The Preposition "Em"

In

The preposition em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in, on, at, about is usually a bit easier to understand compared to others. Although there are multiple uses, em most commonly refers to being “in” something, either physically or conceptually:

Estamos em Setembro paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio We are in September
Ela está em Lisboa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio She is in Lisbon
Ela divide o quarto em dois paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio She divides the room in two
Estar em dúvida paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio To be in doubt
Ele está em boa condição física. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He is in good physical condition.
Ela está em choque paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio She is in shock

Other Meanings

Em can also have other meanings, such as about, on, and at.
Penso em ti paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I think about you
Ela aposta em mim paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio She bets on me
Eles ficam em casa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They stay at home

Contractions

Let’s look at the contractions formed when em is combined with the definite articles o, a, os, or as:

o paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the os paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the as paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the
em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in no paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio na paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio

Eles vivem no Japão paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They live in Japan
Estou na garagem paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I am in the garage
O jantar está na mesa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Dinner is on the table
Tu pensas nas tuas amigas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You think about your friends
Os livros estão nas caixas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The books are in the boxes
Em also forms contractions when combined with the third-person personal pronouns ele, ela, eles and elas, as such:

ele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio he, him ela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio she, her eles paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them (masc.) elas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them (fem.)
em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in nele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio neles paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nelas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio

These contractions may define a position in relation to an object or subject, and as you’d expect, they also agree in gender and quantity with the noun they describe.
The word em can also be combined with demonstratives, as well as some other words, such as in the examples below:
Eu não confio nele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I don't trust (in) him
O segredo está nela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The secret is within her

Comments

  • In the quiz for this section you used the phrase “Eu estou a pensar em si”. It took a lot of research to understand the “a” between estou and pensar. I believe this is the present continuous tense of the verb pensar. Is this correct?

  • The lessons are incredible so far! muito obrigada! However could you please clear my confusion regarding the usage of definite articles when it comes to regions/cities/countries? From what i recall , we have to use definite articles for cities/ regions that are derived from a common noun , like O Porto for example. Do we have to stick to using a definite article for all country names like O Japão as mentioned in the example above?

    • Good question! So you’re right that there are some general rules, like cities deriving from a common noun, but there are some exceptions that don’t always stick to the rules. It’s another one of those things that you just have to memorize over time.

      Most of the time countries do get a definite article, but there are exceptions such as Portugal, Cuba, Israel, as well as many countries that used to be Portuguese colonies, such as Angola and Cabo Verde. Here’s a post in the forum where we discussed this topic that could be helpful: https://forum.practiceportuguese.com/t/eu-moro-em-no-na/798/6

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