Top critical review
15 people found this helpful
on 3 June 2006
Perhaps for a beginner this summary of Portuguese grammar would be a help - in its favour it's clearly laid out and pretty comprehensive in its coverage. For a beginner who needs an introduction to the rules of the language perhaps it has some use, although even then I would say that Silva's Essential Portuguese Grammar - weighing in at 100 pages - has *all* the useful information contained in this volume.
What gets me is that the section on verbs - the most complex and difficult part of the grammar - shows no intelligent understanding on the part of the authors. For example, one of the reasons I bought a meatier grammar like this was in the expectation that there would be an explanation of the difference between the present subjunctive and future subjunctive - a point which has always confused me. The book helpfully explains that the present subjunctive is for "actions referring to a present/future situation" while the future subjunctive is for "eventuality of a future action". It then goes on to say that it often follows words referring to a future or uncertain action e.g. se (if), but you can't use rules of thumb like that because both other subjunctive tenses and indeed the indicative can follow se. The authors waste a lot of space groping towards an explanation by using examples when what the reader needs is an understanding of the conceptual difference between the tenses. A quick look in Manuela Cook's excellent "Portuguese Verbs Explained" made everything clear: "[the future subjunctive should be used when] from the speaker's point of view, action will materialize or not depending on someone else's decision." It is possible to be clear and concise *and* explain how the language *works* not just how it *looks*.
The other thing that annoys me about this book is that space is filled with lengthy and irrelevant vocabulary lists which are of little value. Firstly because they spell out the absolutely obvious e.g. "Está de acordo? - Do you agree?" and immediately below it "Não está de acordo? - Don't you agree?". Secondly it includes usages like this: "O que e isto? - What's this?" failing to warn the reader that in Brazil saying isto rather than isso is going to sound similar to "Dost thou know where the bus stop is?". Brazilian variants are treated in a separate section - of limited use because you have to learn the more extensive European version first, and then how Brazilian differs. Either do as Silva does and explain the variants together - thus guaranteeing that no points like this can be missed by the reader - or as Cook does and explain Brazilian as the standard, and treat the more complex Portuguese version as an extension. After all 89% of Portuguese speakers speak Brazilian dialect, and *100%* understand it (not true of Continental dialect).
So in conclusion... beginners: handle with care. Those with any prior knowledge of the language: avoid like the plague.