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Notes for Portuguese speaking learners of English and English learners of Portuguese

Where English has only the words a, an or the, Portuguese has many words:

a/an    um (masculine)
uma (feminine)

the      o (masculine singular)
           a (feminine singular)
           os (masculine plural)
           as (feminine plural)

The main difference between English and Portuguese is the use of the definite article. In Portuguese, the definite article is used:

•    in a general sense, meaning all or almost all
Os Brasileiros falam português. (=Brazilians speak Portuguese.)
Os carros têm rodas. (=Cars have wheels.)

•    with the names of many countries, cities and towns
a Franca, o Japão, a Austrália, o Rio de Janeiro, a Guarda, a Covilhã, o Porto (=France, Japan, Australia, Rio de Janeiro, Guarda, Covilhã, Porto)

•    with parts of the body
Acenaram com a cabeça.(=They nodded their heads.)
Tem os cabelos pretos. (=He/She has black hair.)

•    with institutions
Fica na escola. (=She/He is at school.)
Vou à universidade. (=I go to university.) (N.B. à 
is a combination of a meaning to and the feminine definite article a.)


This information was compiled by Julia Miller but is closely based on Willis, R.C. (1971). An essential course in modern Portuguese. Nelson: Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, UK.

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