Digging Deeper into Prepositions

You have learned that prepositions are usually small, but important, words that usually come before a noun to show how it relates to other elements in the sentence.
An important part of mastering European Portuguese is not only learning the meaning of each of these prepositions, but also the nuances of when each one should be used.

Prepositions can be used to establish a time or a location…

Vou partir antes do amanhecer. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I will leave before dawn.
A carta está sob o livro. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The letter is under the book.

To describe movement…

Vou viajar de Boston para Lisboa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I will travel from Boston to Lisbon.

To express a purpose…

Estes sapatos são para dançar. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio These shoes are for dancing.

…and more!

The same preposition can often have a completely different meaning depending on the context, as you may have noticed in the examples above that used the word para.

Do Prepositions Have a Gender or Number?

On their own, basic prepositions do not have a gender or number, but they are very often combined (contracted) with words that do, such as articles and pronouns.
The following shows some examples using the preposition, de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio from, of, by

  • de + o = do paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • de + a = da paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • de + este = deste paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • de + esta = desta paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • de + isto = disto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • de + aquilo = daquilo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio

Prepositions are also sometimes contracted with other invariable words (words that don’t change depending on gender or number).
Em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in is another common preposition that forms the following contractions. Let’s see the contractions formed when we combine it with the same articles and pronouns:

  • em + o = no paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • em + a = na paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • em + este = neste paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • em + esta = nesta paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • em + isto = nisto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • em + aquilo = naquilo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio

There are so many prepositions and they can be used in such diverse ways that it might take quite a bit of time to master them.
Don’t worry! This unit will continue introducing them to you gradually, pouco a pouco paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio little by little !

Comments

  • Hi one of the past lesson had the sentence Ela gosta do vestido apesar da cor. I was wondering what the difference is between saying , do vestido or
    O vestido? If that makes sense lol. I have great difficulty with understanding the prepositions . Thanks for your time regards Ruth

    • Hi Ruth, good question! As a rule, the verb “gostar” is always followed by the preposition “de”. So the word “do” is actually a contraction of “de” + “o”. In English we wouldn’t say “I like OF the dress”, so it’s hard to remember to include that extra word there. If it helps, you could try to think of it as “to be fond OF” and that could remind you to use the “de”.

      I think prepositions are one of the trickiest topics in Portuguese! There are many contexts like this in which Portuguese requires a preposition, while English does not, and vice versa. It often comes down to getting enough exposure to the language that you start to get used to the patterns.

  • Thank you Molly, I will try to remember this, it is so confusing, for my old brain, but I am determined to learn Portuguese to be able to talk to my neighbour lol. Regards Ruth

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