In this post we’ll look at a particular type of Portuguese pronouns: indefinite pronouns. Although not as common as personal pronouns, these come up frequently in conversation and can be considered essential learning. What’s the best way to learn? Practice with an expert tutor.
What Is an Indefinite Pronoun?
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun referring to an object or person (or a group of objects/persons) that is not specifically defined by the pronoun itself. There are three types of indefinite pronouns: partitives (any, some, either), universals (every, all, each), and quantifiers (any, some, many). Many indefinite pronouns can also be used as determiners.
Invariable Indefinite Pronouns
Invariable indefinite Portuguese pronouns are those that do not change depending on gender or plurality—there is only one form of the word to learn.
Tudo usually means “everything.” In certain colloquial uses in Brazil, it can also mean “everyone,” but this is relatively uncommon.
Tudo acontece por uma razão.
Everything happens for a reason.
Usually translates as “nothing,” but in negative uses usually translates as “anything.”
Nada incomum aconteceu.
Nothing unusual happened.
Eu não posso fazer nada.
I can’t do anything.
The standard translation of cada is “each,” although the word is sometimes used colloquially as an intensifier. When used as an indefinite pronoun rather than as a determiner, it is usually followed by um(a).
Eu quero que cada um de vocês use suas forças individuais.
I want each of you to use your individual strengths.
In the pronoun use, mais always translates as “more.” In other uses, it can also translate as “plus” or “any more.”
Eu gostaria de poder fazer mais para ajudar.
I wish I could do more to help.
The pronoun menos can translate as either “less” or “fewer” depending on context.
Ele ganhou a eleição por menos de 100 votos.
He won the election by fewer than 100 votes.
Ela fez menos que qualquer outra pessoa.
She did less than anyone else.
Alguém can translate as “someone,” “somebody,” “anyone,” or “anybody.”
Can anybody find me somebody to love?
Alguém pode encontrar alguém para eu amar?
Ninguém can translate as “no one” or “nobody.”
Ninguém parecia saber de nada.
Nobody seemed to know anything.
Pouco usually means “little.” It can also be used colloquially to refer to a short period of time. In other usages, it inflects for both gender and plurality; however, for the indefinite pronoun usage, it is always pouco.
Eles têm pouco, mas o que eles têm, eles compartilham.
They have little, but what they have, they share.
We’ll go there in a short while.
Vamos lá daqui a pouco.
Variable Indefinite Pronouns
Variable indefinite Portuguese pronouns can inflect for gender, plurality, or both; for each pronoun, there are up to four forms to learn.
Algum translates either as “some” or “any.” It can inflect for both gender and plurality.
Você já viu algum de seus filmes?
Have you seen any of his films?
Você já viu alguma de suas pinturas?
Have you seen any of his paintings?
Eu já vi alguns de seus filmes.
I’ve seen some of his films.
Eu já vi algumas de suas pinturas.
I’ve seen some of his paintings.
When used as a pronoun, nenhum translates as “none.” It can also be used as the determiner “no.” It inflects for gender, but not for plurality.
Eu queria uma maçã, mas não sobrou nenhuma.
I wanted an apple, but there were none left.
Eu queria um doce, mas não sobrou nenhum.
I wanted a sweet, but there were none left.
Muito translates as “much,” or “many.” It inflects for both gender and plurality; however, the feminine singular form is not normally used as an indefinite pronoun.
Eles não disseram muito.
They didn’t say much.
Muitos dos carros estavam quebrados.
Many of the cars were broken.
Muitas das maçãs estavam podres.
Many of the apples were rotten.
Todo translates as “all.” It inflects for both gender and plurality.
Eu te dei todas as maçãs.
I gave you all the apples.
Eu te dei toda a manteiga.
I gave you all the butter.
Eu te dei todo o dinheiro.
I gave you all the money.
Eu te dei todos os lápis.
I gave you all the pencils.
Learn Indefinite Portuguese Pronouns the Right Way
The vocabulary in this post is just a starting point. Portuguese indefinite pronouns are somewhat different to their English counterparts, and just because a word translates a certain way in one context doesn’t mean it will always be the same. To be sure you’re using the right words, learn with our specialized tutors.