mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Death by (Portuguese) Conjugation

Learning Chinese has its challenges but conjugating verbs is not one of them. Verbs don’t conjugate. Generally speaking, if you want it to happen in the past you put 了 (le) after the verb and if you want it in the future you insert 要 (yào) before the verb.

Portuguese doen’t have tricky tones or characters but it does have a ridiculous amount of conjugations. See this table for the verb querer (to want):

From conjuçã

This is pretty excessive, but it wouldn’t be so bad if all verbs followed certain rules when conjugating but there are plenty of (and commonly) used verbs that have irregular conjugations. You can always count on me to screw them up; it’s the main reason I opted for graduate-level literature courses over “simpler” language courses at Princeton.

If that’s not tricky enough there are special rules for when the “natural” conjugation should not be used. For example when asked at a café what you’d like to eat you would think to use the present tense: “Eu quero um café.” But it’s not that simple as Portuguese has a concept called the conjugation of courtesy which has the speaker shifting to a conjugation akin to the past, “Eu queria um café” to show deference.