Using the Definite Article in Portuguese
Portuguese definite articles can be a bit confusing, when do you use them and how?
If you are ever in doubt, here is a guide about how or when to use definite articles in Portuguese!
The definite article corresponds to ‘the’ in English, but in Portuguese there are four different definite article, are you confused? Don’t be. In Portuguese, the four definite articles are separated as masculine, feminine, singular, and plural. You can see the four different forms in the table below:
- O (mas.)- O chão (The floor)
- A (fem.)- A porta (The door)
- Os (mas.)- Os carros (The cars)
- As (fem.) - As janelas (The windows)
And, don’t forget, the definite article is used to designate a specific noun, which it must agree with in gender and number.
Here are some tips and rules, that will help to explain how to USE DEFINITE ARTICLES
a) First names: As a rule first names in Portuguese are preceded by a definite article.
O João é meu irmão.
João is my brother
A Maria é bonita.
Maria is beautiful.
b) Titles: O senhor/ a senhora/ a menina/ a dona / o doutor…
A menina quer um café?
Would you like a coffee?
A Sra. D. Irene Silva cozinha muito bem.
Mrs Silva cooks very well.
O Sr. Eng.° Costa não está.
Mr Costa is not here.
c) Names of continents, countries, islands, rivers, and other nouns:
A Europa é um continente.
Europe is a continent.
A Madeira é uma ilha.
Madeira is an island.
O Brasil é bonito.
Brazil is beautiful.
O Douro é um rio português.
Douro is a Portuguese river.
Exceptions: Portugal and most Portuguese-speaking countries which were formerly part of the Portuguese Empire, with the exception of Brazil and Guiné-Bissau, do not take the definite article (Portugal, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola, Macau, Moçambique, Timor) and certain other countries do not take the definite article, like: Marrocos, Israel, Andorra
d) Days of the week:
A terça-feira é dia feriado.
Tuesday is a bank holiday.
e) Seasons of the year:
- A Primavera -Spring
- O Verão - Summer
- O Outono - Autumn
- O Inverno - Winter
Exception: This does not apply when the seasons, preceded by a preposition such as "de," function as a complement to the main noun.
Estava uma noite de verão quando o meu namorado propôs casamento.
It was a summer’s night when my boyfriend proposed marriage.
Vou para a cama cedo nos meses de inverno.
I go to bed early in the winter months.
- O Natal - Christmas
- A Páscoa - Easter
But this doesn’t apply when religious festivals and the like function as an adnominal adjunct to words such as dia, noite and semana.
Eu preparo o jantar no dia de Natal. I cook the dinner on Christmas Day.
Na semana de Páscoa vou a casa dos meus pais. I go to my parents’ house in Easter week.
g) With centuries, decades and epochs:
O século century
a época the era
Portugal descobriu meio mundo durante a época do Renascimento. Portugal discovered half the world during the era of the Renaissance.
O que vai acontecer no novo milénio? What is going to happen in the new millennium?
h) Before possessive adjectives:
A minha amiga. My friend
O nosso carro. Our car
Ok, now you know how to use or when to use the article. But we have some exceptions. Ready to learn When the OMISSION OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE?
a) When someone is really famous like writers, presidents, ministers, popes…. Shakespeare foi um grande escritor. Shakespeare was a great writer
Gago Coutinho foi um aeronauta português. Gago Coutinho was a Portuguese aeronaut.
b) When a title is used as a vocative:
Sente-se melhor agora, Sr. Silva? Are you feeling better now, Mr Silva?
c) When a title includes a possessive pronoun:
Sua Majestade, o Rei de Espanha. His Majesty the King of Spain
Sua Excelência, o Presidente da República. His Excellency the President of the Republic
d) Usually before names of cities and towns:
Lisboa é a capital de Portugal. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal.
Londres é a capital de Inglaterra. London is the capital of England.
But, If the name of the city / town / village coincide with a common name (eg: Porto - name of a city - and port - common name), takes the definite article the common name ("Porto" and "the port "), which implies the occurrence of the definite article expressions with prepositions de, em a contractions (do= de + o; no= em + o; ao=a + o).
O Porto é uma cidade bonita. Porto is a beautiful city.
e) When making a generalization:
Eu adoro flores. I love flowers.
Eu gosto de vinho. I like wine (all types of wine) as opposed to Eu gosto do vinho, I like the wine (that particular wine). Here "do" is the contraction of the preposition "de" + "o".
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