Portuguese is a Romance language that originated in what is now Galicia (Spain) and northern Portugal from the Latin spoken by romanized Celtiberians about 1000 years ago. It spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire (1415–1999) which spanned from Brazil in the Americas to Goa in India and Macau in China. During that time, many Creole languages based on Portuguese also appeared around the world, especially in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
Morphologically, Portuguese has preserved more verbal inflections from classical Latin than any other major Romance language.
Verbs are divided into three main conjugation classes according to the ending of their infinitive form, which may be either -ar, -er, or -ir. There is also the irregular verb pôr ("to put") and its prefixed derivatives, which for historical reasons many grammarians still place in the -er conjugation class (it used to be poer). Most stems belong to the -ar conjugation class, which is the only one open to neologisms such as clicar ("to click" with a mouse).
Portuguese verbs display a high degree of inflection. A typical regular verb has over fifty different forms, expressing up to six different grammatical tenses and three moods. Two forms are peculiar to Portuguese within the Romance languages:
- The personal infinitive, a non-finite form which does not show tense, but is inflected for person and number.
- The future subjunctive, nowadays archaic in related languages such as Spanish, but still active in Portuguese.
The 2nd. person plural subjective pronoun vós has fallen into disuse in Portuguese. Currently, it is only employed:
- In religious texts and services.
- In very formal registers, for archaism.
- In a few dialects of northern Portugal.
- In historical fiction.
Instead of it, the word vocês is used, or equivalent forms of address which take verbs and possessives of the 3rd. person plural.
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