When to use "a" + infinitive?


This might be a very basic question, but I am confused about when to use “a” with infinitives.

For example:

  • The woman wants to leave --> A mulher quer partir (no “a”, as I expected).
  • He wants to learn how to play tennis --> Ele quer aprender a jogar ténis (why is “a” here?)

I thought the last sentence would just be “Ele quer aprender jogar ténis”?

Thanks in advance!


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The verb in the infinitive itself means “to go” to wish " to want ", ir, querer, perguntar .
I want to ask -Eu quero perguntar /to ask/…
I hope I have been useful to you


Hi Lucas

Some verbs in Portuguese have to be followed by a preposition just like some verbs in English have to take a preposition in order to make sense. It is not just ‘a’ but also ‘de’, ‘com’, ‘em’ etc …

If you have a reasonably good bilingual dictionary, it will give examples of how to use the word. For instance, in my dictionary when you look up aprender, it gives the example ‘aprender a ler’ which tells me the normal construction is ‘aprender a + verb’. However the construction for learning a subject would be ‘aprender + noun’.

So for example, ‘Vou aprender Português’ but ‘vou aprender a tocar piano’.

The trick is to learn verbs with any preposition that usually follows it e.g. começar a; pensar em etc

This becomes even more important when the same verb changes meaning slightly or even a lot sometimes depending on the preposition that follows it

e.g. ‘sonhar com + noun’ (to dream about something) and ‘sonhar de + verb’ (to dream of doing something).

You will see also that ‘dream’ is an example of how English uses prepositions with some verbs.

Hope you didn’t mind me jumping in and you found this helpful.



Sorry, @Lukas.Shakesheff, missed this topic before, but @michael.pearce wrote a very helpful reply. Like he said, certain verbs will require prepositions when followed by infinitives, while others do not. Some more examples:

  • Aprender a dançar (To learn to dance)
  • Gostar de cantar (To like singing)
  • Precisar de falar (To need to talk)
  • Optar por ficar (To opt to stay)
    (note: we don’t say “sonhar de + verb”, but we can say “sonho de + verb” - e.g. o sonho de ser feliz [the dream of being happy])