Short Portuguese Lessons

Contents of lesson 3:

The Definite/Indefinite Articles

Making the Plural





The Definite/Indefinite Articles

The definite and indefinite articles have in portuguese four different forms each, because of the different combinations between gender and number: An article, either being definite or indefinite, must agree with its corresponding noun.

The Definite Articles (like the english the):

masculine feminine
Singular o a
Plural os as

The Indefinite Articles (like the english a and an):

masculine feminine
Singular um uma
Plural uns umas

Making the Plural

In Portuguese, like in English, things can be either singular (when there's only one), or plural (when there are many). Given a word in the singular, the usual way to make its plural form is to add an s. This rule can not be always directly applied, and often some modifcations on the word are necessary. The following examples will give you an idea:

Singular form Plural form English (singular)
primo primos cousin
cebola cebolas onion
lente lentes lens
farol farois lighthouse
papel papeis paper
funil funis funnel
jardim jardins garden
motor motores motor
feliz felizes happy

As you can see, when a word ends in a vowel, the plural is made by simply adding an s. When the word ends with the letter m, the plural is made by changing the m into ns. When the word ends with an l, see the vowel before it: if it is an i, change the l into an s, if it is another vowel , change the l into is. If the word ends with a z or r, make the plural by adding es.
You will see that most portuguese words end in vowels, and that the majority of consonants that can end a word are the ones above (m, l, z, r). There are some words that in their singular forms end in n, x, or even s, but we'll deal with them as they appear.
I didn't mention the plural of words ending in ão, because there are many things to say about them, and I will only explain them later. These words are very common, but for now I'll just say that their plural is made by replacing the ão with ãos, ões, or ães. The correct choice is the difficult part...


As you know from lesson 1, there are two genders in portuguese: things can be masculine or feminine, including inanimate objects, and abstract concepts. Usually, feminine words end in a, and masculine words end in o. But this is just a general rule: it is in fact more complicated, and there are the inevitable exceptions.
For many words it only makes sense to have one form. For instance, the word cadeira ("chair") is feminine, but it is nonsense to make a masculine form like cadeiro, not only because chairs don't have genders, but also because the gender associated with the word is arbitrary. There are in fact cases where the masculine and feminine forms mean different things.

Here are some examples of masculine/feminine words:

masculine form feminine form English
tio tia uncle/aunt
esperto esperta smart (not expert!)
azul azul blue
quente quente hot
professor professora teacher
pintor pintora painter
português portuguesa portuguese
inglês inglesa english

As you can see, when the masculine form ends in o, the feminine form ends in a. When it ends in an r, the feminine form is made by adding an a. To say that someone is from a given nationality, usually the masculine form ends in ês and the feminine form in esa. In the other cases, the masculine anf feminine forms are left unchanged. Again, words ending in ão will be mentioned later. Keep in mind that there are many exceptions to these rules! In some words, the masculine and feminine forms are totally different, especially in the case of large domestic animals. (The same thing happens in english.):

masculine form feminine form English
boi vaca ox/cow
cavalo égua horse/mare
rapaz rapariga boy/girl


In portuguese, unlike in english, adjectives must agree with the noun they are qualifying. This means that if a noun is feminine and plural, the adjective must be also in the feminine and plural form. The placing is also different: in english, adjectives come before the noun, in portuguese they usually came after the noun. (They can also come before the noun, but the meaning of the sentence is affected - this will be explained in some future lesson.)

Here's an example of the use of an adjective. Novo means "new" or "young", and urso means "bear" (in their masculine forms):

O urso novo - The new bear (masculine and singular)
A ursa nova - The new bear (feminine and singular)
Os ursos novos - The new bears (masculine and plural)
As ursas novas - The new bears (feminine and plural)


The following examples use all the grammar given so far: the conjugation of the present tense of verbs ending in ar, er, ir, the articles, and the making of masculine/feminine, singular/plural. Before you go on, be sure to have this part well understood. After the examples there are also some exercises for you to practice.

Here's some vocabulary you might need:

cantar - to sing
beber - to drink
comer - to eat
correr - to run

água - water
canção - song
maçã - apple
mar - sea
vinho - wine

azul - blue
belo - beautiful
bonito - pretty
frio - cold
grande - big
maluco - crazy
pequeno - small
quente - hot
saboroso - tasty

Here are the examples:

O rapaz novo come uma maçã saborosa - The young boy eats a tasty apple
O homem velho canta uma canção - The old man sings a song
A rapariga bonita é portuguesa - The pretty girl is portuguese
Os cavalos felizes correm muito - The happy horses run a lot
Uma mulher bebe o vinho - A woman drinks the wine
O mar azul é belo - The blue sea is beautiful
Vós sois malucos - You are crazy


Translate the following sentences from Portuguese to English, and from English to Portuguese. (You can see the answers here.)

O gato pequeno bebe a água quente
Um urso feliz come a maçã
A vaca maluca bebe o mar
Nós cantamos muito
The old cat is english
The cold water is good
The portuguese women drink the tasty wine
He is small

And that's all for lesson 3. You are welcome to continue and go on for lesson 4. There we'll look at some prepositions, more vocabulary, and we'll start to make more complicated sentences.

Please send me your comments, sugestions, or whatever! If there's anything you would like to see included in these Short Portuguese lessons, please tell me so!

Lesson 4 Go on to Lesson 4

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Last updated: 97/04/04

Dario Oliveira Teixeira