Simple Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

You’ve learned what prepositions are, and you’ve been introduced to quite a few of them in the first two Prepositions units.
Similar to English, there are dozens of prepositions in Portuguese grammar. There are simple prepositions (preposições simples) – some of which can be combined with pronouns and articles – and prepositional phrases (locuções prepositivas), which are a bit different from their English counterpart.

Simple preposition (“de”): Eu gosto de jogar futebolI like to play soccer

Prepositional phrase (“perto de”): Eu jogo futebol perto de minha casa.I play soccer near my house.

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

Simple Prepositions

Some of these you may remember from previous units. Keep in mind that the words often have more than one translation, depending on the context they’re used.

Portuguese word English translation Portuguese word English translation
a to / at / on / (…) contra against
após upon de from/of
até until / by / up to desde since / from
com with em in / at / into / onto
entre between/among para for
perante in front of / before por by / for
sem without sob under / underneath
sobre on / about / over/ above trás behind / after

Estou com os meus amigos I'm with my friends
Estou aqui até ao NatalI'm here until Christmas
Não como desde o pequeno-almoçoI 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, 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:
Correu bem apesar da chuvaIt went well despite the rain

The prepositional phrase above has 2 words: apesar and da (de+a).

Não como mais carne a partir de hojeI'm not eating any more meat as of today

The prepositional phrase above has 3 words: 2 prepositions (a and de) and a verb (partir).

This chart shows some of the most common and simple prepositional phrases you’ll come across in Portuguese, but there are many more as well.

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

Other Prepositions

Sometimes words associated with a different category can also be used as prepositions.

Portuguese word English Translation
conforme according to / in accordance with
consoante according to / as per
durante during / for / over
excepto except
segundo according to
senão but

Here are a few sentences you could find yourself saying:
É feito consoante as normasIt is done according to the norms
Ele corre durante horas! He runs for hours!
Não tive hipótese senão voltar para trásI 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 🙂

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