Portuguese is a flexive language and its morphology and syntax are similar to the grammar of most other Romance languages, especially that of Spanish.
In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiteness. The inflection of verbs is called conjugation, and one can refer to the inflection of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, determiners, participles, prepositions and postpositions, numerals, articles, etc., as declension.
Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and articles are moderately inflected: there are two genders (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural).
Verbs are highly inflected and for most of learners, this can be the hardest thing to master. There are three tenses: present, past and future. The infinitive is easily recognizable by three endings: “ar”, “er”, “ir”.
Portuguese is basically a SVO language (Subject Verb Object is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb second, and the object third). It is a null subject language, with a tendency to drop object pronouns, mainly in colloquial varieties.
A null subject language is a language whose grammar permits the lack of an explicit subject. For example: the sentence “Eu estudo Português” (I study Portuguese) can be written “Estudo Português”, dropping the subject “Eu”, without any loss of significance.
Portuguese has two copular verbs: “ser” and “estar” (to be). The distinction between them is basically the concept of permanent versus temporary:
Ele é triste (verb ser) – He’s sad (He’s always sad)
Ele está triste (verb estar) – He’s sad (He’s often happy, but now he’s sad)
Singular: eu (I), tu (You), ele (he), ela (she)
Plural: nós (We), vós (You), eles/elas (They)
In Portugal, “tu” is used with family, friends and children. But in Brazil, it is rarely used (only in some regions of north-east and south of Brazil). In spoken language, “tu” is replaced by “você”, but conjugated as the third person singular.
“Vós” is widely used in Portugal but in Brazil it is present only in legal, biblical and formal texts. You’ll never hear a Brazilian using “vós”! The Brazilian replace “vós” by “vocês”. So, the real personal pronouns in Brazil are:
Singular: eu (I), você (You), ele (he), ela (she)
Plural: nós (We), vocês (You), eles/elas (They)
Portuguese prepositions are somewhat similar to other Romance languages.
De = of, from, about
Para = for, to, in other to
Sobre = on, about, on top of
Atrás = behind
DEFINITE AND INDEFINITE ARTICLES
In Portuguese, definite and indefinite articles precede nouns and must agree in gender and number.
|Singular||o (the)||a (the)|
|Plural||os (the)||as (the)|
O tio. (The uncle). Os tios (The uncles).
A tia. (The aunt). As tias (The aunts).
|Singular||um (a, an)||uma (a, an)|
|Plural||uns (some)||umas (some)|
Um tio. (An uncle). Uns tios (Some uncles).
Uma tia. (An aunt). Umas tias (Some aunts).
The pronunciation of certain words differs from those used in Portugal and the other Portuguese-speaking countries. See the case of the letter “l” at the end of words.
Animal (animal): has a similar sound of book
Animal: has a similar sound of alternative
The letter “d” is another remarkable difference between the Portuguese and Brazilian pronunciations. In Brazil, depending on its position, it may have two pronunciations:
Tarde (late): pronounced as “judge”
Dente (tooth): pronounced as “day”
Tarde and dente are pronounced as “day”
There are 7 vowel sounds in Portuguese: /a/, /é/, /ê/, /i/, /ó/, /ô/, /u/ and many words have diacritical marks. Diacritics are extra symbols placed above or below a letter to modify the pronunciation or clarify the meaning of a word:
Para = to
Pará = a Brazilian state
The main diacritical marks are:
- Til (~): indicates a nasal sound.
- Acento agudo (´): indicates that the vowel sound is open or a stress syllable.
- Acento circunflexo (^): indicates that the vowel sound is close
Identifying the gender of words is one of the most confusing things in Portuguese. Even intermediate students struggle with that.
How to know if a noun is masculine or feminine? In this video you’ll learn the top rules to determine gender in Brazilian Portuguese.
It’s very easy to turn statements into questions in Portuguese. You just add a question mark at the end of the sentence. When speaking, raise the intonation at the end of the sentence as how would do in English:
Você fala português do Brasil – You speak Brazilian Portuguese
Você fala português do Brasil? – Do you speak Brazilian Portuguese?
This is another easy construction in Portuguese. All you have to do is to place the word “não” before the verb, no matter it’s in the present, future or past:
Eu estudo no Brasil – I study in Brazil
Eu não estudo no Brasil – I don’t study in Brazil
O menino estudou ontem – The boy studied yesterday
O menino não estudou ontem – The boy didn’t study yesterday
DIMINUTIVE AND AUGMENTATIVE
Diminutive is a formation of a word used to connote small size, endearment, insignificance or contempt. Portuguese language makes abundant use of diminutives, mainly in informal language. They are used with nouns, adjectives and even with adverbs!
The most common diminutive endings are –inho (masculine) and –inha (feminine). They make the language more dynamic, syntactic and expressive:
Eu tenho uma mesa pequena – I have a small table.
Eu tenho uma mesinha – I have a small table. (small size)
Eu amo meu gato – I love my cat
Eu amo meu gatinho – I love my cat (It’s so cute!)
Você é gordo – You are fat.
Você é gordinho – You are fat (insignificance).
Augmentative can mean big size, endearment or significance. The most common augmentative endings are -ão (masculine) and -ona (feminine).
Learn more about the Portuguese language and the Brazilian culture on portuguesdobrasil.com.br!