Conditionals in Different Languages

Notes for Portuguese speaking learners of English and English learners of Portuguese

There are many similarities in form and use between conditionals in Portuguese and English.

Here are some differences:

  • Portuguese uses the future subjunctive for first conditionals.

Se tiver boas notas, ficarei muito contente. (=If I get good marks I’ll be very happy.)

  • Portuguese often uses the imperfect instead of the past simple for second conditionals.

Se exportava a tabela, precisaria de mais dados. (= If you exported the table, it would require more data.)

  • Portuguese uses the imperfect subjunctive in hypothetical conditionals.

Se tivesse boas notas, ficaria muito contente. (=If I got good marks I would be very happy.)

  • Portuguese uses the imperfect subjunctive plus a past participle in third conditionals.

Se tivesse contextualisado o argumento teria sido mais útil.  (=If you had contextualised the argument it would have been more useful.)


This information was compiled by Julia Miller but is closely based on Willis, R.C. (1971). An essential course in modern Portuguese. Nelson: Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, UK.