Learn Portuguese Já!
Já is a small, but very useful little word, that you will hear a lot when speaking with Brazilians.
Já = Now, Soon, Already, Have ever…
It’s an adverb of time – that means it adds information to when the action of a verb is happening.
Depending upon how it is used, however, it can have 4 main different meanings:
Já = Now, Immediately
Já vou = I’m going (right) now
Temos que ir já! = We have to go right now!
Venha já aqui! = Come here now!
Já (Sometimes doubled to Já já) = Soon / In a minute
Volto já (or Já volto) = I’ll be back soon
Já falo com você = I’ll speak to you in a minute
Já já te ligo de volta = I’ll call you back in a minute
The difference between 1 and 2 (Now v Very Soon) is pretty subtle. In both cases they could probably be translated as “As soon as I can”.
Já = Already
Eu já vi esse filme = I already saw that film
Ele já veio esta semana = He already came this week
Eles já jogaram capoeira hoje = They already played capoeira today
Primeira aula do evento e já estou cansado = The first class of the event and I’m already tired
Você já cantou na roda? = Did you already sing in the roda?
Fairly straightforward here – works in just the same way as “already” in English.
Já = To have done something…
Things get a little more complicated here, as the way Brazilians express the present perfect tense is very different to how we do in English (or in other romance languages, if Portuguese is not your first).
What is the present perfect tense?
The present perfect tense describes an action that started in the past and continues into the present or a time period which is not yet finished, or for a repeated action that took place at an unspecified period.
In English we use “to have” as an auxiliary verb, along with the past participle of the action:
Simple Past: I went to Brazil in 2015.
Present Perfect: I have been to Brazil several times.
Simple Past: He ate yesterday.
Present Perfect: He has eaten today.
Simple Past: We saw the film last week.
Present Perfect: We have seen the film this week.
Sometimes in English we can also interchange between present perfect and simple past, if the time period of the action was not important:
Simple Past: Did you read this book?
Present Perfect: Have you read this book?
In Portuguese, the present perfect tense does exist, using ter + past participle just as in English, but in practice it is rarely, if ever used.
Instead they combine já + simple past:
Já joguei duas vezes hoje = I have (already) played twice today (Literally: I already played twice today)
Ele já veio esta semana = He has (already) come this week (He already came this week)
You’ll probably most often hear this usage in the form of a question:
Você já foi ao Brasil? = Have you (ever) been to Brazil? (Literally: You already went to Brazil?)
You can answer in the affirmative like so:
Sim, já fui
Já comeu hoje? = Have you eaten today? (Literally: Already ate today?)
Optional affirmative answers:
Sim, já comi
But how would you answer, if you’ve not yet done the thing, but would like to at some point?
Ainda não = Not yet
Ainda não fui ao Brasil = I still haven’t been to Brazil
Ainda não comi hoje = I haven’t eaten yet today
You can also form questions in the negative:
Você ainda não chegou? = You still haven’t arrived?
Você ainda não comprou o livro?
This short lesson was an extract from one of the chapters of our new book “Portuguese for Capoeiristas“.
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