A challenging part of learning Portuguese is realizing that many words need to be adjusted to agree with the gender and number of the people or objects we are talking about. Let’s see a quick overview of which types of words change, and which ones stay the same to help us understand the rules for making words plural in Portuguese.
The invariable classes of words (that don’t change to match gender and number) are:
advérbiosadverbs– Adverbs generally modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs, clarifying or intensifying their meaning.
preposiçõesprepositions – Prepositions connect different words in a sentence.
conjunçõesconjunctions – Conjunctions connect different clauses of a sentence.
interjeiçõesinterjections – Interjections are filler words or words that express a strong, abrupt feeling
Thevariable classes of words (that do change to match gender and number) are:
Whether you’re just visiting or planning to live in Portugal, learning some food vocabulary is going to be pretty important! 😆 As part of our Cooking and Eating unit, this guide should give you a good introduction to dining out in Portugal, or, in other words: comer foragoing out to eat
Breakfast & Coffee
There are caféscafés, coffee shops and pastelariasbakeries, which are often part of the same establishment, for snacks and light meals. This is where you’ll go for um pequeno-almoçoa breakfast or um lanchea snack
Perhaps you’ll ask for um caféa coffee and the world-famous pastel de natacustard tart. A pastel is usually a small tart or cake, which can be sweet, like the pastel de nata, or savoury, like the pastel de bacalhaucodfish cake. You’ll find a wide variety of delicious options to order at the pastelaria.
Unfortunately for those who like protein-rich breakfasts, it’s less common to find ovoseggs on the traditional Portuguese breakfast menu, though they do appear in a number of dishes served later in the day.
There are many different typical coffee beverages in Portugal. If you just order um caféa coffee you will receive an espresso, unless you specify otherwise. Some of the other most common options are:
What’s the difference between mau and mal? What about bom and bem? These pairs of Portuguese words are very similar in meaning, but they’re not interchangeable. It comes down to understanding the difference between adjectives and adverbs and how they are used in Portuguese.
Good and bad are adjectives, which modify nouns (people / places / things). In Portuguese, adjectives must agree with the noun in gender and number:
bomgood masc. sing.bonsgood masc. plur.
boagood fem. sing.boasgood fem. plur.
maubad masc. sing.mausbad masc. plur.
mábad fem. sing.másbad fem. plur.
Well and badly are adverbs, which modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs are invariable, so the same words are used regardless of the gender and number of the noun.
Which One Do I Use?
Bom / Boa vs. Bem
Let’s look at these examples to illustrate the difference between bom/boa (adjectives) and bem (adverb).
This Learning Note will cover the present continuous in Portuguese. When we talk about actions that are happening right at the time of speaking, we use the present continuous, also known as the present progressive. Let’s start by taking a look at how this works in English.
Present continuous in the first person:
I am + verb ending in -ing
Example: I am driving
“I am” comes from the verb “to be” and is followed by the gerund form of the main verb (ending with -ing).
The Brazilian form is actually the most similar to English, so hopefully you’ll forgive us for mentioning it first! (We know you’re trying to focus on European and notBrazilian Portuguese, but it can be helpful and interesting to explore these differences sometimes. Plus, this gives you an easy way to spot if
Below we will discuss the three main methods to talk about a future fact or inevitability in Portuguese:
1. Using Ir + Infinitive
Similar to the English construction, to discuss the future, Portuguese uses the verb irto go, followed by a verb in its infinitive form.
Aside from very formal or literary contexts, this method is the most common. It’s also the easiest, because as long as you can conjugate ir in the present tense, you just need to know the next verb’s infinitive form. Let’s see how this works with the verbs correr and chegar in the examples below.
You may be surprised to learn that all verbs ending in -OR are actually part of the same group as verbs that end in –ER. 🤔 These “-por” verbs are considered part of the -ER group because of their Latin origins: pôr used to be written as poer (i.e. with an -ER ending), which comes from the Latin word ponere. Let’s look at the present tense conjugations, which are irregular:
AdjetivosAdjectives are words that describe a noun, assigning it a quality, state, appearance, or other property. (Adverbs are also used to describe, but instead of nouns, they modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.) In Portuguese, using adjectives requires that you consider the gender and number of the word being modified, as well as the word order of the sentence.
Many different types of words can fall into the category of adjectives, including colours, shapes, materials, and nationalities. They are the words that let us distinguish between concepts such as:
Possessives formed with de are less ambiguous: they agree strictly with the subject, not with the object. In contrast, seu and its derivatives agree with the object, so we are not able to differentiate between the several possible 3rd person subjects without extra context.
In other words, when using dele, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the subject/person who possesses something. When using seu, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the object/thing being possessed.
As you can see, elehe, him, elashe, her, vocêyouformal, elesthey, themmasc., and elasthey, themfem. all share the same exact possessive determiners! Since the determiners agree with both the number and the gender of the noun that is being possessed (rather than the subject), knowing precisely who we’re talking about is a bit tricky. Let’s see some examples:
In this unit, we’re going to learn about possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, which both serve the function of expressing possession or ownership of something.
In English, we use my, your, his, her, their, and our as possessive determiners and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours as possessive pronouns.
Possessive determiners precede the noun they are modifying. They tell you to whom a specific item belongs. For example, in the sentence “It is my cat”, you can tell that the word “my” is a determiner because it needs to be followed by a noun (“cat”). “It is my” would not be a complete sentence.
Possessive pronouns replace the noun they are modifying. They convey ownership without telling what exactly is being owned. For example, in the sentence “It is mine”, you can tell that the word “mine” is a possessive pronoun because it can stand on its own in place of a noun.
In Portuguese, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners make use of the same words: meu, teu, seu, nosso, vosso, plus their associated feminine and plural forms. As you will see below, this means that there are multiple possible translations of each English possessive word. For both possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you start by choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then modify that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.
At this point, you’re probably starting to get familiar with the verbs serto be permanent state and estarto be temporary state. Yet, even with a lot of practice, they are still easy to mix up! Don’t worry: in this unit you’ll learn more about when to use one versus the other.
A Basic Distinction: Ser vs Estar
Ser is typically used to describe permanent states or conditions. It refers to an immutable or long-lasting attribute of the person or object being described. Here’s the verb conjugated in the present tense:
The average home is full of all kinds of objects, pieces of furniture, and appliances. In this unit, we’ll explore the most common objects you’ll find in each room of your house.
The Living Room – Sala de Estar
The room where you’ll likely spend lots of time relaxing with your family and friends is known as a sala de estarthe living room. You may invite them to sit on the sofásofa and enjoy a nice conversation, or perhaps share a meal at the mesa de jantardining table.
You might watch the televisãotelevision, or perhaps grab a book from the estantebookcase to do some reading.
Ele senta-se no sofá da sala (de estar) a ler um romance.He sits on the living room sofa reading a novel.
Note that it’s common to omit “de estar” and refer to the living room as simply a sala, since it’s usually implied.
The Kitchen – A Cozinha
While preparing your meal in a cozinhathe kitchen, you’ll grab some food from o frigoríficothe refrigerator to cook on o fogãothe stove or in o micro-ondasthe microwave.
SerTo be is one of the most fundamental and important Portuguese verbs. It also happens to be an irregular verb, which helps explain why the conjugations below look quite different from the verb’s infinitive form. For now, we’ll focus on ser in the presente do indicativopresent tense: