Short Portuguese Lessons

Contents of lesson 6:

The possessive pronouns and adjectives

The demonstrative pronouns and adjectives

Examples

Exercises


The possessive pronouns and adjectives

The possessive pronouns are fairly easy in Portuguese. In languages like English, and even in the closely related Spanish, there is a difference between the adjective and the pronoun form, but no so in Portuguese. For English speakers, the only thing to be aware is the usual dichotomy between masculine/feminine and singular/plural forms, but for those who have reached this far in the lessons, that shouldn't be a problem. The following table lists all the possessives: (Remember that both pronouns and adjectives have the same form)

The possessives

Person Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural
Eu meu minha meus minhas
Tu teu tua teus tuas
Ele/Ela/VocÍ seu sua seus suas
Nós nosso nossa nossos nossas
Vós vosso vossa vossos vossas
Eles/Elas/VocÍs seu sua seus suas

The plural forms are only included for the sake of completeness, as they are very regular: take the singular form, and just add an s. Perhaps you have noticed that Ele/Ela/VocÍ have the same form. One important thing to remember is that the gender and number of the form depends on the object being possessed, not on the possessor. In English, the forms his/her vary according to the gender of the possessor, but in Portuguese they are equal, varying only according to the gender and number of the object.
In Portugal, the possessives usually have the defined article before them, while in Brazil this is not common. But both forms are correct, and you can hear them both in any of the countries. So, the sentence "My car is green" could be translated as "O meu carro é verde" (more common in Portugal), or as "Meu carro é verde" (more common in Brazil). As I am Portuguese, I will use the form that is more common in Portugal, but don't forget that they are both correct!
Perhaps you have noticed that being the 3rd person forms equal regardless if there is just one or more owners, or if the owner is masculine or feminine, this might lead to ambiguities. Pay attention on the following sentence:

"Pedro e Inês cantam a sua canção"

Which of the following translations is correct?

1 - Pedro and Inês sing his song
2 - Pedro and Inês sing her song
3 - Pedro and Inês sing their song
4 - Pedro and Inês sing your song (a formal "your")

Well, any of the above forms could be correct. There is not enough information to decide which, and for this reason, portuguese speakers rarely use these forms. Instead, the contraction of the preposition "de" with the pronouns ele/ela/eles/elas is usually used. These forms are listed in the table bellow:

Contraction Meaning
de + ele = dele his
de + ela = dela her
de + eles = deles their (masculine or mixed gender)
de + elas = delas their (feminine)

Each of the four sentences above can be now translated as follows:

1 - Pedro and Inês sing his song - Pedro e Inês cantam a canção dele
2 - Pedro and Inês sing her song - Pedro e Inês cantam a canção dela
3 - Pedro and Inês sing their song - Pedro e Inês cantam a canção deles
4 - Pedro and Inês sing your song (formal) - Pedro e Inês cantam a sua canção

The choice of which form to use depends on the context. If there is a chance of ambiguity, then use the form that doesn't lead to it. In most day-to-day conversations, the dele/dela/deles/delas are usually used, but in written texts or in a more formal conversation, the forms seu/sua/seus/suas forms are preferred.


The demonstrative pronouns and adjectives

The following table lists some demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in English and their Portuguese counterparts. Notice that the demonstrative tal changes only according to number, being invariant to gender. The other forms are regular, and follow the usual rules for forming the feminine and plural. (some of the forms, like the plural of another, don't make much sense in English, but are still valid in Portuguese)

English Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural Invariable
this este esta estes estas isto
that esse essa esses essas isso
that (yonder) aquele aquela aqueles aquelas aquilo
such tal tal tais tais
the same o mesmo a mesma os mesmos as mesmas
another outro outra outros outras
the other o outro a outra os outros as outras
the one o a os as o

Special attention must be given to esse, aquele. They both mean that in English, but are used in different situations. The demonstrative esse is used to designate an object that is close to the receiver, while aquele is used for an object that is far from both the speaker and the receiver. (More or less like the archaic English yonder.)
Please also notice that in Brazil it is common that a speaker will refer to an object close to him with the esse forms, and not este as one might expect.

Examples

The following examples cover both the possessives and the demonstratives. Some new vocabulary will be introduced, so take a good luck at the translation if you have any doubts. In Portuguese, the personal pronouns that function as subject (eu, tu, ele...) are not usually used in a sentence because of their redundancy. I have included them in previous lessons because foreigners feel more at ease using them, but from now on I'll slowly begin building sentences without them. This means you should have a good knowledge of the verb forms in order to continue...

Este carro é meu - This car is mine
São aquelas as vossas flores? - Are those your flowers?
Ela come a sobremesa dele - She eats his desert
Esta é a minha escola - This is my school
Aquele não é o mesmo pássaro - That (yonder) is not the same bird
Essa rapariga é minha prima - That girl is my cousin (That girl is a cousin of mine)
Essa rapariga é a minha prima - That girl is my cousin (*)
Não compreendo tal atitude - I don't understand such attitude
Queres comer outra maçã? - Do you want to eat another apple?

Isto ť incrível! - This is incredible! Essa é uma boa ideia! - That is a good idea! (*) By putting the defined article a before the possessive pronoun, the meaning of this sentence changes slightly. The cousin is "defined", meaning that it's not a random cousin, but a cousin that was mentioned earlier in the conversation.

Exercises

And here are the exercises. They include everything we've seen so far, and you will need vocabulary seen in previous lessons (and also the portuguese word for Always, which is Sempre). Now, translate from Portuguese to English, and vice-versa. (The answers are here.)

Esse peixe nada no meu lago.
Aquele cão é teu?
Vamos ao cinema no teu carro?
A mesma jovem rapariga canta outra bela canção.
Those (yonder) old cats eat our fish.
Fifteen brown horses run in my fields.
You always have the same ideas!
How does your bird sing?


And that's all for lesson 6. You are welcome to continue and go on for lesson 7. There we'll take a look at the Past and Future tenses.

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 7

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Last updated: 97/04/04

Dario Oliveira Teixeira
spl@um.geira.pt