4 Meanings of the verb FICAR

The verb ficar is extremely common in Brazilian Portuguese. It’s important to learn it because it will have a direct impact on how you communicate in Brazilian Portuguese conversation.

It’s likely that you will hear Brazilians saying it very often, so you will be able to understand them a lot better after you’ve mastered this very useful verb.

In this post we’ll see 4 different meanings of the verb ficar:

1. to stay

This is the most basic meaning of the verb ficar.

– Onde você vai ficar no Rio?  – Where are you going to stay in Rio?

– Vou ficar no Hotel Copacabana Palace.  – I’m going to stay at the Copacabana Palace Hotel.

But what most students get confused about is when the verb ficar is used in other contexts, with different meanings. So, stick around – Isso vai ficar interessante! This is going to get interesting!

2. to be (as an alternative to the verb ser)

The verb ficar is often used as an alternative to the verb ser when expressing unchanging (or unlikely to change) locations, usually buildings, rooms inside buildings and geographical features. Let’s see some examples:

– Onde é a farmácia mais próxima?  – Where is the nearest pharmacy? 

– Onde fica a farmácia mais próxima?  – Where is the nearest pharmacy? 

É na praça principal.  – It’s on the main square.

Fica na praça principal. – It’s on the main square.

 

– Onde é a estátua do Cristo Redentor?  – Where is the statue of Christ the Redeemer?

– Onde fica  a estátua Cristo Redentor?  – Where is the statue of Christ the Redeemer?

É no Rio de Janeiro.  – It’s in Rio de Janeiro.

Fica no Rio de Janeiro.   – It’s in Rio de Janeiro.

– Onde é o banheiro, por favor?  – Where is the toilet, please?

– Onde fica o banheiro, por favor?   – Where is the toilet, please?

É no final do corredor, à esquerda. – It is at the end of the corridor, on the left.

Fica no final do corredor, à esquerda.  – It is at the end of the corridor, on the left.

3. to become, to get, to go, or to turn

In Brazilian Portuguese, it is very common for people to use the verb ficar to express a transition to a new state or appearance, in situations when in English we would use the verbs to become, to get, to go, or to turn, followed by an adjective.

– Fiquei furioso com o meu chefe. – I got/was furious with my boss.

 

– Estou ficando careca. – I”m going bald. 

– Sempre que você fala nisso eu fico triste.  – Whenever you talk about this I get sad.

It’s common for people to use the verb ficar to express this change of state or condition (especially when referring to a change of emotional statein response to events, to something that took place. In English, when we talk about the past or the future in these situations, we normally we use the verb to be, but in Portuguese, we use the verb ficar.

– Ela vai ficar triste quando souber disso.  – She will be sad when she hears about this.

The Portuguese sentence implies transformation and the English one is focused on the result.

Because of this, even when we are talking about the presentficar is almost always used in the past tense, but it is better translated into English with the verb to be in the present.

Let’s supposed you are having dinner at a friend’s house and they made a nice pizza from scratch! You take the first bite and say:

Essa pizza ficou muito boa!

Even though the idea here is to say that the pizza is very good, most Brazilians will use ficar in the past tense focusing on the transformation, i.e. that your friend made a very good pizza.

But in English, you would normally translate this sentence using the present tense of the verb, focusing on the result.

– This pizza is very good! (focus on the result)

It’s also common to use the verb ficar with the preposition com and some nouns, like sede (thirst), fome (hunger), sono (sleep), medo (fear), etc.

– Ela ficou com medo e começou a gritar. – She got scared and started to scream.

4. to look (appearance)

The verb ficar is often used to describe the appearance of something, in situations when we would use the verb to look.

– Esse corte de cabelo ficou ótimo em você.  – This haircut looks great on you.

 

– Você ficou linda com esse vestido.  – You look beautiful in this dress.

Again, in these situations, the English version uses the present tense of the verb to look  because it focuses on the result, and the Portuguese sentence uses the verb ficar in the past tense because it focuses on the transformation.

There are also lots of idiomatic expressions with the verb ficar. But I’ll leave that for another post!

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