LearningPortuguese

Nouns and Articles

A noun is an identifier, so just check whether the word identifies what something or someone is. The thing identified by a noun can be tangible – like ‘chair’, ‘door’, ‘car’, ‘book’; or it can be abstract – like ‘thought’, ‘desire’, ‘mystery’, ‘effort’.

Sometimes, an identifier can consist of more than one word (eg. ‘beer bottle’, ‘car door’), in which case the group of words that make up the identifier is known as a ‘noun phrase’.

Nouns can always be preceded by the definite or indefinite article (i.e. the word ‘the’ or ‘a(n)’ or ‘some’), so if it does not make sense to use ‘the’ or ‘a’ before the word, it is likely not a noun. For example, take the word ‘went’ – it does not make sense to say ‘the went’, so ‘went’ is not a noun. Whereas, ‘the concept’ does make sense, so ‘concept’ is a noun.

Proper nouns are similar in that they act as identifiers, it's just that they define a particular instance of a noun – i.e. names (e.g., Fred, Emily, Tuesday, London). Proper nouns always start with a capital letter in English so they are usually easy to identify.

In Portuguese, nouns are either masculine or feminine. Unless you have studied another language before, this may seem a little odd because in English we only apply gender to people or animals unless speaking rhetorically.

The distinction as to which nouns are masculine and which are feminine is fairly arbitrary, but as a general rule, if the word ends with ‘a’ or ‘ção’ (equivalent to the English ending ‘tion’) or ‘ade’ or ‘gem’, it is usually feminine, and if it ends with an ‘o’, or ‘l’, or ‘r’ or ‘á’ (a-acute), it is usually masculine. Other endings can be masculine or feminine, and you just have to learn them as you come across them.

So what? Well, definite and indefinite articles, as well as adjectives have to ‘agree’ with the noun to which they relate – both in terms of gender, and plurality. What does this mean in practice? There are 4 (count 'em!) Portuguese words for ‘the’. The one you use depends on whether the noun is masculine or feminine, and whether you are referring to one or more than one item.

The Portuguese definite article

Portuguese

English

o

the (masculine singular)

os

the (masculine plural)

a

the (feminine singular)

as

the (feminine plural)

A similar rule applies to the indefinite article:

The Portuguese indefinite article

Portuguese

English

um

a or an (masculine)

uns

some (masculine plural)

uma

a or an (feminine)

umas

some (feminine)

Take for example, the word ‘livro’ which means ‘book’. This is a masculine noun, so when referring to one particular book (‘the book’), you would say ‘o livro’, whereas to refer to a few books (‘some books’), you would say ‘uns livros’. To say ‘the houses’, which is feminine, would be ‘as casas’.

The best way to learn which nouns are masculine and which are feminine is to learn the word along with the definite or indefinite article. There's no time like the present, so here are some nouns for you to learn:

Examples of Portuguese nouns

Portuguese

English

o amor

love

a árvore

tree

o banho

bath

a bebida

drink

a caneta

pen

o carro

car

a casa

house

a comida

food

o computador

computer

a cortina

curtain

o escritório

office

a explicação

explanation

o fim

end

a flor

flower

o gato

cat

a idéia

idea

o início

beginning

o livro

book

o país

country

o pensamento

thought

os sentimentos

feelings

a televisão

television

Buy the Book!

Available in paperback or as an eBook

cover4 tiny

  • Entire pronunciation and grammar guide of this website included
  • Expanded and updated
  • Extra content on subjects not covered on the site
  • Over 500 exercises with translations and solutions
  • Verb tables for regular and the most common irregular verbs
  • Extra reference and vocabulary

More Information