound subjunctive tenses are learned and consolidated.
It is important to start with the PRESENT of SUBJUNCTIVE. This tense has many connectors, but in my opinion, not all of them are essential. I believe that students of Portuguese should focus on the fundamentals of the Portuguese language. By asking students to memorize lists and lists of connectors, we are contributing to their failure.
My experience as a Portuguese teacher tells me that, in the first phase of teaching the subjunctive, we should introduce Portuguese students to the connectors that we use daily on a continuous and routine basis. We are talking about the following connectors:
- MAYBE (=TALVEZ) (expression of doubt). Example: Maybe he will COME tomorrow.
- IT IS GOOD THAT (=É BOM QUE), IT IS DIFFICULT THAT, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT, IT IS CONVENIENT THAT,… (impersonal expressions + que). Example: IT IS GOOD THAT YOU GET HERE SOON TOMORROW.
- I DON’T THINK THAT, I DON’T THINK THAT, I DON’T BELIEVE THAT (opinions in the negative). Example: I DON’T BELIEVE he IS fat!
- WANT THAT, WISH THAT, DOUBT THAT, FEAR THAT, HOPE THAT,… (Subjunctive verbs). Example: I want you to BE rich.
Before moving on and introducing students to other connectors, it is critical that students of Portuguese are comfortable with conjugating the subjunctive, present, and using the four connectors described earlier.