Indefinite Articles in Portuguese

How to Say A, An, & Some In Portuguese

We just learned how to say “the car” using definite articles, but what if you want to talk about “a car” in general? This is called an artigo indefinido indefinite article, because we’re talking about an undefined car, rather than a specific instance of a car.
In English, we use a, an, and the plural form some.
In Portuguese, there are 4 indefinite articles: um a, an uma a, an uns some umas some
Once again, the specific form used depends on the gender and number of the noun:

  • Masculine, singular: um carro a car
  • Feminine, singular: uma mesa a table
  • Masculine, plural: uns carros some cars
  • Feminine, plural: umas mesas some tables

When to use Indefinite Articles

We use indefinite articles when we want to talk about a subject or an object without specifying a particular one. For example:
O João tem uns livros muito interessantes. John has some pretty interesting books.
There are also some other specific cases in which you’d use them, such as:

  • When you want to attribute to a single subject the representation of the whole species

O Border Collie é um cão que é extremamente inteligente. The Border Collie is a dog that is extremely intelligent.

  • When you want to indicate numeric proximity

Lisboa fica a uns 300km do Porto. Lisboa is about 300km away from Porto.

  • When talking about an artist’s work

Gostava de ter um Picasso em minha casa. I'd like to have a Picasso at my place.

“A” Tricky Trap (for English Speakers)

For English speakers, it will be tricky to get used to the fact that “a mesa”, does not mean “a table”, but “the table.”

More Examples:

a casa the house
uma casa a house
um livro a book
uns livros some books
 
 

Comments:

  • So very happy to find a source for Euro Portuguese. Now I understand why I hear so much of the ‘shh’ sound in Portugal. My previous app was Brazilian Portuguese.

    • One situation where you need to use “no/na” is when there is a definite article in front of “em”. If you think in English, it’s whenever you have “on the”, “at the” or “in the”, for example. Then, you choose between “no” and “na” based on the gender of the noun that it refers to. If the noun is plural, you also need to pluralize the contraction, to “nos” and “nas”. Here are some examples:

      The keys are on the table. = As chaves estão na mesa. (“mesa” is feminine and singular)
      The names are on the tickets. = Os nomes estão nos bilhetes. (“bilhetes” is masculine and plural)

      On the other hand, if no definite article is necessary, you’ll just use “em”:

      I’m at home. = Eu estou em casa. (no definite article needed in this context)
      You’re in Portugal. = Tu estás em Portugal.

      There’s more to be said, but this should be a good starting point!

    • haha and we welcome you with open arms to the enlightened land of European Portuguese! Thanks for your support, and please reach out any time you need us 🙂

  • Dumb question: Can Iput my account on my ipad, MacBook Pro and iphone as well (where it already is.

    • Absolutely, you should be able to log in on any modern device you have, as we don’t place any limits on users logging in with multiple devices 🙂

    • As duas formas, “em minha casa” e “na minha casa” são usadas com frequência. O artigo definido “a” (que forma a palavra “na” -> em + a) não é obrigatório aqui 🙂

  • After a month of Duolingo (which was a good learning experience) I feel fortunate to have found this European PT version. Obrigado

  • I had started learning on another site that was European Portugal and I was having difficulties understanding verbs and articles. I think I am starting to understand it better, thank you for that. Do you have any recommendations on how the handle (teach your tongue) the rolling of the “r” in the middle or towards the end of a word? I think I do a fairly decent job with the “r” at the beginning. But I have problems with words like Porto, carro, and livro.

  • What took me so long to find you?? I knew Babbel and Duolingo were Brazilian based. I won’t be using them again. Thank you.

    • Yeah, what took you so long? We’ve been right here waiting for you all this time! Thank you too for your message 🙂

  • My daughter and I spent a month cramming on Duolingo before our first holiday in the Algarve and no one understood us, least of all the “cachorros”! 🙂 Hoping for better results this time, and enjoying it so far!

    One question: the pronunciation of “a” in “a menina” sounds to me like “eh” – is that right?

    • Oh, I also hope you have better luck next time, haha 🙂 Thank you for your comment!
      The “a” in “a menina” is the exact same one as the “a” of “a casa” (one of the examples shown in this Learning Note). It sounds the same in any context.

  • This app is motivating. The immediate attention to pronunciation is going to make a huge difference to my progress.

  • Great explanations. Especially like to hear the sentences for pronunciation . Would it ever be possible to listen one word at a time in the sentences.
    Sometimes I need to hear just one particular word over and over without all the others. Just a thought. Obrigada, Georgia

    • De nada, Georgia! And thanks for the feedback – I like the idea! We would have to figure out how to make it work without making the sentences look too messy. The individual words for um, uma, uns, and umas are in the very beginning of this note, if that helps, but I’m guessing it was a different word you wanted to replay.

  • Yes, I was thinking of words that might be somewhere in the sentence, and when the mouse runs over them, one can tell that if they click on it, a voice will pronounce it. Usually, simple words, or articles don’t require this. Just a thought, don’t want to complicate anything. Thank you for the response. Liking the program thus far. Sincerely, Georgia

  • Firstly, thank you for this comprehensive tutorial. I have confusion with the example “Lisboa fica a uns…” what is the meaning of “a” in this sentence?

    • Hi, Batul 🙂 “A” is used as a preposition here that doesn’t really add anything; more of a connecting word. Not so easy to understand if you’re thinking from English, but would seem pretty normal if you were thinking from French, Spanish or Italian, for example. It’s comparable to the preposition “at” if we translated that line to “Lisbon is at [a distance of] about 300km…”. Hope this helps!

  • In your response to Nadia – I was confused by the translations of the sentences and the use of em, no, na (in, on, at) specifically the way they translate to the English word “on”. I looked up the words in google translate and saw they all seem have a lot of transferable translations along with sobre – which also means “on”. Is that correct? How do you know when to use each one?

    • Em, no and na are really all the same thing, in a way. Em is the base preposition; no is the contraction of em + o (masculine singular definite article); na is the contraction of em + a (feminine singular definite article). So these are not three different prepositions, but the exact same preposition with an added definite article whenever necessary. This one preposition does have a range of possible translations, depending on context.

      Usually, in sentences where you’d use the definite article (the) in English, you’d also use it in Portuguese:
      – On the table = em + a mesa = na mesa
      – In the bag = em + o saco = no saco
      – At the store = em + a loja = na loja

      In other cases, it depends, so it’s best to pay close attention to all the patterns you’ll encounter. Here’s a Learning Note that might be useful for you: The Preposition “Em”

  • I love the “turtle” slow pronunciation. For the first time I can understand the mouth positions for each word. I have both taken lessons and used numerous courses and my wife is brasileiro but i have never been able to hear the subtilies in pronunciation. I have even spent months in Portugal. You turtle speed is amazing, i wish that I could have turtle slow speed on podcasts, on everything. I am trying to move from eating comprehension to speaking compreshension, and i cannot hear enough subtle sounds to learn or recognize. Slow pronunciation is wonderful. Other services offer much much intferior version. I hope it extends throughout the course. I am starting over just so I can learn pronunciation and comprehension.

    • So glad you’re enjoying the turtle speed! For the podcasts, you can adjust the speed in the top right of the player where it says 1x. Just keep clicking the number until it’s at the speed you want. If you go too slow, it starts to sound distorted, but usually 0.8x – 0.9x is helpful! Also, here is a list of some of our pronunciation focused content: Improving Pronunciation Skills

  • Need new autocorrect, it keeps interchanging brasileiro and brasileira, does anyone have a way to make Mac autocorrect more accurate?

  • VERY glad I’ve found this site, obrigado. Regarding the plural indefinites, how would it work if you’re referring to a part of an object, rather than multiples? For instance, if I wanted to say “I have some bread” would that be “Eu tenho uns pão”, or something else?

    • Thanks, Luke! 😀 I’d say “Eu tenho algum pão” (I have some bread) or “Eu tenho um bocado de pão” (“I have a piece/bit of bread”). Algum and its derivatives would be suitable options in those cases where you can’t really quantify how much of something you have.

  • Thank you for putting this site together. I’m totally new to Portuguese. Not much training in other languages beforehand. I listen to the pronunciation, especially of phrases, over and over again. I hope my ears learn . . . 🙂

  • I had exactly the same experience with Duolingo – and spotted the dog example straight away.

    And as a beginner I also note that the “a” definitive article does sound like “eh” in the recording.

  • Loving the courses. The two audio speeds are very useful. Also love being able to record my pronunciation and get it checked.

What did you think? Leave a Comment for Rui & Joel:

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

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