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How To Use “Há” or “A” Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Grammar

Hello there!

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If you’ve been studying Portuguese for some time you may have noticed that we have a lot of homophones – those words that sound the same but are written somewhat differently (homo = same; phono = sound).

As these words are confusing, many people don’t get them write when they write them. Such is the case of “há” and “a”. They sound exactly the same, buy are used in two different situations.

, when are are talking about time, means “for”. It indicates that an action started in the past and still continues into the present. Remember: há always relates to something that started in the past.

Some examples:

Estou estudando meia hora. – I’ve been studying for half an hour.
Ele é médico dez anos. – He’s been a doctor for ten years.
Não viajo muito tempo. – I haven’t traveled for a long time.

When you want to ask questions, use “há quanto tempo” (how long):

Há quanto tempo você está estudando? – How long have you been studying?
Há quanto tempo ele é médico? – How long has he been a doctor?
Há quanto tempo você não viaja? – How long haven’t you traveled?

We can replace “há” by “faz” in the sentences above.

Estou estudando faz meia hora. – I’ve been studying for half an hour.
Ele é médico faz dez anos. – He’s been a doctor for ten years.
Não viajo faz muito tempo. – I haven’t traveled for a long time.

In the question form, we add “que”:

Faz quanto tempo que você está estudando? – How long have you been studying?
Faz quanto tempo que ele é médico? – How long has he been a doctor?
Faz quanto tempo que você não viaja? – How long haven’t you traveled?

A

We use “a” when we indicate an action that is going to happen in the future.

Estamos a dois dias do evento. – The event is going to happen in two days.
Vou viajar daqui a uma semana. – I’m going to travel one week from today.
Estamos a dez minutos de onde você está. – We’re ten minutes (away) from where you are.

“A” is usually used in the following expressions:

daqui a pouco – in a while
daqui a dois dias – in two days
daqui a três meses – in three months
daqui a uma semana – one week from today

In spoken Portuguese it sounds the same, but if you want to write good Portuguese, remember these rules.

Nos vemos em breve!

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About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.