O uso do conjuntivo

Olá, todos!

Joseph has asked me to post my (originally private) message to the public forum for folks who might be struggling with similar (and/or the very same) issues I raised:

Olá, Joseph -

First, I just want to reiterate my immense gratitude for all of your masterful answers and feedback! You are seriously a ROCKSTAR.

There are a couple of things I’ve been dying to get clarification on for a long time now.
If you don’t mind, and have the time, can you please help me out?

1) The use of Conjuntivo Imperfeito - we use the Indicativo Imperfeito to accompany it, right?
I ask because I’ve seen both of these:
“Se tivesse tido tempo, eu gostaria de visitar-lhes”
“Se tivesse tido tempo, eu gostava de visitar-lhes”
I’m sorry if that’s not a good example - but I think you know what I mean. Gostava vs. gostaria when it is preceded by the Conjuntivo Imperfeito.

2) The use of Conjuntivo Presente:
a) Do we always use it when we express our emotions?
Ex: “Não tens medo que os seus amigos te VEJAM a entrar na minha casa?”
b) When commanding people to do something - we use Conjuntivo Presente to be more formal (ex: “ Seja simpático!”) and use Imperativo (ex: “ simpático!”) when talking to someone less formally - does that sound right?

Okay, I can keep typing but I don’t want to come off as rambling and/or overwhelm you! I really, really appreciate any feedback you can provide. :smiley:

Obrigadíssimo pelo seu apoio incrível,


I’m sorry, @tmgarcia86, I promised you an answer much sooner than this!

You’re making it extra complicated, because that’s actually the Pretérito Mais-que-Perfeito Composto do Conjuntivo (past perfect subjunctive) :slight_smile: The actual Imperfeito would be something simpler, like “Se tivesse tempo…”.

I would say that the conditional would be the ideal match for it. But because we often use the imperfect as if it also were a conditional tense, both options end up being applicable.

  • Se tivesse tempo, eu gostaria de visitá-los. (True conditional tense)
  • Se tivesse tempo, eu gostava de visitá-los. (Imperfeito as an alternative conditional form)

We can express emotions in any mood or tense. What distinguishes the subjunctive is that it’s often linked to something that is only hypotethical or uncertain, as well as to the expression of a wish or request, among others. Apart from this, the way you word things can force verbs into certain tenses. So, the subjunctive happens when there’s a lucky match between your intention (expressing a desire, a doubt, a possibility…) and your delivery (specific sentence structures).

That’s what you have in the example you gave, where a hypothetical scenario is being described and it’s written in a way that makes the subjunctive mandatory - due to the presence of the conjunction que, a common marker of the subjunctive.

The sentence could just as well be: “Não tens medo de os teus amigos te verem a entrar na minha casa?”. And now, instead of the subjunctive, you have the personal infinitive (please, don’t ask :sweat_smile: ).

With que, you have no choice but to say “Não tens medo que os teus amigos te vejam a entrar na minha casa?”. (present subjunctive)

Other examples:

  • Eu espero que tu sejas feliz. (I hope you’re happy) - Present subjunctive
  • Ele não quis que ela soubesse. (He didn’t want her to know) - Imperfect subjunctive

Yes, you can think of it that way!

Some more context on this:
Commands are given with the imperative mood. The issue is that the real, true, 100% imperative only has 2 forms: second-person singular and second-person plural. This does makes sense, because a direct order can only be given in the second person.

To fill all the gaps in the other persons, we use the present subjunctive. This includes the third-person singular conjugation, which is what we use nowadays for the formal you (você). So, we have:

  • (Tu) simpático! (Imperative)
  • (Você) Seja simpático! (Subjunctive as a de facto imperative)
  • (Vós) Sede simpáticos! (Imperative - archaic)
  • (Vocês) Sejam simpáticos! (Subjunctive as a de facto imperative)

We also need the present subjunctive for negative imperative sentences in any person. The true imperative is only afirmative.

  • (Tu) Não sejas simpático! (Subjunctive)
  • (Você) Não seja simpático! (Subjunctive)
  • (Vós) Não sejais simpáticos! (Subjunctive - archaic)
  • (Vocês) Não sejam simpáticos! (Subjunctive)

No worries, @Joseph! I really appreciate your incredibly thorough and fulfilling response. :slight_smile: You’ve clarified things a great deal for me - thank you so much! And now that you mentioned it, I am reminded how much I need to explore the personal infinitive, next… :sweat_smile: Thanks, again!

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