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Gender in Portuguese: Masculine and Feminine Nouns


If you’re thinking of learning Portuguese, you’ve probably already discovered one of the biggest differences between Portuguese and English: all nouns have a gender in Portuguese. Getting the gender of the nouns in any sentence right is quite important, because it affects a lot of the other words around it, particularly the adjectives, prepositions, and pronouns. The easiest way to become proficient in using gender in Portuguese is to practice with a tutor.


In this post, we’ll take a look at the various types of masculine and feminine nouns, and the ways of identifying a noun's gender.


Typically Masculine Nouns

With certain nouns, you can guess whether they are masculine or feminine just by looking at the letters they end with. Here are five common types of noun endings that are usually masculine.


Nouns That End with “o”

Examples: garfo (fork), prato (plate), queijo (cheese), tempo (time)

The overwhelming majority of nouns ending with “o” are masculine; this is the most common type of masculine noun in Portuguese. However, there are a few exceptions that can trip you up, such as tribo (tribe), which is feminine.


Nouns That End with Consonants

Examples: lugar (place), valor (value), professor (teacher), final (end)

Vowel endings are much more common than consonant endings. When a noun does end with a consonant, it is usually masculine. There are, however, exceptions, such as some nouns ending in “z,” for example, voz (voice), and most nouns that end with “em.”


Nouns That End with “i”

Examples: pai (father), lei (law), rei (king), abacaxi (pineapple)


Nouns That End with “u”

Examples: céu (heaven), museu (museum), grau (degree), chapéu (hat)


Nouns That End with “ema”

Examples: problema (problem), sistema (system), tema (theme), poema (poem)

Nouns ending with “a” are generally feminine (see below). However, with gender in Portuguese, there are always complications and exceptions! Nouns ending with “ema” generally have Greek, rather than Latin roots, and are usually masculine. An exception is cinema (cinema), which is feminine.


Typically Feminine Nouns

Here are five common types of noun endings that are usually feminine.


Nouns That End with “a”

Examples: coisa (thing), casa (house), vida (life), pessoa (person)

This is the most common type of Portuguese feminine noun. Not all nouns ending with “a” are feminine, though: as discussed above, words ending with “ema” are generally masculine. There is another very important noun ending with “a” that is masculine: dia, meaning “day.”


Nouns That End with “ã”

Examples: manhã (morning), maçã (apple), hortelã (mint), irmã (sister)

There are exceptions to this, such as talismã (talisman), which is masculine, but they are not words you are likely to encounter too frequently.


Nouns That End with “ação”

Examples: relação (relation), situação (situation), informação (information), população (population)

With gender in Portuguese, you always have to keep an eye out for exceptions! Coração (heart), is a masculine noun.


Nouns That End with “dade”

Examples: cidade (city/town), verdade (truth), actividade (activity), sociedade (society)

At least one rule for gender in Portuguese doesn’t have any exceptions! If you see a noun ending in “dade,” you can be 100% confident that it’s feminine.


Nouns That End with “agem”

Examples: imagem (image), viagem (journey), vantagem (advantage), mensagem (message)

Personagem (character), however, is a masculine noun.


Inflecting Nouns

Nouns that refer to people often have both masculine and feminine versions to reflect the fact that the person they are referring to can be either male or female. These are often, but not always, the names of professions. Below are five examples:


Sibling

M: irmão (brother)

F: irmã (sister)


Doctor

M: doutor

F: doutora


Author

M: autor

F: autora


Teacher

M: professor

F: professora


Sir/Madam/Mr./Mrs.

M: senhor

F: senhora


Single Form Inflecting Nouns

Some nouns, again generally those that refer to people, have a single form that can take either gender depending on the person to whom they refer. These come in three main types:


Nouns That End with “ante”

Examples: habitante (inhabitant), estudante (student), comandante (commander), fumante (smoker)


Nouns That End with “ente”

Examples: presidente (president), agente (agent), cliente (customer), dirigente (driver)


Nouns That End with “ista”

Examples: artista (artist), jornalista (journalist), cientista (scientist), especialista (specialist)


Practice Using Gender in Portuguese

As you can see, gender in Portuguese is a complex subject, especially for an English-speaking learner who quite possibly hasn’t encountered the concept of objects having a gender before. The best way of learning it is to practice with a tutor who can correct your mistakes and help you to remember all the rules and exceptions. At PortugueseTutoring.com, all our tutors are qualified Portuguese language instructors, so you can be confident you’re in the best possible hands.

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