A is a very important and versatile Portuguese preposition. It can correspond to many different English words, depending on the context. For example:
Vou a Espanha no próximo anoI will go to Spain in the next year
Ela foi para lá a péShe went there on foot
Isto sabe a morangoThis tastes like strawberry
daqui a uma semanain a week – i.e. “From here to a week” – Within the time frame from now until a week from now
More often than not, it means “to”, but it’s important not to get tied to an exact translation, especially when it comes to words that serve a grammatical function, like prepositions.
A… or A?
It’s easy to mistake the preposition a with the definite article a. They both look the same, but they serve different functions in the sentence. As you hear or read a Portuguese sentence, think about whether “a” would make more sense as:
- the word the (in which case it’s serving as a definite article for a feminine noun), or
- something else! (in which case it is likely working as a preposition).
Let’s see how we combine the preposition a with definite articles (o, a, os, as) to form contractions:
Here are a few examples of these contractions in context:
Vou a + a cidade = Vou à cidadeI'm going to the city
a + a frente de = à frente dein (the) front of, ahead of
Eles vão a + os Jogos Olímpicos = Eles vão aos Jogos OlímpicosThey're going to the Olympic Games
Eles vão a + as 14h20 = Eles vão às 14h20They are going at 14:20 (2:20p.m.)