Hello everybody! I would like to invite you to focus on some simple expressions you can use in order to show an action or situation that occurs in the past, present and future. The Portuguese language, as the majority of Western languages, is strongly structured around the various forms of the verb (the tenses).


But the tenses alone can't tell us when exactly an action happened. That's why particular words and expressions are often used. Understanding these time adverbials in Portuguese can help you to avoid confusion and be more specific when talking about plans, appointments, travel arrangements, etc.


1. Hoje, Ontem, Amanhã, Anteontem, Depois de amanhã


Hoje means today, the present day. Ontem means yesterday, the day before today. Amanhã means tomorrow, the day after today. Anteontem or antontem means the day before yesterday and has the same meaning as two days ago. Depois de amanhã means the day after tomorrow. Here are some examples of usage:


  • Quero ir embora hoje. I want to leave today.
  • Falei com ele ontem. I spoke to him yesterday.
  • Amanhã eu falarei com ele. Tomorrow I will talk to him.
  • Comi muito anteontem. I ate so much the day before yesterday.
  • Ana chegará depois de amanhã. Ana will arrive the day after tomorrow.


An interesting point about this group of terms is that sometimes they can be used as the subject of the sentence:


  • Hoje e amanhã serão dias terríveis. Today and tomorrow will be terrible days.


The position of these terms can come at the beginning or at the end of the phrase; however, they are more common at the end.


  • Amanhã eu falarei com ele. Tomorrow I will talk to him.
  • Falarei com ele amanhã. I will talk to him tomorrow


2. De manhã, À tarde, À noite, De dia, De tarde, De noite


Note that time adverbials in Portuguese like hoje, ontem and amanhã refer to a specific day but at any specific time of that day. So they can be combined with other expressions. The common expressions for these combinations are de manhã (in the morning), à tarde (in the afternoon), à noite (at night). Here are some examples of usage:


  • Ontem de manhã estive no médico. Yesterday morning I was at the doctor.
  • Amanhã à tarde vamos ao shopping. Tomorrow afternoon we will go to the shopping mall.
  • Tenho uma festa hoje à noite. I have a party tonight.


These expressions do not necessarily need the combination, but if you only say, à tarde vamos ao shopping, the idea here is that you are going to the shopping mall today in the afternoon. So it's helpful to use the other adverbs in order to be more specific.


Other popular expressions are de dia (during the day), de tarde (during the afternoon) and de noite (during the night). Examples:


  • Gosto de caminhar pelo parque de dia. I like to walk around the park during the day.
  • De noite não consegui dormir. During the night I could not sleep.
  • Fomos ao cinema de tarde. We went to the movie during the afternoon.


An interesting thing about these expressions is that they can be used to highlight different points in the same situation. For example, if you want to say that you go out every day at night, you can use à noite, which specifies the moment of the day: Todos os dias à noite, eu saio de casa. Every day at night I go out. But if you want to say that when you go out it's already night, you use the expression de noite like this: Todos os dias, eu saio de casa de noite. Every day I go out during the night / when it is already night.



3. Cedo, Tarde


De manhã and à tarde should not be confused with cedo and tarde. Cedo means early and tarde means late (do not confuse with the other tarde, which means the period of the day called afternoon). They are directly linked to the verbal process, like in the following examples:


  • Cláudio dorme cedo. Cláudio sleeps early.
  • O aluno chegou tarde. The student came late.


However, they also don't specify any specific time and so can be used with another time expression. For example:


  • O professor chegou cedo hoje. The teacher came early today.
  • O professor chegou hoje cedo. The teacher came today earlier.


Here the position makes a difference. When you say O professor chegou cedo hoje, the term cedo refers to the verb chegar. In the phrase O professor chegou hoje cedo, the term cedo refers to the noun hoje.


Also, the terms cedo and tarde can be intensified:


  • Maria chegou hoje bem tarde. Mary came really late today.
  • Maria chegou hoje muito tarde. Mary came very late today.
  • Maria chegou hoje cedo demais. Mary came too early today.
  • Maria chegou hoje cedinho. Mary came very early today.


4. Esta semana, Semana passada, Semana que vem, Próxima semana


Other common expressions are about weeks. Esta semana means this week. Semana passada means last week. Semana que vem and próxima semana both mean next week.


These combinations can also be used with mês (month), semestre (semester), ano (year), etc. Also, many combinations can be made using the articles a/o (the) and the preposition em (in). Here are some examples of usage:


  • Este ano será muito bom. This year will be very good.
  • No mês passado, todos vieram jantar aqui em casa. Last month all of them came to dinner at my house.
  • Vou trabalhar mais na próxima semana. I will work more next week.


Hopefully, this brief article has helped you better understand time adverbials in Portuguese!


Image Sources


Hero image by Dafne Cholet (CC BY 2.0)