Per suggstion of @joelrendall , I’m posting in small sections the story I’ve been writing to help me learn portuguese grammar and to help with vocabulary & verb conjugations. My motivation is that putting this out there will allow other to correct my mistakes and we can all learn from them.
After I make my millions in movie rights (snort), I’ll make sure to credit you-all with co-authorship
I’ll create separate posts for each section, a few sentences at a time, to allow the corrections & learnings to stay focused on just that section. Each post will be titled 'Era uma noite escura e tempestuoso…" For those who have never seen it, for a good laugh I recommend https://www.bulwer-lytton.com/ to help understand the title of the post.
So brave, @stephencanthony, thanks for starting this series of posts. Before anything else, I’d correct the story title! Since noite is a feminine noun, all the adjectives that describe it need to be of the same gender. So, it should be “Era uma noite escura e tempestuosa…”
Onto the story…:
No meio da noite (meia is incorrect here) -> To me, this sounds more like Brazilian Portuguese than European PT, which is why I changed it to A meio. In Portugal, when we say no meio, we most often mean that we’re physically in the middle of something or in between things. We prefer to use a meio when we’re talking about being halfway through an action, process, period of time, etc (note that a meio can also be used just like no meio - it just happens to have this extra layer).
Quem chama-lhe … quando dormira-lhe? -> Clitic pronouns! I’d say that they’re pretty advanced. You actually nailed it the first time (chama-lhe), in terms of choosing the right pronoun. But in questions, these pronouns usually come before the verb, not after. Also, since the story is set in the past, the past imperfect is the usual tense of choice when you’re indirectly describing a character’s thought process (or the reader’s).
The second time around, the pronoun wasn’t well chosen. In fact, you shouldn’t use any pronouns at all with the verb dormir, because in this context, just like in English, it is intransitive, meaning that it doesn’t take any objects. And again, the past imperfect would be the more appropriate tense to use, hence my correction.
— Onde estava o telemóvel? , resmungou Estevão. -> Here, my correction is more about storytelling than grammar If this is a dialogue (well, monologue) expressing his real-time thoughts, it should be in the present tense, not in any of the past tenses. Also, in Portugal, the standard editorial choice is to open and close dialogue with dashes, not commas. You started well, but then a comma sneaked in at the end, haha. This is absolutely not a rule, I’m just showing you the usual choice. Writers can take all sorts of liberties (I suggest you read José Saramago as an example of atypical dialogue writing).
ao outro lado do quarto - Ao suggests movement. You could say “Ele foi ao outro lado do quarto”, but never “Ele estava ao outro lado do quarto”. Since the phone isn’t going anywhere, no is the right word to use. This is a contraction of em + o, for those who don’t know/remember. More on “Em” here: https://www.practiceportuguese.com/learning-note/the-preposition-em/ . We also say “estava do outro lado do quarto”. Don’t ask me to explain why, it’s just one of those things!
De nada! But there’s nothing to fix here, it’s perfect With the Acordo Ortográfico, we are now supposed to spell exatamente, but Acordo’s changes are not something I’d truly correct, just point out, since many people still choose to follow the old rules.
The imperfect is mainly used to describe past actions when they’re habitual actions or when they would be in the past continuous in English. It’s also commonly used when describing the attributes of someone/something, and the preferred tense to use with certain verbs, such as ser, estar or sentir. Some examples:
O João deitava-se sempre muito cedo. (João always went to bed very early) - Habitual action.
Sara conversava com Pedro quando ouviu o trovão. (Sara was talking to Pedro when she heard the thunder) - Past continuous. Note that, in literary writing, writers often avoid using definite articles before people’s names. Same for journalists, for example.
Luís entrou na casa. Ela era fria e escura. (Luís entered the house. It was cold and dark) - Both a description and a verb that asks for the past imperfect.
Yes to the first, kind of to the second question. The pronoun doesn’t have to precede the verb in every question, just when the question contains an interrogative pronoun (que, quem, quê, quando…).
A tua namorada deu-te um presente? (Did you girlfriend give you a gift?) - A question, but without any interrogative pronouns.
Quem é que te deu um presente? (Who gave you a gift?) - A question with an interrogative pronoun.
Yes - that’s it. As you can see, practice is needed!
This one confuses me - I was trying to say ‘he got up and walked to the other side of the room’. The use of foi (‘went’) as opposed to andou (walked) is where I’m confused. I can see how either of the phrasings make sense; ‘he walked’ or ‘he went’. I’m no author/writer, so is there a common usage that I missed?
I see the gender alignment - makes sense. And, I now see that the phone ringing is not a permanent state of being; so the use of Estar is warranted.
To me, it does sound better if you use “foi” rather than “andou”, and it’s a common usage thing, I suppose, but I can look into it more in depth. If you still prefer to clearly indicate how he went to the other side, “caminhou” is a nicer alternative verb to use in creative writing, I’d say (it’s a synonym of “andou”).
You (understandably) have some trouble with clitic pronouns, so I’ll focus a bit more on that now.
Atendeu-o, mas antes de poder falar… --> Good job here. And why is that? Because here, the sentence has an object. We can ask “What did he pick up?” and we’ll find it: the phone. It’s a direct object, so we replace it with the direct object pronoun -o.
Now, let’s say that instead of picking up the phone himself, he gave it to someone else, such as his roommate. The sentence could look like this: “Ele deu o telemóvel ao colega de quarto.” Here, we still have a direct object (What did he give?), but we also have an indirect object (Who did he give it to?): the roommate. In this case, we could replace it by an indirect object pronoun and end up with this: “Ele deu-lhe o telemóvel.” You could even go nuts and replace all of it at once with a direct+indirect object pronoun contraction: “Ele deu-lho”.
On the other hand, you can’t use object pronouns when there is no object. That is the case here:
— Preciso de dormir — resmungou. --> There is no object to replace, so no object pronoun should be used. All you have is a subject, ele (he), which is implied here, but could also be added explicitly: “ele resmungou” or “resmungou ele”.
Finally, there are situations where the object is the subject itself. This is when verbs are used reflexively. It’s not always obvious which verbs can be reflexive and in which contexts, but you do have one case here:
Então o telemóvel desligou-se. - Here, you use the third-person reflexive pronoun -se. It’s as if you were saying that the phone turned itself off.
An extra note, unrelated to this: “direcções” is an older spelling, while “direções” is the current spelling, under our recently implemented Acordo Ortográfico.
It is interesting to follow this intense grammar discussion here. Unfortunately for us beginners, it is pretty deep. If you can, it is much appreciated if all the sentences would be translated to English. I am not far enough along to be able to WRITE my comments in Portuguese. I can translate a lot, but sometimes the CONTEXT is completely lost. What the words SAY and what they MEAN are often miles apart! With a translation I can better determine how a word is USED! Obrigado.