Unlike English, most Portuguese words have a gender.
Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, like the -o ending in many masculine words and the -a ending in many feminine words. There are many, many exceptions, however, so you can’t always rely on that rule. Furthermore, some words take on different forms for each gender and others only have one form. It comes down to using the patterns as a guide and memorizing the exceptions over time as you hear them in context.
We can split Portuguese words into at least four groups when it comes to gender.
Words with two forms and the same root
This is the largest group, containing words that have a different form for each gender, with both of them sharing a common root or radical. A simple example is menino boy and menina girl. These share the same root (menin-) and the -o is changed to -a to take on the feminine form. Study the charts below to learn how different words are transformed from masculine to feminine.
- Simply changing -o to -a
|filho son||filha daughter|
|primo cousinmale||prima cousinfemale|
|bonito beautiful||bonita beautiful|
|tímido shy||tímida shy|
- -ão turns into -ã, -oa or -ona
|irmão brother||irmã sister|
|alemão German||alemã German|