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The Preposition "De"

De  is one of the first Portuguese prepositions you should learn because it’s extremely common and used in a variety of different situations. De can correspond to many different English translations, depending on the context. Let’s explore some of its many uses:


falar deto talk about
Eu falo de tiI talk about you


ir deto go by
Eu vou de carroI go by car
Vou viajar de comboio.I will travel by train.


Estás de férias em AgostoYou are on vacation in August


tomar conta deto take care of
A camisa é feita de algodãoThe shirt is made of cotton


Tu vens de LisboaYou come from Lisbon
Venho de InglaterraI've come from England

No English Preposition

Certain verbs, such as those shown below, are often followed by de, even in places where you would not use a word at all in English.
Preciso de dinheiroI need money
O médico trata de tiThe doctor treats you
Eu gosto de laranjasI like oranges


Let’s see how de is combined with the definite articles o, a, os, or as to form contractions:

othe athe osthe asthe
deof, by, from do da dos das

Ela gosta do vestido, apesar da corShe likes the dress despite the colour
Os chapéus dos homensThe hats of the men, The men's hats
As we’ll learn later in the Possessives unit, de can also be combined with the 3rd person pronouns ele, ela, eles, or elas to indicate possession:

elehe, him elashe, her elesthey, them (masc.) elasthey, them (fem.)
deof, by, from dele dela deles delas

A caneta é deleThe pen is his
O projeto é delasThe project is theirs (feminine)


      • They can both *potentially* mean “on”, but their actual translation in each context, as noted in the respective Learning Notes, is highly variable. There are multiple ways of translating Portuguese prepositions, because the way we use them is not aligned with how English prepositions are used. This makes it extra challenging to learn them!

  • I have noticed that, in this unit, all of the tables for contractions (dos, dele, no, numa, etc.) aren’t formatting properly – only like one line of text shows up and I have to scroll around back and forth in the little box to see the rest of the cells. I’m on mobile and using Firefox internet so maybe this is just a problem for me…? Anyway, I thought you would want to know. Thanks!

  • Sorry, another question: does ‘tomar conta de’ have the same meaning as ‘cuidar de’? If so, how do you say ‘to take care of the bill’?

    • Yes, “tomar conta de” and “cuidar de” can generally be used interchangeably. But it doesn’t sound very natural to use either of them for a bill. I’d rather say something like “tratar da conta” (to take care of the bill) 🙂

  • This was a very helpful lesson! I have always been confused about the use of de, especially with the verb gostar. This cleared it up a lot! Thanks!

  • I am still confused about the use of “de” with gostar. There are two sentences, where it is used with and without the definite article: Eu gosto de laranjas. Ela gosta do vestido,… Which is used when? Thanks

    • The definite article is typically used when you are referring to a specific instance of something. So she likes the dress, rather than dresses in general. But I like oranges in general, not just the specific orange, so there is no definite article in that sentence. In lesson 1 the question is “Do you like the oranges?”, so the definite article is used there because they are referring to a specific set of oranges. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but most of the time it’s the same as English in terms of whether a definite article is used or not. I hope that helps!

    • Hi Jutta,

      Here’s a quick explanation for the use of “das” before the noun “laranjas”.

      das – which is used as “the” before “laranjas” because the noun “laranjas” is a feminine word in its plural version.

      Hope this helps (:

  • Thanks for the explanation.. But I am still a bit confused about this one: Ela gosta do vestido, apesar da cor.

    I understand the use of “da” here “despite of the colour” but what is the function of the de? Why isn’t it just: Ela gosta o vestido??

    • hi,

      i think it’s because the person really like (love) the dress here, so it’s “gostar de” and not just “gostar”.

      • Whoops, sorry we missed this question previously. It’s actually just that de is required when using gostar. You’ll notice this a lot with prepositions — they are not always used the same as they are in English. Sometimes there is a preposition in Portuguese where there is none in English, and vice versa. So you just have to remember that whenever you are talking about something you like, make sure to use gostar de. If it helps you remember, you could think of it like saying “I am fond of” rather than “I like”.

        The only time you don’t use the de is if you were replying to a question without mentioning the “thing” you like again. For example, if someone said: Gosta de café? – Do you like coffee? you could reply either Sim, gosto de café – Yes, I like coffee or just Sim, gosto – Yes, I like (it). How to Talk About Likes and Dislikes in Portuguese

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Let me explain (:

      do for “the”. It is the contraction of “de + o” and used here because the noun which always comes after “vestido” is a masculine word and in its singular form.

      da – used for “the” because “cor” is a feminine word in its singular form.
      da – contraction of “de + a”

      Hope this helped to clarify you

  • You might have covered this elsewhere but I’m confused about the rules on agreement of “de” with the object when used with “gostar”.
    In lessons on getting dressed we have “A menina gosta de botas” rather than “gosta das botas” but we also have “Ela gosta do saco”.
    Is there some clever rule about when the “de” “gostar de….” should agree with the object ?
    Obrigado –

    • Olá, Peter. It’s usually, but not always, a matter of general (gostar de) vs. specific (gostar do/da) statements 🙂

      More general:
      – I like soup = Eu gosto de sopa
      – We like opera = Nós gostamos de ópera
      – You like cars = Tu gostas de carros

      More specific:
      – I like the soup = Eu gosto da sopa (that one soup in particular)
      – We like the opera = Nós gostamos da ópera (that one opera in particular)
      – You like the car = Tu gostas do carro (that one car in particular)

      There are other cases where the sentence might be general, but still require definite articles:
      – I like the countryside = Eu gosto do campo -> note how the English sentence also has the definite article “the”, so it’s an easy correspondence
      – I like school = Eu gosto da escola (in a context where the person is saying that they like being in school, rather than talking about a specific physical school that they attend)

  • I am really learning a lot from these questions and answers. Not just in this section but in all of the sections. I appreciate the time that you have put into answering these. Muito obrigada!

  • In your last sample: “I like school = Eu gosto da escola (in a context where the person is saying that they like being in school, rather than talking about a specific physical school that they attend.” So how would you say it if you were referring to a specific school that you attend? I thought “da” does that vs. just “de”

    • You’re absolutely right, Berj! Usually “da” specifies one particular thing you’re referring to. In this case is a bit more complex, though… “Eu gosto de escola” sounds weird in Portuguese. You could even say “Eu gosto de ir à escola” which literally means “I like going to school” meaning that “I like school”. But between “Eu gosto de escola” and “Eu gosto da escola”, the latter is more correct, assuming that you’d be referring to the school as a more general concept – the general school institution – rather than just the school building. If you wanted to make sure you were referring to that specific school (the actual building) you attend you could say “Eu gosto da minha escola” or “Eu gosto daquela escola” or “Eu gosto desta escola”. Using possessives or demonstratives helps specifying the object you want to refer to!

  • I am really struggling with prepositions , many of them have the same meaning de, em, para and so on all have meanings of to, by, from , of , at . My misunderstanding is not about masculine or feminine or plurals .

    It’s about which preposition to use in which sentence or context . I haven’t been able to find any rules or patterns to follow as to why I would use one and not the other . Why would I use de instead of ‚em or por instead of de . Please give me some advice or rules I can understand and follow .

    • I totally understand your struggle.
      Besides the learning notes we provide on prepositions there’s not much more to advise. Time and continuous practice are your best friends in this matter!

  • Ola!
    I confess I am also totally confused as to which preposition to use where and because of this find it extremely difficult to write or say anything much. I am sure like all other languages one will be able to learn the acceptably correct way but at age 72 it is tough!!

    • Oh, hang in there! And don’t give up on writing/speaking, even with mistakes 🙂 Over time and with consistent practice, things will hopefully start to fall into place.

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