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Portuguese Grammar: Definite and Indefinite Articles

Articles are a typical example of the differences between English and Portuguese grammar. In English there are three articles, the definite article “the,” and the indefinite articles “a” and “an.” Portuguese has eight, four definite and four indefinite. Which one is used in any given situation is determined by the noun to which it refers. This might seem a little intimidating for a learner, but the good news is that the system is very logical—if you learn with an expert tutor you’ll soon get the hang of it.

In this post, we’ll take a look at all eight Portuguese articles, definite and indefinite, and how to know which one to use.

Definite Articles

Whereas English only has one definite article, “the,” Portuguese grammar has four: the masculine singular o, the feminine singular a, the masculine plural os, and the feminine plural as. Which one is used depends on the noun it is being used with—the noun and the article must always agree, so a masculine singular noun goes with the masculine singular definite article, a feminine singular noun with the feminine singular definite article, and so forth. See below for some examples.

The bank

O banco

The chair

A cadeia

The floor

O chão

The shirt

A camisa

The shoes

Os sapatos

The socks

As meias

The forks

Os garfos

The people

As pessoas

Knowing whether nouns are masculine or feminine is key to using the definite article correctly. This is tricky for a native English speaker, as most English nouns are not gendered. This is an area of Portuguese grammar you can practice with a tutor.

Indefinite Articles

As with definite articles, the system of indefinite articles in Portuguese grammar is somewhat different from English (and arguably more logical). Whereas in English we have “a” and “an,” Portuguese indefinite articles are derived from the word for “one,” um—so um can translate as either “one,” “a,” or “an,” depending on context. As with definite articles, the Portuguese indefinite article inflects for gender and plurality, so we have um and uma for “a” and “an,” and uns and umas for “some.”

(The English word “some” is a quantifier rather than an article. However, in Portuguese, uns and umas can be regarded as plural indefinite articles.)

See below for how to use the nouns from the previous example with indefinite articles.

A bank

Um banco

A chair

Uma cadeia

A floor

Um chão

A shirt

Uma camisa

Some shoes

Uns sapatos

Some socks

Umas meias

Some forks

Uns garfos

Some people

Umas pessoas

Improve Your Portuguese Grammar

If you improve your grasp of Portuguese grammar, your communication skills will be greatly enhanced, and you’ll find you’re able to learn vocabulary much faster and communicate in a wider range of situations. The best way to do this is to practice with a Portuguese expert who can set challenges tailored to your ability and inspire your learning with professional coaching. Our tutors are waiting to hear from you.

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