Explore the basics of using gender in Portuguese. Listen for the feminine and masculine words within these back to back introductions. The meaning of each introduction is the same, except for one important difference: the first is spoken by a female and the second is spoken by a male. Notice how the words used are […]
Let’s explore some useful vocabulary: colours in Portuguese! Even if you’re not an artist, it helps to know as cores Play normal audio the colours. How else will you talk about all the beautiful tiles and buildings around you in Portugal? Plus, next time you’re shopping, you’ll have an easier time asking for what you need. You can even use colours to help you describe something when you forget a word.
Unlike English, most Portuguese words have a gender: ♂ masculine or ♀ feminine.
Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, such as 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. You can start by using the patterns below as a guide and then you’ll pick up the exceptions over time as you hear them in context.
The masculine form is usually considered the “default” form in Portuguese. This even applies to pronouns: we have both eles Play slow audio Play normal audio they(masc.) for male groups and elas Play slow audio Play normal audio they(fem) for female groups, but if it’s a group of both males and females, you have to use eles, even if there’s only one man!
eles: 👨🏻👨🏾🦱🧔🏼👨🏽🦲👨🏻🦰 or 👩🏻🦰👵🏽👱🏼♀️👨🏻👩🏾👩🏻🦱
Because of this grammatical concept of gender, most Portuguese words are variable, which just means they change form depending on the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural).
For example, most adjectives are variable, so they must match the gender (and number) of the noun they modify:
- O homem é alto Play slow audio Play normal audio The man is tall | A mulher é altaThe woman is tall
- We’ll see some exceptions in the 3rd group below*
Portuguese adverbs, on the other hand, are one class that is always invariable. They only have one form, so they stay the same regardless of the gender (or number) of the noun they modify. For example:
- Eles ainda estão aquiThey(masc.) are still here | Elas ainda estão aquiThey(fem.) are still here
Let’s explore more examples of how to indicate gender, by categorizing Portuguese words into the following 4 groups.
How to Say A, An, & Some In Portuguese
We just learned how to say “the car” using definite articles, but what if you want to talk about “a car” in general? This is called an artigo indefinido Play normal audio indefinite article, because we’re talking about an undefined car, rather than a specific instance of a car.
In English, we use a, an, and the plural form some.
In Portuguese, there are 4 indefinite articles: um Play slow audio Play normal audio a, an uma Play slow audio Play normal audio a, an uns Play slow audio Play normal audio some umas Play slow audio Play normal audio some
- Masculine, singular: um carro Play slow audio Play normal audio a car
- Feminine, singular: uma mesa Play slow audio Play normal audio a table
- Masculine, plural: uns carros Play slow audio Play normal audio some cars
- Feminine, plural: umas mesas Play slow audio Play normal audio some tables
When to use Indefinite Articles
We use indefinite articles when we want to talk about a subject or an object without specifying a particular one. For example:
What are cardinal numbers?
Cardinal numbers are basically regular ol’ numbers. They simply indicate the number of people, animals, or things.
They are invariable, except…
The majority of cardinal numbers are invariable, meaning they only have one form. There are a few important exceptions, however: um Play slow audio Play normal audio one, dois Play slow audio Play normal audio two and the centenas Play slow audio Play normal audio hundreds, starting at 200, do change form depending on the gender of the noun. For example:
In this lesson, we’ll learn about quantificadores existenciais Play slow audio Play normal audio existential quantifiers. Existential quantifiers provide information about quantity without specifying an exact quantity or amount. In English, we would use words like many, few, some, so much, another, several, and plenty. Let’s take a look at how to express these concepts in Portuguese.
Muito, Muita, Muitos, Muitas
Muito and muita are the singular form equivalents to many, very, much, or a lot. Examples:
In this lesson, we’ll learn about quantificadores universais Play slow audio Play normal audio universal quantifiers. Universal quantifiers are quantifiers that apply to every element of a given group. In English, this would include words like all, none, any, both, and every. Let’s learn about each of the words used to express these concepts in Portuguese.
Todo, Toda, Todos, Todas
Todo and toda are the singular form equivalents to all, whole, every, or entire in English.
Todos and todas are the plural forms of todo and toda.
In this lesson, we’ll take a look at quantificadores interrogativos Play slow audio Play normal audio interrogative quantifiers. Interrogative quantifiers introduce questions related to quantities. These types of questions are invariably answered using another quantifier. The interrogative quantifiers include:
When used to question a quantity, quanto and quanta are the singular form equivalents to “how much” in English. (In an upcoming lesson, you’ll also learn about how quanto functions as a relative quantifier.)
In this lesson, we’ll learn about quantificadores relativos Play slow audio Play normal audio relative quantifiers. Relative quantifiers don’t specify an exact quantity, but instead tell us about how a quantity compares in relation to an unspecified whole. As expected, the determiner used matches the gender and number of the item(s) it refers to.
Quanto, Quanta, Quantos, Quantas
Quanto and quanta are the singular form equivalents to “as much as” in English.
Quantos and quantas are the plural forms of quanto and quanta, and they’re equivalent to “as many as” in English.
In this lesson, we’ll compare Portuguese definite articles and indefinite articles. Artigos Play slow audio Play normal audio Articles are small words that precede and define a noun. In Portuguese, articles take on different forms to agree in gender and number with the noun they define. In English, we just have the definite article the and the indefinite articles a, an, and some.
Artigos definidos Play slow audio Play normal audio Definite articles are determiners used to indicate that we are referring to a specific, well-defined thing or person. There are four types, which all correspond to “the” in English. We use o and os for masculine nouns, plus a and as for feminine nouns.
Adjectives are words that describe or qualify nouns. They can be adjetivos simples Play slow audio Play normal audio simple adjectives if they’re just one word, or adjetivos compostos Play slow audio Play normal audio compound adjectives if formed by two or more elements, usually (but not always) connected by a hyphen (-).
Simple Portuguese Adjectives
Compound Portuguese Adjectives
More compound adjectives:
These are three of the simplest, most common words used to talk about quantity in Portuguese:
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:
With uncountable nouns (such as virtues, qualities, or time, which usually don’t end is “-s” in either language), muito, pouco and algum stay in their singular form, while maintaining gender agreement:
Adjetivos Play slow audio Play normal audio Adjectives are words that describe a noun, assigning it a quality, state, appearance, or other property. (Adverbs are also used to describe, but instead of nouns, they modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.) In Portuguese, using adjectives requires that you consider the gender and number of the word being modified, as well as the word order of the sentence.
Many different types of words can fall into the category of adjectives, including colours, shapes, materials, and nationalities. They are the words that let us distinguish between concepts such as:
Possessive Determiners vs. Possessive Pronouns
In this unit, we’re going to learn about possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, which both serve the function of expressing possession or ownership of something.
In English, these are words like my, your, his, her, their, and our (possessive determiners) and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours (possessive pronouns).
Possessive determiners precede the noun they are modifying. They tell you to whom a specific item belongs. For example, in the sentence It is my cat, you can tell that the word my is a determiner because it needs to be followed by a noun (cat). “It is my” would not be a complete sentence.
Possessive pronouns replace the noun they are modifying. They convey ownership without telling what exactly is being owned. For example, in the sentence It is mine, you can tell that the word mine is a possessive pronoun because it can stand on its own in place of a noun.
In Portuguese, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners make use of the same words: meu, teu, seu, nosso, vosso, plus their associated feminine and plural forms. As you will see below, this means that there are multiple possible translations for each possessive word.
To choose the correct possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you can start by
(1) choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then
(2) modifying that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.
Remember that all the same rules for demonstratives remain valid when they appear in the following contractions.
Em + Variable Demonstratives
These contractions can be used to indicate positions, movement or time, to identify something more clearly, and
You learned in The Preposition “De” (from the first Prepositions unit) that de has several different meanings and can be joined together (contracted) with:
- articles (do, da, dos, das), and
- pronouns (dele, dela, deles, delas)
De + Variable Demonstratives
Another very common combination is with demonstratives. Let’s look at the contractions formed by combining de Play slow audio Play normal audio from, of with variable demonstratives:
As you can see, they are all formed by simply adding a “d” to the beginning of the demonstrative. These contractions can express possession, origin, direction, and more. Here are some examples:
As you’ll recall, variable demonstratives have to agree not only in gender and location, but also in number.
For every variable demonstrative covered in the previous lesson (which were all singular), there is also a plural counterpart.
It might sound scary, but you’re in luck: all you have to do is take the singular form and add an “s“!
As you can see, this is to these as este/esta is to estes/estas, and so on. Once you master the singular demonstratives from the last lesson, you can easily come up with its plural, and all the same rules about gender and location apply. Let’s look at a few examples…
Variable demonstratives are used to indicate all of the following at once:
- a person or object’s gender
- the number (one or more)
- the position in space or time
The “demonstrative” part of this fancy name refers to the last point above, the item’s position. We must choose which demonstrative to use, according to which one of the following fits best:
- a) The object is near the speaker,
- b) The object is far from the speaker, but near the listener, OR
- c) The object is far away from both speaker and listener
As you may have realized, this doesn’t happen in English. You just have to choose between this and that. That’s it! In English, the position of the object relative to the speaker is the only thing that counts. In Portuguese, we have to choose which “that” to use according to where the object is in relation to the listener.
This lesson will cover singular variable demonstratives, all of which you can see below:
How to Say “The” in Portuguese
Definite articles introduce a specific instance of a noun, whereas indefinite articles introduce a non-specific instance of a noun. In English, there is only 1 definite article: the. Then to refer to objects more generally, English uses the indefinite articles a or an.
In Portuguese, we have 4 artigos definidos Play slow audio Play normal audio definite articles that serve the same function as the: o Play slow audio Play normal audio the a Play slow audio Play normal audio the os Play slow audio Play normal audio the as Play slow audio Play normal audio the
Why 4 different words with one meaning? In Portuguese, many words take on different forms, depending on the following two properties:
- Gender: The masculine forms of “the” are o and os. The feminine forms are a and as.
- Number: A singular object is referred to with o or a, whereas plurals use os or as.
Here are some examples: