There are a few different ways to say no, to make a sentence negative, or to refer to a quantity that is zero. Here are some of the important words to know:
The simplest way to make a sentence negative in Portuguese is just to place the word nãono, not before the verb. This is the Portuguese equivalent of adding “no” or “not” to a sentence in English. Examples:
Esta mota é rápida.This motorbike is fast.
Esta mota não é rápida.This motorbike is not fast.
nadanothing ninguémnobody nenhumnone(masculine) nenhumanone(feminine)
As you’ll see below, nada, ninguém, nenhum, and nenhuma are sometimes used with the word não to form a double negative, which is a perfectly acceptable construction in Portuguese. The negatives don’t cancel each other out, but instead reinforce each other. In English, we use the word “any” instead, so that “I do not want none” becomes “I do not want any“.
Let’s go over each word to better understand how to use these negatives forms in context.
NadaNothing is the equivalent of “nothing”. It is only used for things or abstract concepts, not for people. Examples:
Nada é novoNothing is new
Eu não quero nada.I do not want anything.
NinguémNobody is the equivalent of “no one” or “nobody”, and it is used when talking about people. Examples:
Ninguém sabe o que aconteceu.Nobody knows what happened.
Eu não conheço ninguém.I do not know anyone.
In Portuguese, words often change form to match the gender and number of the subject of the sentence. NenhumNone(masculine) is the masculine form of the word “none” and nenhumanone(feminine) is the feminine form. This is in contrast to nada and ninguém, which are always the same (i.e. they are invariable).
NenhumNone(masculine) and nenhumanone(feminine) are used for both people and things. Examples:
Nenhum dos convidados trouxe comida.None of the guests brought food.
Nenhuma destas camisas me serve.None of these shirts fit me.
Nenhum and nenhuma also have plural forms: nenhunsnone(masculine, plural) and nenhumasnone(feminine, plural) . In these examples, the translation is roughly equivalent to the English word “any” when “any” is paired with a negative. Examples:
Não vejo canetas nenhumas!I do not see any pens!
Não ouço cães nenhuns!I do not hear any dogs!
This plural form is usually employed when you want to answer questions emphatically. Notice that in this case, with nãono at the start of the sentence, the plural form is placed after the noun.
In a future Unit we’ll also explore adverbs of negation.
pronunciation is difficult but lessons are good
Why not NENHUNS convidados and NENHUMAS camisas? The nouns they modify are plural.
Hi, Kate. The way the sentences are constructed, it’s enough for “dos” and “das” to be pluralized, in agreement with the noun. Think of it as saying “Not one of the guests…”/”Not one of the shirts…”. In fact, most of us prefer to always use “nenhum” in the singular form (except for those cases of double negations that are described at the end). So, we could also say “Nenhum convidado trouxe comida”, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear anyone say “Nenhuns convidados trouxeram comida”.
Could you also say Não quero nada – I want nothing?
Absolutely, Chris. It’s very common to leave out personal pronouns in Portuguese.
Por favor. Qual é a frase correta?
“Não tenho dinheiro nenhum.” ou “Não tenho dinheiro nenhuns.”
Ou outra frase é correta?
A frase correta é “Não tenho dinheiro nenhum”, porque ‘dinheiro’ é um substantivo (noun) singular. Só quando tens um substantivo no plural é que ‘nenhum’ passa a ‘nenhuns’ (masculino) ou ‘nenhumas’ (feminino) 🙂
Check out the videos in the Practice section. The disappearing vowels, five pronunciations of the letter “X”, and open and closed vowels to suggest a few. The one phrase that really got me when I moved here was “Até logo” which is pronounced as one word “te-log”. Boa sorte!
Tough but three days, one hour per day, and I feel pretty good about it. I will certainly visit this lesson in the future.
I found it difficult to differentiate Nenhum and Ninguém
Guys everything here is so usefull… I never thought learning a language could be so entertaining, … In Uruguay everybody speaks Brazilian portuguese and i’m moving to lisbon in 2 months and its really difficult to find where to learn the REAL portuguese! 😉 Keep it up!
Thanks Belen, so glad you’re enjoying the lessons! We really appreciate your support!
Thank you thank you!!:)
Nenhum and nenhuma are both hard to prounounce, can one just use ninguem and nada…?
Or is that cheating ?
In the exercise above where it says nobody knows what happened the three letter combination Ç followed by ã followed by an o seems to be pronounced differently than usual is there a reason for the difference in the nasalness of the pronunciation of this word I’m sort of used this letter combination being pronounced like the American word Sow as in a female pig with a slightly more nasal pronunciation
Olá, Michelle. I’d like to help, but I’m not sure what you’re referring to, because there’s no ‘-ção’ in that sentence (Ninguém sabe o que aconteceu). Did you mean something else?
I am confused with “Nenhum deles se queixou.” (None of them complained.)
What is the function of “se” in this sentence? and also “deles”?
Unlike English, in Portuguese, “to complain” is a reflexive verb: “queixar-se”. So you have to add the clitic reflexive pronoun “se”. Here’s some more info on reflexive pronouns. As for deles, this is the contraction of “de” and “eles”, i.e. “of them”. You can learn more about this in the Possessives unit. 🙂
I see, thank Molly.
Difficult constructions! If I wish to say that I don’t hear any dogs but without the emphasis, is that possible?
You can say “Não ouço nenhum cão”, or simply “Não ouço cães” 🙂 Portuguese is full of challenging constructions, indeed!