PLP 012 – Beginners - Saying when something happens

Topic: Using time propositions to say when something happens

Olá everybody!

This beginners episode is an action formula and we will learn how to say when an action takes place.

In this episode you learn:

  • How to say when a frequent action takes place.

  • How to ask when a frequent action takes place.

  • Using time prepositions: a and contractions (à, às, ao).

Listen to the episode

Portuguese Lab Podcast - European Portuguese - 12 - When events happen.png


Let's start by saying:

I eat at one o'clock.

I eat: eu como

one o'clock: uma hora

You need to connect these two elements, I eat and one o'clock, with a preposition. A preposition is a word that connects words in a sentence. The one you use for the time is a (about), it is a simple letter, the letter a. Remember the first letter of the Portuguese alphabet is a (ah!)? Notice the difference? This preposition you say a (about).

To use this as a connector to the element one o'clock, uma hora, you need another element, the definite article for one o'clock. This would be the word the. This word in Portuguese can either be feminine (a), for feminine nouns or masculine (o) for masculine nouns. Hora (hour) is feminine, so you will use the article a (about).

Wait, didn't I say a was the preposition? Yes, and it looks exactly like the feminine definite article.So, to say I eat at the one o'clock, you have two a's in a row. What you'll do is make a contraction of these two a's into a single one with a graphic accent (that is a short line on top of the letter). This accent will transform the sound a (about) to à (ah!).

Confused? Don't worry, I will give some examples now.

  • Eu como à uma hora.

  • I eat at one o'clock.

Another example:

  • Eu acordo às seis horas.

  • I wake up at six o'clock.

If you heard right, I said às and not à. Six o'clock is plural, it's more than one hour. So, the feminine definite article (the), a, transforms into a plural definite article, as. When you contract the preposition a, with the article as, you have às.

Let's continue with some examples:

  • Eu janto às oito da noite.

  • I eat dinner at eight o'clock at night.

  • Eu jogo ténis às três da tarde.

  • I play tennis at three o´clock in the afternoon.

  • Eu aprendo Português às dez da manhã.

  • I learn Portuguese at ten o'clock in the morning.

Now, how to ask the question. Remember how to ask what's the time?

Que horas são?

To ask, at what time you do something, you need to include the preposition, a, in the question:

  • A que horas?

  • At what time?

Now add the verb to the question.

Let's use the verb jantar (to have dinner) conjugated in the second person singular (tu):

  • A que horas jantas?

  • At what time do you have dinner?

Let's use the verb acordar (to wake up) also conjugated in the second person singular (tu):

  • A que horas acordas?

  • At what time do you wake up?

Now with the verb jogar (to play).

  • A que horas jogas ténis?

  • At what time do you play tennis?

Now with the verb aprender (to learn)

  • A que horas aprendes Português?

  • At what time do you learn Portuguese?

Note that you can omit the personal pronoun (tu) in the question. The verb conjugation is clear as to whom you are talking to.

Watch the video


The same happens in the answer. For example, the answer to the last question,

  • A que horas aprendes Português?

  • Eu aprendo português às dez da manhã. or

  • Aprendo português às dez da manhã. or, even simpler

  • Às dez da manhã.

Instead of asking, at what time, a que horas, you can also ask, when?

In this case you only need to substitute, a que horas, with the word, when, quando.

Let's do the previous examples with this option:

  • Quando acordas?

  • Quando jantas?

  • Quando jogas ténis?

  • Quando aprendes português?

The difference is that you might have a more generic answer that does not include the exact time (hour).

The answer could simply be:

  • Eu aprendo português de manhã.

  • I learn Portuguese in the morning.

What if you want to know the day of the week this activity happens? If you don't know the days of the week, listen to episode 7.

Let's hear an example:

Quando aprendes Português?

  • Eu aprendo Português à Segunda-feira de manhã.

  • I learn Portuguese on Mondays in the morning.

So, you use the same preposition as the one used for the hours, à. In this case it's used in singular, because Monday, Tuesday, and so on, are singular nouns.

  • Quando jogas ténis?

  • When do you play tennis?

  • Eu jogo ténis à Sexta-feira às três da tarde.

  • I play tennis on Fridays at three o'clock in the afternoon.

In this example I used the day of the week, together with the time. Each of these elements needs to have its proper preposition: à sexta-feira às três.

One final example:

  • Quando tocas guitarra?

  • When do you play the guitar?

  • Eu toco guitarra ao fim-de-semana.

  • I play the guitar on the weekends.

Like in the previous examples we use here the preposition a contracted with the definite article. But in this case the definite article is masculine (o), because weekend, fim-de-semana, is a masculine noun. When you contract the preposition a with the masculine definite article o, you have ao.

Another example:

  • Eu almoço ao meio-dia.

  • I have lunch at noon.

Meio-dia (midday) is also a masculine noun.

It's important to mention that these examples refer to an activity that happens frequently at that particular time. It does not refer to a single activity, that will only take place next Friday, for example. For this we would need a different preposition!


You might also like


Be an insider!