Pop Quiz

I took a Portuguese placement exam recently, and it was full of multiple choice questions like this:

Eu estou ______ português.

a) estudo
b) estudar
c) estudando
d) estuda

Puta, please. As long as we are going to maintain the fiction of evaluating language ability with a multiple choice test, perhaps we could have a little challenge, maybe?

Fine. So I made my own question based on a paper I was writing. Try this:

É possível que o significado da música já ____________ ao longo dos anos.

“It’s possible that the meaning of the song has changed over the years.”

a) mudou

b) mudasse

c) tem mudado

d) tenha mudado

e) tivesse mudado


mudou is wrong because the É possivel que triggers the subjunctive (though perhaps a good number of Brazilians would ignore that in everyday speech).

tem mudado is wrong for the same reason — we need the subjunctive.

tivesse mudado is the subjunctive version of tinha mudado, meaning “had changed”, so that’s out.

So we need a subjunctive past tense. That leaves two options, mudasse (imperfect) and tenha mudado (present perfect). I hate these two tenses and often get it wrong when it comes to choosing between them.

In this case, the emphasis is on the present state of the song having changed, so the present perfect tenha mudado is the way to go. I do think it’s weird that tem mudado implies “has been changing” (thus different from the parallel construction in both English and Spanish) while the subjunctive version tenha mudado means “has changed”, but whatever, it’s Portuguese, it doesn’t have to make any sense.

The parallel “has changed” in the indicative would use the preterite, já mudou, but the subjunctive doesn’t have a preterit, so I guess you have to make do with the present perfect, except wait a minute, people say things like Acho que ele foi embora all the time with the indicative preterit and it’s fine, so maybe you shouldn’t bother with the subjunctive at all and just order another caipifruta (I recommend maracujá).

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3 Responses to Pop Quiz

  1. Chris says:

    Sorry to be a bore but considering you’re obviously into language it might be a good idea to get your use of English correct: You use the word “practicing” throughout your site, that should be “practising” practice is the noun, practise is the verb.

    Great site, I will be visiting regularly!


    • Lauren says:

      You’re correct as far as British English usage, but in American English ‘practice’ is acceptable as a verb as well and is the most common spelling.

  2. Alex says:

    Chris don’t be lame- awesome post Lauren!

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