Every language has those words that mean everything and nothing at the same time. In European Portuguese, is an adverb of time that you will encounter in many circumstances and contexts. 

Being fluent in Portuguese requires you to understand when and how to use these two tricky words. This blog post covers how to use in Portuguese.

Misconceptions learned in Portuguese class.

Most of the time in Portuguese class, teachers teach that já means already. Although it does in many cases, it also has other uses. Thinking already is its only translation will make you make unnecessary mistakes or prevent you from understanding what natives are saying.

Another misconception, or more like a common mistake, is to use já as just in English. 

In English we can say: 

I just had dinner. 

However in Portuguese, if you say

Eu já jantei. 

It translates to

I have already had dinner. 

!Já does not mean just!

To express that you have just finished an action, you will use the verb acabar followed with the preposition de

Eu acabei de jantar
I just had dinner. 

What does Já mean in European Portuguese? 

Já as already

The most common translation of the word já is already. Usually when já is followed with a verb in the PPS (pretérito passado simples) it will mean already (or ever). 

Já fiz os trabalhos de casa para amanhã.
I’ve already done the homework for tomorrow. 

Já comeste? 
Have you already eaten? 

Já as right away

Já followed by a verb conjugated in the present tense is very often translated to right away

Faço já isso.
I’ll do that right away. 

Já venho. 
I’ll be there right away. 

Já as by now 

A less commonly known meaning of já is by now

Já devias ter feito isso.
You should have done that by now. 

Já é tempo para o calor chegar. 
It’s time for it to be hot by now / It should be hot by now. 

Já as Now

Sai já daqui!
Leave right now!

Já as Ever / Before

As I mentioned earlier, já in a sentence with a verb conjugated in the PPS often means ever, especially in a question. 

Já foste a Portugal? 
Have you ever been to Portugal?

Já provámos pastéis de nata.
We’ve tried pastéis de nata before. 

Já as as for

The Portuguese adverb já can also express an opposition: as for, on the other hand, however, etc. 

Ela gosta de desporto. Já eu, prefiro arte.
She likes sports. As for me, I prefer the arts.

Já + há period of time

” followed by a period of time means “ago” or “for”. When that is used in a sentence with the adverb já and a verb in the present, it is the equivalent to the English past participle. 

Já estou à espera há uma hora.
I’ve been waiting for one hour already. 

Já vivemos em Portugal há três anos.
We’ve been living in Portugal for three years already. 

Já + age or years

Já can also be used to emphasise that something has been ongoing for a long time. 

Já com três anos, ele sabia ler textos complexos.
At the age of only three, he could read very complex texts. 

Já em 2016, as pessoas queixavam-se da inflação. Agora, ainda é pior. 
In 2016 already, people complained about inflation. Now, it’s even worse. 

Já não as not anymore

Já followed by the negative word não means not anymore or no longer. 

Quando era pequena, tocava piano. Agora já não toco.
When I was young, I used to play the piano. Now, I don’t anymore. 

Special expressions with já 

Many Portuguese expressions and idioms use the word já. 

Já chega

When you want to express anger in European Portuguese, here’s the expression for you. 

Já chega! 
That’s enough!

Já já! 

Faço isso já já! Prometo.
I’ll do that now now! I promise.

Chego já já. 
I’ll get there now now. 

Já já, just like now now (which you don’t hear in every English speaking country, but any South African reading this will know what I mean), does not really mean now. It means in five minutes, in an hour, in five days, whenever I think about it. You know when you don’t really want to commit to doing something, that’s the expression for you! 

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