These are three of the simplest, most common words used to talk about quantity in Portuguese:
muitomany, much, a lot
poucofew, a little
algumsome, a few
When talking about countable quantities (which usually end in “-s” in English as well as Portuguese), muito, pouco and algum all change according to gender and number:
Eu tenho muitos amigos.I have many friends.
Poucas pessoas sabem o segredo.Few people know the secret.
Eles compraram algumas prendas.They bought some gifts.
With uncountable nouns (such as virtues, qualities, or time, which usually don’t end in “-s” in either language), muito, pouco and algum stay in their singular form, while maintaining gender agreement:
A família não tem muito dinheiro, mas tem muita coragem.The family doesn't have much money, but has a lot of courage.
Ele tem pouca paciência para festas.He has little patience for parties.
Tens algum tempo livre?Do you have some free time?
Note: When muito means something like very (i.e. when it’s related to the degree of an adjective/verb rather than the quantity of a noun) it doesn’t change to match the gender. It will always be muito, as in Muito obrigado and Muito obrigada.
Additional Expressions of Quantity
To emphasize how small a quantity is, you can actually combine muito and pouco into a single expression: muito poucovery little, very few . The same rules of Portuguese gender and quantity agreement apply here, but only to the last word of the expression, pouco:
Há muito poucas casas aqui.There are very few houses here.
Falo muito pouco francês.I speak very little French.
Note that um poucoa little can also be used as a noun:
Só quero um pouco.I just want a little bit.
Já sei um pouco de português!I already know a little bit of Portuguese!
As a beginner, these words are a great start for talking about quantity in Portuguese. In future units, we’ll dive deeper into this topic to help you expand your language skills when it comes to numbers and amounts. Just to give you a preview, here are some of the topics we’ll discuss later: