Portuguese, as other Latin languages, can be tricky when it comes to articles, and genders are usually responsible for all the confusion. So let’s start simple and fearless.
Similarly to English, Portuguese has two classes of articles: definite and indefinite.
- Definite articles commonly refer to a noun previously mentioned or present in the speakers imaginary.
- Indefinite articles refer to a noun not mentioned before or part of a group.
I went to the party. Known party.
I went to a party. Unknown/any party.
Articles are linked to nouns and give information about them. Therefore, their correct use results in richer and more coherent structures What kind of information articles can give us? The main and obvious ones are gender and number. Let’s talk about definite articles. Here they are:
O (singular, masculine) – O palhaço. (The clown.) Know clown; ‘palhaço’ is a masculine word.
Os (plural, masculine) – Os jogadores. (The players.) Known players; ‘jogadores’ is a masculine word.
A (singular, feminine) – A árvore. (The tree.) Know tree; ‘árvore’ is a feminine word.
As (plural, feminine) – As nuvens. (The clouds.) Known clouds; ‘nuvens’ is a feminine word.
Definite articles refer to ideas, people or objects already presented or widely known
Um (singular, masculine) – Um filme. (A film/movie.) – Unknown/any movie.
Uns (plural, masculine) – Uns petiscos. (Some appetizers.) – Unknown/any/some appetizers.
Uma (singular, feminine) – Uma mulher. (A woman.) – Unknown/any woman.
Umas (plural, feminine) – Umas frutas. (Some fruit.) – Unknown/any/some fruit.
Indefinite articles refer to ideas, people or objects in a vague, imprecise and general way, without naming the cows.*
*Dar nomes às vacas. To name the cows. In Portuguese, it’s a saying that means identifying precisely and correctly something.
- Articles agree in gender and in number with nouns to which they are connected;
- Articles can combine with prepositions. For example, preposition ’em’ plus article ‘uma’ becomes ‘numa’;
- Articles can turn other types of words into nouns. Example: Verb jantar (to have dinner) > O jantar estava delicioso. (The dinner was delicious.) Words attached to articles are nouns.
- Definite articles (singular) are used in general statements. For example, ‘a cidade grande é perigosa’ (big cities are dangerous) refers to big cities in general.
Best wishes on your learning journey. It makes me happy to be part of it.