Accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese

On today's podcast, you'll learn some accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese

Learn a few accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese

Hello and welcome to our Portuguese Basic Tips 58 (in English) called accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese

On today’s podcast, we are going to speak about accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese. As we’ve spoken last episode, pronominal verbs are verbs used with a pronoun that complements this verb.

Click on the link and visit our previous episode, about essential pronominal verbs in Portuguese

There are a few verbs that we necessarily need to use accompanied by a pronoun. They are called “essential pronominal verbs”. On the other hand, we also have verbs that we use accompanied or not by a pronoun. They are called accidental pronominal verbs in Portuguese.  The difference here is that if you choose to use them, if you decide to use a pronominal verb in this case, you’ll change the meaning of the sentence.

For instance:

When you are using an accidental pronominal verb you can say: Eu me envolvi em uma confusão. (I got into a big confusion); but you can also say “Eu envolvi a criança com um cobertor” (I wrapped the girl with a blanket)

Have you noticed that in this second example I didn’t use the pronoun “me”? This completely changes the meaning of the sentence.

We also have some cases in which the use of the pronoun does not affect the meaning of the sentence pretty much; instead you’ll need to modify its structure.

For instance, we could say “eu me lavei quando cheguei em casa” (this is a way of saying I took a shower when I got home); but we could also say “eu lavei as roupas” (I washed the clothes).

To sum up, we have essential pronominal verbs and they can only be used accompanied by a pronoun; on the other hand, we have accidental pronominal verbs. They are verbs that sometimes are used accompanied by a pronoun.

Let’s practice it a little bit and see the main accidental pronominal verbs.

Debater and debater-se

When you use the verb debater with no pronouns, it means that you are discussing something with someone.

When you use the verb “debater-se” (accompanied by the reflexive pronoun), it means you are kind of “struggling”.

For instance:

Eu debati o assunto com ela ( I discussed the matter with her).

Ele se debateu no chão (He struggled on the floor.)


(Present tense)

Accidental Pronominal verbs in Portuguese
Eu debato (me) I discuss / struggle
Tu debates (te) You discuss / struggle
Ele debate (se) He discusses / struggles
Nós debatemos (nos) We discuss / struggle
Vós debateis (vos) You discuss / struggle
Eles debatem (se) They discuss / struggle

Enganar / Enganar-se

You can also use the verb “enganar” as a pronominal one.

For instance:

You could say “Eu me enganei sobre isso” (meaning I was wrong about it); but you could also say something as “Eu enganei meu chefe sobre a doença” (meaning I lied to my boss about the illness). In other words “enganar-se” means that someone is wrong about something. When you simply use “enganar” it means that someone is lying about something.


(Present tense)

Accidental Pronominal verbs in Portuguese
Eu engano (me) I lie /  make a mistake
Tu enganas (te) You lie /you make a mistake
Ele engana (se) He lies / he makes a mistake
Nós enganamos (nos) We lie / make a mistake
Vós enganais (vos) You lie / make a mistake
Eles enganam (se) They lie /make a mistake

Lembrar / Lembrar-se

Let’s finish this episode by talking about the verb “lembrar” (to remember). Everything I say here will be equivalent to the verb “esquecer” (to forget), right?

They are verbs that can practically mean the same whether if you use or not a pronoun. For instance, you could say “Eu lembro aquele dia” or “eu me lembro daquele dia”. Both sentences mean “I remember that day”.  The point here is that if you decide to use “me” you must complete the sentence followed by a preposition.

See: Eu me lembro disso (I remember that) or Eu lembro isso.

Sometimes, in Brazil, you’ll see people speaking “Eu lembro disso”. That’s grammatically wrong, but it’s preety common here. Plus: there are a few people who say that semantically we have differences between the two sentences, but I don’t think we should talk about it here. They are too much specific in those cases and I don’t think it’s worth “nos debatermos” on it. So let’s practice it:

Lembrar /Lembrar-se

(Present tense)

Accidental Pronominal verbs in Portuguese
Eu lembro (me lembro de) I remember
Tu lembras (te lembras de) You remember
Ele lembra (se lembra de) He/She remembers
Nós lembramos (nos lembramos de) We remember
Vós lembrais (vos lembrais de) You remember
Eles lembram (se lembram de) They remember

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Click on the link to visit this website about pronominal verbs in Portuguese

That’s enough for today!

See you next time.


Marcos Sales

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