Haver: a handy Portuguese verb explained via David Carreira and some fado blasts from the past

What’s your favourite song on the romance language weekend soundtrack? Mine is David Carreira’s Haverá Sempre Uma Música. So let’s look at it from a linguistic point of view, as the title uses one of the most useful verbs in Portuguese, haver. First up though, here is a clip of the song with the lyrics – see if you can figure out what it is all about. David’s accent is very European Portuguese, not Brazilian, by the way.

Some words to help you understand what the song is about:

  • Mesmo que … even if
  • O tempo passe … time passes
  • O mundo pare … the world stops
  • Nossos tatuagens se apaguem … our tattoos fade (or disappear)
  • E a vida nos separe … and life separates us
  • E que estejas nos braços doutro amor … and that you are in the arms of another love
  • Haverá sempre uma música … there will always be a song
  • Haverá sempre um filme, uma hora … there will always be a film, an hour
  • Um pormenor … a detail *
  • Para (or P’ra for short) me fazer lembrar de ti … to make me remember (i.e. remind me of) you
  • P’ra me fazer lembrar assim … to remind me so

* The videoclip doesn’t include this word, but sites that give all the lyrics (letras) to the song, such as this one, include it in the second part of the chorus instead of um filme, uma hora

Meaning and usage of haver

Although haver means to have, possess or own; or to exist (among other meanings), it is most commonly used in the third person singular, present tense, , meaning there is or there are.

  • há quartos para alugar? – are there any rooms to let?
  • há altos e baixos na vida – there are ups and downs in life
  • há muito gente aqui – there are many people here

Romance language equivalents

In this way it is similar to

  • il y a in French
  • hay in Spanish
  • c’è in Italian

Usage in other tenses

As we have seen from the song, it can be used in the future:

  • haverá dança? – Will there be dancing? 

Or in the past imperfect

  • havia ali uma janela – there used to be a window there.

 Usage in expressions of time

can also mean ago or for in relation to time.

  • Há quanto tempo está em Lisboa? How long have you been in Lisbon? (Literally, There is how much time you are in Lisbon? Portuguese uses the present tense here, whereas English uses the present perfect.)
  • há muito, muito tempo – long, long ago
  • há pouco tempo – lately, a short while ago
  • há anos – years ago
  • o avião partiu há cinco minutos – the plane left five minutes ago

Here, for example, is a pictorial video from YouTube showing the Beira Rio area of Porto and Vila Nova de Guia “há muito anos atrás” (many years ago/back). On the clip you will hear two of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, Dulce Pontos (who has a magnificent and formidable voice) singing Canção De Mar (Song of the Sea), and Amália Rodrigues singing Povo Que Lavas No Rio (People Who Wash In The River).

There are other uses of haver but that is enough for now, don’t you think?

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