We need to talk about ‘TER’

This verb of the second conjugation (-er stem) mainly expresses the idea of possession, but there is more:

  • saying ages;
  • the notion of existence (just like ‘há’ here);
  • declaring need or obligation;
  • regular activity in the present.


‘Ter’ is irregular, its conjugation in the present tense is like below.

Eu tenho
Tu tens
Você tem
Ele/Ela tem
Nós temos
Eles têm
Vocês têm
The difference between third person singular and third person plural is simply the accent. Some other verbs follow this pattern: vir (vem/vêm), conter (contém, contêm)…


Concrete nouns

If what you have is material and concrete, the basic structure is

[person] [ter] [object]

Eu tenho um carro.

I have a car.

Eu tenho uma casa.

I have a house.

Eu tenho comida.

I have food. 

(Notice the absence of articles as food in uncountable.)

You can learn about the articles here.

Abstract nouns

If what you have is not an object, but a need or circumstance, the structure still the same.

Eu tenho fome.

I am hungry.

Eu tenho frio.

I am cold.

Eu tenho pressa.

I am in a hurry.

Eu tenho medo.

I am afraid.

Here is some vocabulary to practice with: coragem, tempo, calor, paciência.


The most common structures to ask one’s age are:

Qual é a sua idade?

What is your age?

Quantos anos você tem?

How many years do you have?

Of course, you should always conjugate the verb:

Quantos anos ela tem?

Quantos anos eles têm?

And you can answer like this:

[person] [ter] [number] [ano(s)]

Eu tenho vinte e sete anos.

I am twenty-seven years old.

Ela tem doze anos.

She is twelve years old.

Nós temos cem anos.

We are a hundred years old.

Maybe you are asking the age of a baby or an animal and they haven’t completed one year yet. In this case, you can use month instead.

Quantos meses ela tem?

Ela tem três meses.

Ela tem um mês.

Remember we refer to animals by ‘ele’ and ‘ela’, he and she.

Learn and practice the numbers with my list on quizlet!

There is/are

‘Ter’ can also mean there is/are in a sentence in spoken Portuguese. Yet, when writing, always prefer ‘há’ instead of ‘ter’ when equivalent to exist.

In this case, ‘ter’ maintains its 3rd person singular conjugation.

Tem um carro na garagem.

There is a car in the garage.

Tem pessoas na casa.

There are people in the house.

Não tem livros na estante.

There is no books on the shelf.

Não tem água na geladeira.

There is no water in the fridge.

Reminder: ‘ter’ meaning to exist is only acceptable in spoken Portuguese!

Need or obligation

‘Ter de’ contains the same logic as the modal verb ‘have to’.

[person] [ter de] [verb infinitive]

Eu tenho de comer.

I have to eat.

Ela tem de ir.

She has to go.

Vocês têm de entender.

You have to understand.

Regular activity

If you want to talk about something you have been doing lately.

[person] [ter] [verb past partiple]

Eu tenho estudado idiomas.

I have been studying languages.

Ela tem comido bem.

She has been eating well.

Eles têm trabalhado muito.

They have been working a lot.

Você tem aprendido português.

You have been learning Portuguese.

If you look up a verb in the dictionary, it will have one of the 3 stems: -ar, -er, -ir. To get to the past participle form, remove them and add -ado or -ido instead.

Comprarado -> Comprado

To buy – Bought

Venderido -> Vendido

To sell – Sold

Decidirido -> Decidido

To decide – decided.

Of course, there are exceptions! But that is the rule for the majority of verbs.

Consulting a dictionary, try to write down your sentences about what you have been doing lately. 


The end! This one is not so easy but with a little practice, you can master it.

Here is a presentation about ‘Há’ and ‘Ter’

I hope you learned a lot and come back for more!

See you.

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