Adjectives are an area of Portuguese grammar that can take a while for native English speakers to grasp. In English, adjectives are static: the same word, with the same spelling, is always used regardless of what kind of noun it is describing. In Portuguese grammar, the suffix of the adjective changes depending on both whether the noun is masculine or feminine, and whether it is singular or plural. If you’re used to adjectives which never inflect for gender or number, it’s easy to just transfer this habit over.
Often, when you’re speaking Portuguese, people will be too polite to point out mistakes like this–they understand what you’re saying and don’t need to ask for clarification, and they know you’re not a native speaker and make allowances. If you want to impress with your command of Portuguese grammar, you need to train yourself to use the correct adjective form automatically. The best way to do this is by working with a professional tutor who will correct you when you slip up.
Below, we’ll examine how to pluralize and gender adjectives correctly using some simple examples.
In Portuguese grammar, nouns are either masculine or feminine. There’s no surefire way to know which just by looking at the word; nouns that end with -a or -ção are usually feminine, whereas if they end with -o they are usually masculine. However, there are many exceptions to that rule, and even more nouns that don’t end any of those ways. The only way you’ll learn is by practicing.
Once you know whether a noun is masculine or feminine, you then need to know how to gender the adjective. A lot of adjectives end with -o when describing a masculine noun, and with -a for a feminine noun. For example, “white” is either branco or branca. So, “white house” is casa branca, whereas “white plate” is prato branco.
However, many adjectives do not fit this pattern. “Good,” for example, is either bom (m) or boa (f). With such adjectives, it’s a case of memorizing and practicing–while Portuguese grammar is generally more logical and systematic than English, there are still many examples that don’t seem to fit “the rules,” which you have to learn on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, there are some adjectives which don’t vary depending on the gender of the noun. Two examples of this are “hot” (quente) and “green” (verde). While these adjectives are “easier” in a way, you do still have the issue of remembering which ones they are!
The rules for pluralizing adjectives are generally simpler. In most cases, all you do is add an -s where there’s a plural noun. So, “white plates” is pratos brancos, and “white houses” is casas brancas. This is simple to do, but easy to forget–once again, practice is the key.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule as well. One common type of exception is where -es is added, as is the case with superior (which does not inflect for gender), the plural of which is superiores, so “superior houses” is casas superiores. Singular adjectives ending with -l usually pluralize with -is, so “blue houses” is casas azuis. As with gendered adjectives, there’s no simple catch-all rule, and regular practice is essential to get the hang of it.
There’s Still a Lot to Learn
As you can see, there’s a lot to learn with Portuguese adjectives that you don’t need to worry about in English. There are, however, a few adjectives that are completely the same regardless of gender and plurality. One of those is the Portuguese for “simple,” which is always simples, whether the noun is masculine, feminine, singular, and plural. Simple by name and by nature!
Learning adjectives, as with other areas of Portuguese grammar, can be difficult for native English speakers. There’s quite a lot of information to absorb just in this brief post, and there is still a lot to learn about adjectives that hasn’t been covered here. To use Portuguese adjectives like a native, you’ll need professional assistance. Learn with a professional here.