Portuguese plurals, like many areas of Portuguese grammar, are more complicated than English ones, and there are more things to learn. Today, we’ll go through the basics—you can learn more with our expert tutors.
There are two main ways in which Portuguese plurals are more complicated than their English counterparts. First, whereas in English it’s almost always a case of simply adding an “s” (sometimes there are collective nouns where this is not required, like “sheep” or “fish”), in Portuguese there are several different ways of pluralizing, depending on what letters the word ends with. Second, while in English only nouns need to be pluralized, in Portuguese there needs to be “agreement” across the whole sentence or clause, meaning that other words that refer to the noun also need to take the plural form.
In this post, we address the two issues separately. We look at what words need to be pluralized before we look at how to do it.
What Words Need to Be Pluralized?
The basic rule here is that if a word is either describing or quantifying a Portuguese plural noun, it also needs to be pluralized. These can be divided into two categories: adjectives and articles/quantifiers. We’ll illustrate this here using a simple noun, caneta, meaning “pen,” and an equally simple adjective, grande, meaning “big” or “large.”
In the singular form, we have a caneta grande, meaning “the big pen.” In English, the phrase is pluralized simply by adding an “s” to the end of “pen”: “the big pens.” In Portuguese, however, the article and the adjective also both need to be pluralized, and the phrase becomes as canetas grandes.
How to Pluralize Words
Portuguese plurals are formed in a much wider variety of ways than their English counterparts. What letters are added to and taken away from the word depend on which letters the singular form of the word ends with. These are divided into five basic categories, as shown below.
Words Ending with Vowels
Words ending with vowels are pluralized the same way as in English, by adding an “s” to the end of the word. For example, in our example above, the plural of caneta (pen) is canetas.
Words Ending with “R,” “S,” or “Z”
Words ending with these letters are pluralized by adding “es” to the end of the word, as shown in the examples below:
O calculador (the calculator) → os calculadores (the calculators)
O mês (the month) → os meses (the month)
A luz (the light) → as luzes (the lights)
Words Ending with “L”
For words ending with “l,” we remove the “l” from the end of the word and replace it with “is,” as shown in the examples below.
O hotel (the hotel) → os hoteis (the hotels)
O lençol (the sheet) → os lençois (the sheets)
Words Ending with “M”
For words ending with “m,” we remove the “m” from the end of the word and replace it with “ns,” as shown in the examples below.
O nuvem (the cloud) → os nuvens (the clouds)
O som (the sound) → os sons (the sounds)
Words Ending with “ÃO”
There are three possible plural endings for words that end with “ão”: “ões,” “ães,” or “ãos.” The most common is “ões,” so if you’re in a situation where you need to guess, that’s your best bet! Examples of the three different plural endings for “ão” are shown below.
O limão (the lemon) → os limões (the lemons)
O cão (the dog) → os cães (the dogs)
O irmão (the brother) → os irmãos (the brothers)
There’s still more to learn when it comes to Portuguese plurals. For example, there are several irregular plurals that do not follow the rules above. To be confident when pluralizing in Portuguese, you need to practice. Book a lesson with our tutors to learn more about this and many other topics.