Simple and Compound Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe or qualify nouns. They can be adjetivos simples paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio simple adjectives if they’re just one word, or adjetivos compostos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio compound adjectives if formed by two or more elements, usually (but not always) connected by a hyphen (-).

Simple Portuguese Adjectives

O carro vermelho paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The red car
Um carro bonito paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio A beautiful car

Compound Portuguese Adjectives

Camisola rosa-choque paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Bright pink sweatshirt
Homem surdo-mudo Play normal audio Deaf-mute man

More compound adjectives:

  • bem-disposto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cheerful, happy mal-humorado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio ill-tempered, grumpy
  • bem-educado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio polite mal-educado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio rude
  • bem-parecido paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio good-looking, elegant bem-vindo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio welcome, appreciated bem-intencionado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio well-intentioned
  • mal-acabado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio poorly done
  • castanho-escuro paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio dark brown verde-alface paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio lettuce green
  • vice-campeão paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio runner-up
  • afro-americano paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio African American anglo-americano paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Anglo-American hispano-americana paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Hispanic American
  • indo-europeu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Indo-European greco-romana paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Greco-Roman

Gender and Number Agreement

Although there are some that only have one gender form, for the most part, simple adjectives must match the gender and number of the noun they’re describing:

  • Masculine, singular: Rapaz bonito paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Pretty boy
  • Feminine, plural: Flores bonitas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Pretty flowers

Compound adjectives, however, are a bit more complicated. Only the second element changes according to number and gender:

  • Masculine, plural: Os jogadores latino-americanos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The Latin American players
  • Feminine, singular: Literatura latino-americana paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Latin American literature

Notice that in both sentences, only the -americano element of the compound adjective is adjusted to match the gender and number (americanos, americana). The latino- element remains unchanged.

Exceptions

As always, there are a few exceptions:

  • Adjectives that end with a noun, which are mainly colours, don’t change at all. For example, the adjectives verde-azeitona paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio olive green and amarelo-dourado paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio golden yellow stay as they are.
  • A few compound adjectives, despite not having a noun as its second element, are also invariable. Two examples are azul-marinho paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio navy blue and azul-celeste paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio sky-blue
  • Both elements change in the expression surdo-mudo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio deaf mute, so that it becomes surdos-mudos (masculine, plural) and surdas-mudas (feminine, plural).

Compound Adjectives with no Hyphen (-)

There are many adjectives that combine two words or elements without needing to be hyphenated. Examples include:

  • maldisposto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio moody, grumpy
  • socioeconómico paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio socioeconomic
  • sociocultural paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio sociocultural
  • psicoterapêutico paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio psychotherapeutic

Even though these are considered compound, they each form just one word, so they usually follow the same rules as simple adjectives, matching the noun in gender and number. One exception would be the adjective ultravioleta paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio ultraviolet, which is invariable.

Comments

  • Does “latino-americano” reference Mexico and the countries in Central America and South America, and “hispano-americano” reference the citizens and/or culture of the United States with roots in these countries? In the United States, we typically use “Hispanic American” or just simply “hispanic” for the latter, while reserving “Latin American” for the former.

    • “Latino-americano” and “hispano-americano” are both very similar in meaning for us, I’d say. “Latino-americano” references all of Latin America (so, what you said) and “hispano-americano” references Latin-American countries where Spanish is spoken, which leaves out very few countries, such as Brazil or French Guyana.

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