Simple Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

So far, you’ve learned what prepositions are and you’ve been introduced to quite a few of them.
Similar to English, there are dozens of prepositions in Portuguese grammar. There are simple prepositions (single words, some of which form contractions with pronouns and articles) and there are prepositional phrases. For example:

  • Simple preposition (de): Eu gosto de jogar futebol paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I like to play soccer
  • Prepositional phrase (perto de): Eu jogo futebol perto de minha casa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I play soccer near my house.

Let’s look at some of the most common examples of each type.

Simple Prepositions

Some of these you may remember from previous units. Keep in mind that the words often have many possible meanings, depending on the context in which they’re used, so the English translations shown are not all-inclusive.

a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to, at, on entre paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio between, among contra paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio against para paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio for
após paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio upon perante paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in front of, before de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio from, of por paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio by, for
até paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio until, by, up to sem paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio without desde paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio since, from sob paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio under, underneath
com paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio with sobre paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio on, about, over, above em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in, at, on, about trás paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio behind, after

Estou com os meus amigos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm with my friends
Estou aqui até ao Natal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm here until Christmas
Não como desde o pequeno-almoço paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I haven't eaten since breakfast
Remember also that a, de, em, and por can be contracted with determiners and pronouns, giving you even more prepositions to work with.

Prepositional Phrases

While prepositional phrases in the English grammar consist, at least, of a preposition and an object, locuções prepositivas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio prepositional phrases, on the other hand, are just prepositions (simple and/or contracted) paired with another word (usually an adverb). These expressions must always end with a preposition.
Let’s take a look at a few examples. First, we have a prepositional phrase with 2 words: apesar and da (which is a contraction of de + a).
Correu bem apesar da chuva paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio It went well despite the rain
This next prepositional phrase has 3 words: 2 prepositions (a and de) and the verb partir paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio leave, depart, break
Não como mais carne a partir de hoje paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm not eating any more meat as of today
This chart shows some of the most common prepositional phrases you’ll come across in Portuguese, but there are many more as well.

longe de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio away, far from atrás de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio behind ao lado de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio next to, beside, alongside
graças a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio thanks to em frente a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in front of quanto a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio about, in terms of
perto de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio near, around por baixo de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio below em cima de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio on, above
debaixo de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio under por causa de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio because of, due to acerca de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio about, on, regarding
além de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio besides, beyond, aside from depois de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio after através de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio through
a par de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio besides antes de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio before, ahead of por cima de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio on top of, above

“Accidental” Prepositions

You will also notice some words that technically come from other grammatical categories, but that can also act as prepositions:

  • conforme paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio according to, in accordance with
  • consoante paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio according to, as per
  • durante paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio during, for, over
  • exceto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio except
  • segundo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio according to
  • senão paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio but

Here are a few sentences you could find yourself saying:
É feito consoante as normas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio It is done according to the norms
Ele corre durante horas! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He runs for hours!
Não tive hipótese senão voltar para trás paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I had no choice but to turn back

Comments

  • Difficult inasmuch as how does one know which of 3 choices e.g. conforme, consoante or segundo does one use in context for the prepositional term “according to”?

    • It’s safe to say that all three can most often be used interchangeably. In some cases, common usage has established a preference, but without eliminating the other options. For example (and this is actually the only case I can think of now!), to say “According to [person X]”, “segundo” is the most commonly used preposition, while “consoante” is less heard in that context. Still, these nuances are always difficult to pick up 🙂

  • Hello, I have a question regarding: “Eu jogo futebol perto de minha casa.” Why are you saying “de” and not “da”?

    • Hi! We can say it both ways, with no practical difference in meaning in this context.
      When we’re talking about our home, we often either don’t use the definite article “a” before it (e.g. “Eu estou em casa”; “Tu saíste de casa”) or we use it along with the determiner “minha” (“Vou para a minha casa”). For other houses, we’d generally use the definite article (“Entrei na casa”; “Estou perto da casa”…).

  • I just stumbled across some phrases using the structure “de x em x”, for example: Este autocarro passa de 6 em 6 minutos. / Os testes são de 3 em 3 semanas.
    My feeling tells me that the bus comes 6 times in 6 minutes or that there will be 3 tests in 3 weeks, but I have learned that it means that the bus comes every 6 minuts and that the tests are being taken every three weeks. This makes my head spin! Does anybody have any explanation?

    • That’s right, Birgit. “De x em x” means “every X periods of time”. Not sure that I can give you any in-depth explanation for that, though! Maybe it helps if you think of it as something like “from now to 6 minutes later”, for example.

  • Is there a difference between

    Não tive hipótese senão voltar para trás.

    and

    Não tive hipótese mas voltar para trás.

    • Olá, Peter. Yes, in that example, “senão” means something like “except for”, which is not a meaning typically carried by the word “mas”. So, they’re not interchangeable here, even though the English translation has the word ‘but’ (mas).

  • Oh but this is hard! My education never covered all the parts of speech in English, so my knowledge pretty much stops with verbs, nouns and adjectives. Think I have to study English before I can learn another language! I’m pretty depressed 😞

    • You are able to express yourself pretty well in english without knowing much about the grammatical parts of speech. Just try and ignore the technicalities and concentrate on listening to and learning the words and phrases in the unit lessons. Like you, I know very little about english or portuguese grammar, but then again we are learning a language, not taking an examination. Don’t try too hard and enjoy the learning at your own speed and all will be well😃

  • Can you give an example of ‘por cima de’. I can’t get Translator to give me anything . I can get ‘no topo de’ ; ’em cima de’; but nothong for por cima de. I thought of
    A panela está por cima de fogão. But when I enter The pan is on top of the stove, I get em cima de. Clarification would be good please.

  • How would you know which one to use??
    For example, these ?
    em – in, at, on
    na,no – in the
    da,do,de – of the, at the, on the
    a,o – the, to, at, on

    OR

    por – by, for
    para – for, to
    Both used to say “for”. How to know which to use?

    OR
    por – by, for AND de – from, of, by

    Both use “by”. How to know which to use?

    Thank you!

    • Great question, but it’s a tough one! There’s not always a straightforward way to know which to use, so it mostly comes down to getting enough exposure to the language to know which prepositions are used in which contexts. It’s best not to get too caught up in the word for word translation. We just include these so you get a sense of the most common way they are translated, so you can use it as a starting point. Prepositions fill a more “functional” role in language, so the meaning is not as concrete as when you are learning nouns.

      A few clarifications:
      na and no are just contractions of em plus a definite article (o or a)
      da and do are contractions of de plus o or a
      o and a are the masculine and feminine versions of the definite article “the”
      a is also a preposition that can mean to, at, etc.

      Here are some links to some of our content that covers prepositions:
      The Difference Between Por and Para
      Prepositions 1 unit
      Prepositions 2 unit (combining with demonstratives)
      Prepositions 3 unit
      Episodes highlighting particular prepositions
      (If you’re not a member, you can still access the learning notes from those units, you just won’t be able to do the lessons in between.)

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