Indefinite Articles – How to Say “a / an / some” In Portuguese
We just learned how to say “the car”, but what if you want to talk about “a car” in general? This is called an indefinite article (artigo indefinido), 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, uma, uns, umas. Once again, it depends on the gender and plurality:
- 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 artigos indefinidos when we want to talk about a subject or an object without specifying it.
Here’s an 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.”