Past using haver or other verb?

Hello Portuguese learners and lovers:

it is possible to express the past using “haver” or another verb, as in the English “I have been”, “I have seen”, etc, which is also possible in Spanish, e.g. “Yo he ido” or “Yo he visto”.

Is this possible in Portuguese?

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Olá, @billt4. Most times, those English/Spanish conjugations would simply correspond to the simple past in Portuguese (pretérito perfeito), with no auxiliary verbs:

  • I have been = Yo he ido = Eu fui
  • I have seen = Yo he visto = Eu vi

Then, in some cases, the English present perfect may indeed correspond to what we’d call pretérito perfeito composto in Portuguese. In that case, the structure is identical, but instead of using haver as an auxiliary verb, we preferably use ter in modern Portuguese:

  • I haven’t had time to look at this. = Não tenho tido tempo para olhar para isto.
  • I have travelled a lot lately. = Eu tenho viajado muito ultimamente.

Usually, this pretérito perfeito composto actually corresponds to the English present perfect continuous, so that’s how I’d recommend looking at it for the most part:

  • We have been arguing a lot. = Nós temos discutido muito.
  • I have been studying every day. = Eu tenho estudado todos os dias.
  • I have been thinking of you. = Eu tenho pensado em ti.
  • I have been trying to improve. = Eu tenho tentado melhorar.

Thanks Joseph.

I should have said, that I am looking for a “cheap” way to discuss the past without learning the conjugations of the preterito.

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Good question, Bill.

Joseph - thanks for the helpful response, as always! I feel like I’ve seen a decent amount of this form expressed with ter but in the past imperfect tense:

  • Eu tinha viajado muito
  • Tu tinhas estado no estrangeiro

Coming from a Spanish speaking background (sorry, I know it’s not the same), I had interpreted that as more of a pretérito perfeito composto as Bill was describing, but it seems that maybe there’s really more of a sense of an action that has passed and is no longer occurring when someone uses “tinha” instead of “tenho”? Maybe called a pretérito imperfeito composto? Is that the case?


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Sorry, @billt4, I don’t think you can get around it :grimacing:

@dwbrace, that tense corresponds to the English past perfect (had + infinitive). In Portuguese, we call it pretérito mais-que-perfeito composto. So, it refers to an action that has occurred in the distant past.