Changing verb tense (or not) when using há:

I’m confused as to why sometimes, when using “há”, past tense is implied – such as in the sentence “Há muito tempo que não falo com os meus primos” – falo is present tense, whereas in the sentence “O avião aterrou há dois minutos.” – Past tense is not implied, rather aterrou is used to state past tense, (as opposed to aterra).

It’s not per se that determines this, especially since, as you can tell, it’s used in a fixed way from sentence to sentence. It has much more to do with the uses of each verb tense than with the use of . You have to consider the overall context and what is being conveyed. If in a given context, it makes sense to use the present or past tense, that’s what will happen :slight_smile:

  • Há muito tempo que não falo com os meus primos → Usually, we use the present tense when the situation is still ongoing at the present time, i.e. the person still hasn’t met/talked to their cousins again (or is only just about to). If we said há muito tempo que não falava com os meus primos, this would indicate that they have already spoken again, so the situation is firmly in the past.

  • O avião aterrou há dois minutos → The simple past is the default choice for a concrete action happening in a single point in time in the past. It’s the only applicable tense in this context.

Thanks Joseph, that helps to explain it, though I’m sure it will take a while before this becomes intuitive for me, fortunately most of my Portuguese friends are patient with my rather slow learning curve.

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Joseph as always has given a brilliant explanation. I wish I had had such an explanation when first learning the uses of ‘há’. What I am grappling with now is how some ideas are expressed in the past where in English it would be more natural to use the present tense and vice-versa. This simply comes down to the logic of the two languages rather than any given rule. To begin to appreciate this at an early stage will help immensely as you become more advanced.
However, in the case of the use of ‘há’ in the contexts you have queried, we can form a rule. It helps to think simply that ‘há’ when it means ‘for a period of time’ always requires the present tense; and when ´há’ means ‘ago’ it takes the past tense.
So we might translate your first example as “I haven’t spoken to my cousins FOR a long time” (In your actual example, the Portuguese has inverted the sentence to stress the idea of it being a long time so a better translation would be “it has be some time since I have spoken to my cousins” however the concept of ‘FOR a period time’ is still implied and as Joseph pointed out because you still haven’t spoken to them, the condition still applies to the present moment and therefore requires the present tense.
In your second example, ‘há’ here can been simply translated as ‘ago’ The plane landed two minutes ago. The action was completed in the past so requires the past tense.
So, to recap, try to keep in mind that ‘há’ meaing ‘for’ requires present tense; and ‘há’ meaning ‘ago’ requires past tense, and eventually it will become more second nature to automatically use the appropriate tense.

Thank you for taking the time to provide further clarification, between you and Joseph I now feel confident that I can start incorporating this information and beginning to intuitively know the proper verb tense. As you mentioned, appreciating the logic of the language, and accepting it, without the need for it to necessarily conform to the logic of English is an important barrier to overcome – and one I’m working on – albeit slowly!
My thanks to you both.