When learning a new language, it is common to make grammar mistakes. European Portuguese, with its unique grammar rules and structures, is no exception. However, identifying and rectifying these common errors will help you improve your language skills and communicate more effectively. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common grammar mistakes made by learners of European Portuguese and provide tips on how to avoid them. 

Spend 5 minutes reading this blog post and IMPROVE YOUR PORTUGUESE!

1. Translate Your Sentences Word By Word.

This is the biggest mistake my students make. Languages are different, words are different, concepts are different. So if you take a sentence in your language and simply translate it word by word, it will not work. 


Instead of thinking of a sentence in your native tongue and translating it, try to express the idea with words and grammar you already know. 

For example, if you want to say: 

I’m looking for my keys. 

But you don’t know how to say to look for. 

Instead of saying

Estou a ver para as minhas chaves (which doesn’t mean anything) 

Try saying

Não sei onde estão as minhas chaves.
I don’t know where my keys are.

The expressed idea is exactly the same, and the listener will know what you mean, even if the words don’t exactly match what you started with. 

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2. Mixing up Ser and Estar (To Be)

The distinction between ser and estar can be confusing for learners of European Portuguese. Ser is used to express permanent characteristics, while estar is used to describe temporary conditions or states.


Start thinking of ser and estar as two different verbs, rather than as translations of to be. 

Portuguese people will never mix them because they have different meanings in our heads. 

Ser: to have an identity, characteristic or propriety in its essence. 

Estar: to find oneself in a place or time, to have a certain temporary characteristic. 

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3. Neglecting Gender and Number Agreement

European Portuguese nouns have a gender (masculine or feminine), and adjectives and articles must agree accordingly. Neglecting gender and number agreement can lead to grammatical errors.


Speak slowly. Take your time to speak and force yourself to create grammatically correct sentences. If you feel awkward speaking slowly around natives, get an online tutor or teacher to practise with. You can book a class with me and try it out! The first class is free.

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4. Translating Prepositions

European Portuguese has an array of prepositions, each with specific usage rules. Learners often struggle with choosing the right preposition for a given context. This goes hand in hand with mistake number one. 


Whenever you learn a new verb, search for a sentence where that verb is used, so you can familiarise yourself with the right preposition for each verb. Keep in mind a lot of verbs work with different prepositions and change definition accordingly. 

Instead of learning

Chegar as to arrive which is not always true.


Chegar a

To arrive

Chego a Lisboa amanhã.
I arrive in Lisbon tomorrow.


Chegar para

To be enough for. 

Esta comida chega para três pessoas.
This is enough food for three people. 

5. Using the Conjunctive Way too Much…or not enough

This is something for intermediate to advanced learners. The conjunctive mood is specific to Latin languages and can be very confusing for learners. 

On one hand, beginner learners don’t use it when they should and on the other, intermediate learners use it when they shouldn’t. 

Remember that the personal infinitive is a unique grammatical feature in European Portuguese. Learners often forget to use it in situations where it is required, resulting in grammatically incorrect sentences. Sometimes you don’t need the conjunctive, but a personal infinitive is enough. 


Be mindful of natives speaking. The verbs, tenses, and expressions they use. When practising your listening skills, take note of what natives are saying, don’t just listen to understand, but analyse what is being said from a grammatical perspective. 

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