Definite and Indefinite Articles

In this lesson, we’ll compare Portuguese definite articles and indefinite articles. Artigos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Articles are small words that precede and define a noun. In Portuguese, articles take on different forms to agree in gender and number with the noun they define. In English, we just have the definite article the and the indefinite articles a, an, and some.

Definite Articles

Artigos definidos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Definite articles are determiners used to indicate that we are referring to a specific, well-defined thing or person. There are four types, which all correspond to “the” in English. We use o and os for masculine nouns, plus a and as for feminine nouns.

O, Os

The article o paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the is used for masculine nouns in the singular, while os paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the is used for masculine nouns in the plural. Examples:
O casaco azul é novo. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The blue jacket is new.
Os bosques de Sintra são fantásticos. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The woods of Sintra are fantastic.

A, As

The article a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the is used for feminine nouns in the singular, while as paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the is used for feminine nouns in the plural. Examples:
A casa da esquina é nova? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Is the house on the corner new?
As garrafas ficam arrumadas ali. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The bottles are stored over there.

Indefinite Articles

When we want to refer to something in a more general way, we use artigos indefinidos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio indefinite articles, like the words “a”, “an”, or “some” in English. There are four indefinite articles as well: um and uns for masculine nouns, plus uma and umas for feminine nouns. Um and uma correspond to “a” in English, while the plural forms, uns and umas, correspond to “some”.

Um, Uns

The article um paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio a, an is used for masculine nouns in the singular, and uns paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio some is used for masculine nouns in the plural. Examples:
Um chapéu voou para a mesa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio A hat flew onto the table.
Uns doces iam bem a calhar agora. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Some sweets wouldn’t go amiss right now.
Notice that, unlike all the other plurals in this lesson, uns is NOT formed by simply adding –s to the singular form of the article. This is because Portuguese doesn’t allow an –ms ending for words. Instead, to pluralize words ending in -m, the -m is dropped and -ns is added.

Uma, Umas

The article uma paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio a, an is used for feminine nouns in the singular, and umas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio some is used for feminine things or persons in the plural. Examples:
Quanto custa uma bebida? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio How much for a drink?
Só precisamos de água e umas sementes. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio We only need water and some seeds.

Comments

  • What is the difference between saying “uns/umas” and “alguns”. I’ve come across the latter a few times before but never really know when to use it over the plural of the definite article.

    • Olá, Lukas. This is how I’ve tried to explain before (easier said than done!): The two terms are often used in the same contexts and feel pretty much interchangeable, even though I’d say that “umas/uns” feels a bit more general and abstract, while “algumas/alguns” tends to feel more concrete and quantifiable, at least for me.

      Now, some examples of situations where they’re not interchangeable:
      – Ele é um génio. (He’s a genius) | Eles são uns génios. (They’re geniuses) -> Uns is not used as a quantifier here; it’s still just acting as a simple indefinite article, like in the singular sentence. Alguns is not acceptable here. Tip: If you see the word uns/umas in a Portuguese sentence, but no corresponding quantifier in the English sentence, it’s probably a case like this.
      – Eles falaram uns com os outros. (They spoke with each other) | Nem uns nem outros estão certos. (Neither of them are right) -> In these kinds of structures, where you have this reciprocity between uns and outros, alguns is not usable. Maybe because the sum of uns + outros is todos (all), and this overall wholeness doesn’t fit with the incompleteness that alguns represents.
      – Eu tenho uns quantos amigos (I have a few/many friends) | “Ela cometeu uns poucos erros” (She made a few mistakes) -> In sentences where the quantifying bit is somehow compounded, alguns can’t be interchanged with uns alone, i.e. you can’t say both “uns poucos” and “alguns poucos“. But you can replace the whole group -> “uns poucos” with “alguns“.
      – Estes são alguns dos meus projetos. (These are some of my projects) | Elas são algumas de várias colegas que tenho. (They’re some of many colleagues I have) -> In plural sentences like this, where you’re isolating a part of a whole, assisted by the preposition de, the word uns/umas shouldn’t be used to replace alguns/algumas.

What Did You Think? Leave Us a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The subject is used only for admin purposes and won't be displayed in your comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.