All the Uses, Meanings, and Conjugations of the Portuguese Haver – Grammar Tips 

There is no direct translation for the English auxiliary verbs “should”, “would”, “must”, etc. so it’s common for learners to struggle when expressing duty, or the need to do something. Instead, in European Portuguese, it is common to change the verb conjugation to express a different idea. One of the most common verbs that expresses duty is haver. With many meanings and variables, haver can be a challenge for non-natives. 

This blog post goes through all the different meanings and conjugations of the verb haver in European Portuguese. 

This post is part of the Portuguese Grammar Crash Course – Your Guide to master Portuguese grammar.

What are the most common Portuguese verbs? 

O Verbo Haver in Portuguese

Although it sounds like it, haver in Portuguese does not mean to have. “Haver” is an irregular verb, meaning it does not follow regular conjugation patterns. To use “haver” correctly, it’s important to study its various uses and forms. 

Haver Present Conjugation – Presente do Indicativo

As with any Portuguese verb, especially irregular verbs, haver conjugates according to the pronoun used. Here is the verb Haver in the present tense.

Eu hei

Tu hás

Ele/Ela/Você há

Nós havemos

Eles/Elas/Vocês hão

It has several meanings including: 

There is/are in Portuguese – Haver to describe existence

When wanting to express existence in European Portuguese, you cannot directly translate from English and use ser or estar, the verbs you learned as translations of to be

“Há comida em casa.” is something us Portuguese grew up hearing our moms say. There’s food at home. “Haver” is often used to indicate the existence of something. 

“Há” can be used to express existence. Similar to “there is/are” in English.

Há laranjas no frigorífico.
There are oranges in the fridge. 

Há três janelas no meu quarto.
There are three windows in my bedroom.

Há um livro que fala sobre isso, logo envio-te.
There’s a book that talks about that, later I will send it to you. 

Haver PPS (Pretérito Passado Simples) conjugation


Houve muita chuva este ano, não vai haver secas este verão.
There was a lot of rain this year, there won’t be any droughts this summer.

Haver Imperfeito conjugation


Havia muitos animais abandonados na minha aldeia antiga.
There were a lot of abandoned animals in my old village.

Time expressions: “Há” as a way to talk about a time in the past

“Haver” is also commonly used as an equivalent of “ago”. 

Teacher tip: Unlike the English “ago”, há will go before the time. However, they both indicate that something has passed a certain period of the time prior to the conversation. 

Estudo português há três meses.
I have been studying Portuguese for three months

Fomos a França há dois anos.
We went to France two years ago.

Não nos vemos há muito tempo.
We haven't seen each other in a long time

Haver as an Auxiliary verb

In some cases, “haver” can be used as an auxiliary verb, particularly in compound verb tenses. In this context, “haver” is conjugated in the third person singular form “havia” to indicate the past tense.

Eu havia visto o filme antes.
I had seen the movie before.

Nós já havíamos decidido que não íamos ao concerto.
We had already decided that we weren't going to the concert. 

Eles haviam trabalhado muito antes de sair de férias. 
They had worked a lot before going on vacation.

“Eu hei de ir às compras” (Haver de, the phrasal verb? 

Haver de” is used to discuss something that a person will do at some point in the future or to request something from someone. It’s used when someone knows they have to do something but hasn’t made a specific plan for it yet.

Hás de me trazer o livro que te emprestei.
Bring me the book you borrowed from me, will you?

Hei de visitar os meus pais, já não os vejo há muito tempo."
I will have to go visit my parents soon, I haven't seen them in along time

Haver as a conjunction

In European Portuguese, “haver” can also be used as a conjunction, meaning “as soon as”.

Havendo oportunidade, vou viajar.
As soon as there is an opportunity, I will travel.

This usage of “haver” as a conjunction is more common in formal writing and may not be used as frequently in everyday conversation. 

Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of this usage, especially if you plan to read formal texts or documents in Portuguese.

Haver de vs Ter de vs Dever vs Ir

These four expressions are often confused by learners because they all express a future duty.

However, they are all slightly different and are not interchangeable.

Ter de

“Ter de” indicates that there is an obligation to do something no matter what.

Eu tenho de pagar as faturas senão, vou ficar sem luz em casa.
I have to pay the bills otherwise I won't have electricity at home. 

Ir + verbo

Ir conjugated followed by a verb in its infinitive form is used to express something that will happen in the near future.

Nós vamos ver um filme logo, queres vir?
We are going to watch a film later, do you want to come?


“Dever” indicates a recommendation or something that should happen.

Deves levantar-te cedo para não chegar à escola atrasado.
You must wake up early so you're not late to school.

Exercises – Translation

Translate these sentences and comment on the post what your answers are.

I shall go to the supermarket soon, I don’t have any food at home.

We should go home, it’s late.

You guys have to see this movie, it’s amazing!

He is going to sleep, he has been studying for a long time.

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