Cancellation Policy

The following applies after that you’ve registered and paid for the intensive course. 

  • Cancellations up to 5 weeks before the starting date lead to a 90% reimbursement.
  • Cancellations up to 3 weeks before the starting date lead to a 60% reimbursement.
  • Cancellations up to 1 week before the starting date lead to a 30% reimbursement.
  • Cancellations made within 6 or fewer days before the starting date lead to no reimbursement.

There are plenty of interesting options for our accommodation. It will most likely be a countryside house near Tavira.

I haven't booked it yet because I want to get a better idea of the group's composition (how many couples/singles) and your preferences before I do so. That will for instance help me understand how big a house we might need.

I look forward to soon talking to you about this and much more. Até breve, p

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Portuguese Prepositions and Contractions: An In-Depth Usage Rundown

In general, prepositions have an infamous reputation among language learners, and judging by all the whining and moaning I’ve heard from students throughout the years, Portuguese prepositions are definitely not the exception.

In this article, I will walk you through five basic Portuguese prepositions. I call them the “Big Five”: (1) em, (2) de, (3) a, (4) para, and (5) por

The reason I am focusing on these five prepositions is that they truly are the prepositional bread & butter of Portuguese. Here’s a brief and simplified usage summary:

em
primarily a preposition of place
Ela vive em Itália.
She lives in Italy.
de
often used as a preposition of origin
Eu sou de Portugal. 
I come from Portugal.
a
primarily a preposition of movement
O Carlos vai a Lisboa.
Carlos is going to Lisbon.
para
indicates movement with an emphasis on direction
Este autocarro vai para Londres.
This bus is going to London.
por
indicates passage and itinerary
Podes passar por minha casa mais trade?
Can you stop by my house later on?

In what follows, we’ll go through each of these five prepositions in more detail. Besides delving into their usage, we’ll look into their contractions (with other word classes) as well as their pairing with verbs and question words.

Let’s get started.

! Note that prepositional usage varies slightly between the different standards of Portuguese. All usage examples in this article conform to European Portuguese. Learn more about these and other differences between the two most established Portuguese standards: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – how different are they really?

What’s a preposition (and why are they tricky)?

What are they for?

Prepositions are either single words or groups of words that we use to show a relationship in space, time, or logic between two or more people, places, or things. Most commonly, prepositions appear in front of a noun phrase or pronoun. 

Here’s a more prosaic definition: prepositions are lubricating agents that help articulate the different components of a sentence, thus making the latter more intelligible and easier to follow. 

Take the following example, first without and then with the prepositions in place:

(1) I go work the mornings.
(2) I go to work in the mornings.

While you still may be able to make out the first sentence (if you put little effort into it), the second – with the preposition to giving a sense of direction and in situating the action in time – is much more assertive, clear, and easy to follow.

As to why preposition usage is normally perceived as “slippery”, there are different factors at play.

Why are they elusive?

Let’s start by noting that prepositions only pain those dealing with learning a second language. Native speakers couldn’t care less. They just get it right without ever needing to develop a conceptual understanding of it – much like we innocently breathe in and out without ever thinking about the intricate labor going on in our lungs and diaphragm as we do it.

Here are some reasons why prepositions can baffle language learners.

Ambivalence

Prepositions are not black-and-white. As we’ll see in a moment, it is not unusual that, depending on the context, the same preposition can refer to either time, movement, place, or something else. 

For example, in the sentences, I am going to London and I’m doing this to help you, the same preposition to is denoting different things, namely indicating direction in the first and purpose in the second. Portuguese prepositions, too, are ambiguous in this way, which often disconcerts language learners.

Subtle nuances

Often, different prepositions are used in very similar ways. Consider for instance the following sentences: 

  • I am at the station vs. I am by the station
  • I am working on it vs. I am working at it 
  • Let’s look at this vs. Let’s look into this 
  • He came to me vs. He came at me
  • This is relevant to me vs. This is relevant for me 

While there’s surely a difference in the paired sentences above, that difference can be quite subtle. Those subtleties may not be that easy to grasp by those learning a second language. 

In the prepositions that we are about to explore, there’s also a fair amount of delicate prepositional nuancing. 

Capricious behavior

More often than not, prepositional usage stays out of logical realms. Much to the misfortune of language learners, prepositions often behave whimsically. 

Think about it. Why do we say I am on the train, I am on the bus, I am on the plane,  but I am in the car? Or why do we look to the right but we look at the sky? Portuguese prepositions are no better.

No one-to-one English-Portuguese prepositional bonding

Attention all English native speakers! There surely isn’t a one-to-one relationship between Portuguese and English prepositions. Depending on the context, the same Portuguese preposition can correspond to two or more English prepositions. And vice versa. 

Additionally, there are situations where one language calls to a preposition while the other does well without any. 

Contractions

Unlike in English, Portuguese prepositions are highly contractible and they are therefore likely to merge with other words surrounding them, namely determiners*. This means that you’ve got to keep track of not only the preposition itself (in its plain form) but also of its derivatives (merged forms).

* Speaking of determiners. These are words such as articles, demonstratives, and possessives among others. They normally come right before a noun specifying both its gender and number. Learn more about gender and number in Portuguese, and how determiners change their endings to conform to it:

1. Disentangling gender with Portuguese masculine-to-feminine spelling patterns
2. Forming the plural in Portuguese: singular-to-plural conversion patterns you need to care about

In sum, prepositions are somehow messy and demand generous doses of exposure to your target language until they become second nature to you. 

While this article is no replacement for that exposure, it can bring you conceptual clarity about preposition usage in Portuguese. In that sense, it offers you a solid foundation to build upon.

Read on.

Portuguese preposition em

Em is best known for being a preposition of place. However, as we’ll see further below, we also use em to indicate time. In English, em can correspond to either in, on, or at depending on the situation. 

Before we delve into em’s usage, let’s look into its contracted forms. 

Contractions

More often than not, the preposition em merges with other word classes. For instance, articles and demonstratives will frequently merge with it. 

Let’s take a closer look at it to see what these contracted forms look like.

With articles

By default, the preposition em contracts with the articles, definite and indefinite, following it:

definite articles oaosas
contracted forms no 
(em + o)
na 
(em + a)
nos 
(em + os)
nas 
(em + as)
indefinite articlesumumaunsumas
contracted forms num 
(em + um)
numa 
(em + uma)
nuns 
(em + uns)
numas 
(em + umas)

With demonstratives 

Additionally, the preposition em melts into a contracted form with demonstrative pronouns* following it:

thisisto (neuter)este/sesta/s
contracted forms nisto
(em + isto)
neste/s
(em + este/s)
nesta/s
(em + esta/s)
thatisso (neuter)esse/sessa/s
contracted formsnisso
(em + isso)
nesse/s
(em + esse/s)
nessa/s
(em + essa/s)
that over thereaquilo (neuter)aquele/saquela/s
contracted formsnaquilo
(em + aquilo)
naquele/s
(em + aquele/s)
naquela/s
(em + aquela/s)

* Learn more about Portuguese demonstratives: Portuguese Demonstrative Pronouns and Determiners.

Other common contractions 

otheroutro/soutra/s
contracted forms noutro/s
(em + outro/s)
noutra/s
(em + outra/s)
somealgum/nsalguma/s
contracted formsnalgum/ns
(em + algum)
nalguma/s
(em + alguma)
someonealguém (neuter)
contracted formsnalguém
(em + alguém)

Usage

Place

We use em as a preposition of place and, depending on the situation, it can correspond to either the English preposition in, on, or at. Here’re a few examples: 

Estou a viver em Londres. 
I am living in London.

Estou a morar na Suécia. (a Suécia)
I am living in Sweden.

The above sentences illustrate a pattern that all beginners, sooner or later, come across. So, we normally use the plain form em when we talk about cities, whereas we tend to use the contracted form when referring to countries. 

See, city names in Portuguese are normally gender-neutral, whereas countries tend to be either masculine or feminine. As always, there are a few exceptions:

Estou a viver no Rio de Janeiro. (o Rio de Janeiro)
I am living in Rio de Janeiro.

Estou a morar em Portugal.
I am living in Portugal.

Let’s take a few more examples:

Ela já está no comboio. 
She’s already on the train.

Vivo numa pequena cidade.
I live in a small city.   

Eles estão na casa de verão. 
They are at the summer house.

But, we use the plain form when casa means home:

Eles estão em casa.
They are at home.

Here’re a couple of sentences where em contracts with demonstratives:

Ela gosta mais de se sentar nessa cadeira. 
She prefers to sit on that chair.

Fui muito feliz nesta cidade.
I was very happy in this city.

Time

We also use em to indicate time, for instance when mentioning the year, season, month, or a specific date. Let’s  look at the following dialogue where someone is waking up from a long coma:

Em que ano estamos? (Which year are we in?)
Em 2020, claro. (In 2020, of course.)
– E em que mês? (And in which month?)
– Estamos em outubro. (We’re in October.)
– Então estamos no outono. (Then we’re in autumn.)
– Sim, certo. (That’s right.)
– Já estamos no Natal? (Are we already at Christmas?)
– Não, o Natal é só em dezembro. (No, Christmas is only in December.)

Additionally, we use em right before the weekdays when referring to non-recurring events: 

Na segunda tenho uma reunião de trabalho.
On Monday (this Monday) I have a work meeting.

Neste sábado vou jogar futebol.
This Saturday I am playing soccer.

If we mean recurring events, though, we use the preposition a instead:

Às segundas costumo ter uma reunião de trabalho.
On Mondays, I normally have a work meeting.  

We’ll soon be looking at the preposition a. As for now, let’s resume this em-journey.

Verbs followed by em

Here’re a few commonly used verbs often followed by the preposition em:

Morar/viver
Live

Nós moramos no Brasil.
We live in Brazil.
Sentar-se
Sit

O Carlos senta-se na cadeira.
Carlos sits on the chair.
Deitar
Pour

A Ana deita a água no tacho. 
Ana pours the water into the pot.
Entrar
Come in

Nós entramos no restaurante e estava vazio.
We came into the restaurant and it was empty.
Pensar
Think

Penso muito em ti.
I think a lot about you.
Hesitar
Hesitate

Não hesites em contactar-me!
Never hesitate to contact me!

Question words preceded by em

The question word * que is often preceded by em: em que … ? – thus hinting at either place or time: 

Em que comboio estás?
Which train are you on?

Em que empresa trabalhas?
What company are you working for?

Em que ano é que te casaste?
What was the year you got married?

* Learn more about question words and asking questions in Portuguese: Asking Questions in Portuguese: Question Words and Beyond.

Portuguese preposition de

The preposition de indicates origin. Additionally, we use de to modify a noun as well as in genitive constructions. In English, de often corresponds to the prepositions from and of

Contractions

Like em, the preposition de merges with determiners, mostly articles and demonstratives. Let’s take a look at its contracted forms.  

With articles

By default, the preposition de contracts with the articles following it:

definite articles oaosas
contracted forms do 
(de + o)
da 
(de + a)
dos 
(de + os)
das 
(de + as)
indefinite articlesumumaunsumas
contracted forms dum 
(de + um)
duma 
(de + uma)
duns 
(de + uns)
dumas 
(de + umas)

When in the vicinity of indefinite articles, the use of its plain form is also common. Thus, we often say and write de um instead of dum, or de uma instead of duma

With demonstratives 

Additionally, de often precedes demonstrative determiners melting with them in a contracted form:

thisistoeste/sesta/s
contracted forms disto
(de + isto)
deste/s
(de + este/s)
desta/s
(de + esta/s)
thatissoesse/sessa/s
contracted formsdisso
(de + isso)
desse/s
(de + esse/s)
dessa/s
(de + essa/s)
that over thereaquiloaquele/saquela/s
contracted formsdaquilo
(de + aquilo)
daquele/s
(de + aquele/s)
daquela/s
(de + aquela/s)

Other common contractions 

otheroutro/soutra/s
contracted forms doutro/s
(de + outro/s)
doutra/s
(de + outra/s)
somealgum/algunsalguma/s
contracted formsdalgum/dalguns
(de + algum)
dalguma/s
(de + alguma)
someonealguém
contracted formsdalguém
(em + alguém)
here/thereaqui
contracted formsdaqui
(em + aqui)
daí
(de + aí)
he/she/theyele/sela/s
contracted formsdele/s
(de + ele/s)
dela/s
(de + ela/s)
whereonde
contracted formsdonde
(de + onde)
beforeantes
contracted formsdantes
(de + antes)

Usage

Origin

We use de to denote origin much as we say from in English. Here’re a few examples: 

Eu venho da Índia. 
I come from India.

Ela é do norte de Portugal. 
She’s from the north of Portugal.

Possession

We use de in genitive constructions, namely to indicate possession. In English, in analogous situations, we’d use the possessive suffix –’s:

Aquele é o carro do Pedro. 
That one over there is Pedro’s car.

Esta é a casa da Gabriela. 
This is Gabriela’s house.

Articulator (modifier)

What’s more, we use de to articulate two nouns, or a noun and a verb – the second modifying the first. In this case, de always appears in its plain form: 

  • Um copo de água (a water glass)
  • Uma máquina de coser (a sewing machine)
  • Uma mesa de madeira (wooden table)
  • Uma casa de pedra (stone house)
  • Uma colmeia de lobos (a wolf pack)
  • . . . 

Note that even in English, we often use a similar structure to Portuguese, in that case by using the preposition of, for instance, a house made of stone or a pack of wolves.

Time

We also use de to denote time. For example, we use it specifically to refer to mornings: 

De manhã acordo sempre às 9h.
In the morning, I always get up at 9 am.

As you’ll see further down, we use the preposition a to mention the other parts of the day. However, we always use de when we locate time in one part of the day:  

As aulas começam às 9 da manhã e acabam às 5 da tarde.
Classes start at 9 in the morning and finish at 5 in the afternoon.

The days, months, and years are also articulated by de when we say the date:

Hoje é 18 de Novembro de 2020.
Today is the 18th of November 2020.

Finally,  we say de to denote the beginning of a  period of time (and the preposition a to indicate the end): 

Eu trabalho de segunda a sexta.
I work from Monday to Friday.

Means of transport

We say de (plain form) to talk about means of transport in general, much like we say by in English:

  • vou para o trabalho de carro (I’ll go to work by car)
  • de comboio ( by train)
  • de autocarro (… by bus)

But

  • a cavalo (on horseback)
  • a(by foot)

Also, we say em, not de, when we mention specifically which train or bus we mean:

  • vou para o trabalho no comboio das 7h (I’ll go to work on the 7 am train)
  • no autocarro 32 (… on bus 32)

Verbs followed by de

Here are a few verbs often followed by the preposition de:

Gostar

The verb gostar (like) is always followed by de:

Eu gosto de chocolate, e tu?
I like chocolate, what about you?

Gostas disto?
Do you like this?

Ter

The verb ter  followed by de corresponds to the English modal* verb must

Tenho de me concentrar.
I must concentrate.

* Read the following article to learn more about Portuguese modal verbs: Portuguese Equivalents of English Modal Verbs.

Precisar

This verb followed by de means need to (otherwise it only means to be precise):

Ela precisou de levantar dinheiro.
She needed to withdraw cash.

Precisas de praticar mais Português.
You need to practice more Portuguese.

A few more verbs:

Falar
Talk

Estavam a falar de mim?
Were you talking about me?
Mudar
Change

Quero mudar de ares.
I want a change of scene.
Sair
Leave/go out

A que horas sais do escritorio?
What time do you leave the office? 
Vir/ chegar
Come / arrive

Vim agora da casa da Filipa.
I just came from Filipa’s.
Lembrar-se
Remember

Não te lembras de mim?
Don’t you remember me?
Acabar
Finish (in the past tense, it can also mean “just”)

Ele acabou de comer foi para a cama.
He finished eating and went to bed.

Ela acabou de sair.
She just left.

Question words preceded by de

The questions words onde, quem, que, and quando are sometimes preceded by de

De onde
Where from

De onde és?
Where do you come from?
De quem
Whom, who

De quem é este caderno?
Who does this notebook belong to?
De que
What, from what

De que país é ele?
What’s his home country?
De quando
How old, from which year/month

De quando é este carro?
How old is this car?

Portuguese preposition a

The preposition a most commonly denotes movement, although it is also used as a preposition of time and place. In English, depending on the situation, it corresponds to either to, on, or at

Contractions

The preposition a combines with fewer determiners than the previous two, that is, only definite articles and demonstratives starting with the letter a

With articles

The preposition a will contract with definite articles only:

definite articles oaosas
contracted forms ao 
(a + o)
à 
(a + a)
aos 
(a + os)
às 
(a + as)

With demonstratives 

Additionally, a only contracts with the following demonstratives:

that over thereaquiloaquele/saquela/s
contracted formsàquilo
(a + aquilo)
àquele/s
(a + aquele/s)
àquela/s
(a + aquela/s)

Usage

Movement

We use a as a preposition of movement and, in that case, it most likely corresponds to to. Here are a few examples: 

Eles foram à praia. 
They went to the beach.

Ela foi ao restaurante para almoçar. 
She went to the restaurant to have lunch.

Time

Much like the English at, we also use a to say the hours:

A aula começa às 9 e acaba às 10 horas da manhã. 
The lecture starts at 9 am and ends at 10 am.

Acabamos de conversar ao meio-dia.
We were done chatting at midday.

What’s more, we use a to refer to the parts of the day:

À tarde vou encontrar-me com o Miguel. 
I will meet Miguel in the afternoon.

Hoje à noite há cinema.
We’re going to the cinema tonight.

But, and as we’ve seen before (under de-usage),

De manhã costumo ficar em casa.
I usually stay home in the mornings.

Additionally, we use a to talk about recurring events in conjunction with the days of the week:

O Vitor tem aula de Inglês à quarta-feira.
Vitor has English class on Wednesdays.

However, we use em if we mean a one-off event:

O Vitor tem uma aula de Inglês na quarta-feira. 
Vitor has an English class this Wednesday.

Finally, we use a to indicate the end of a time period (and de to indicate its beginning):

Eu trabalho de segunda a sexta. 
I work from Monday to Friday.

Tu trabalhas das 8 horas às 17 horas.
You work from 8 am to 5 pm.

Place

Lastly, we use a to indicate proximity to someone or something:

Está alguém à porta.
There’s someone at the door.

Porquê é que estás sempre à janela?
Why are you always at the window?

Verbs followed by a

A handful of Portuguese auxiliary verbs are followed by the preposition a:

Estar
Be 

Estou a gostar disto.
I am enjoying this.
Começar
Start

Agora começo a perceber.
Now, I start to understand.
Aprender
Learn

Vou aprender a falar russo.
I will learn to speak Russian.
Ajudar
Help

Ele ajudou-me a construir a casa.
He helped me to build my house.
Andar*
Walk

Ando a frequentar aulas de Chinês.
I have been taking Chinese classes.

*in the quality of an auxiliary verb, “andar” only works as a grammatical marker indicating a certain time-flow quality and without any semantic value.

Other verbs (in the quality of the main verb) often followed by a:

Chegar
Arrive / come


Ela já chegou a Lisboa?
Has she already arrived in Lisbon?
Assistir
Watch (live)

Vou assistir a um jogo de futebol.
I will watch a soccer match.
Ir
Go

Foste ao Brasil?
Did you go to Brazil?
Voltar
Return / come back

Quando voltas a Portugal?
When do you return to Portugal?
Agradecer
Thank

Agradece ao Sr António.
Say thanks to Mr. António.
Pedir
Ask

Pede à Gabriela para vir aqui.
Ask Gabriela to come here.
Pagar
Pay

pagaste a hipoteca ao banco?
Have you already paid your mortgage to the bank? 
Reponder
Reply

Ainda não respondeste à Isabel?
Haven’t you replied to Isabel yet?
Suceder
Succeed

Quem sucedeu ao trono?
Who succeeded the throne?

Adverbial phrases with

Here’re a few widely used adverbial phrases with a:

às vezes
sometimes
à deriva
adrift
à sorte / à toa
at random
à espera
waiting
até às tantas
until late in the night
às tantas / às duas por três
maybe (surprisingly)
a pé
by foot
à mão
by hand
à pressa
in a rush
às ordens (de alguém)
at (someone’s ) command
à nora
clueless 
à moda de
according to (a tradition or style)
à francesa
French style
à inglesa
English style
à portuguesa
Portuguese style. . .
à maluca
in a crazy, unfettered manner
a torto e a direito
haphazardly
à grande e à francesa
lavishly
às cegas
blindly
à vontade
comfortably

Question words preceded by a

The question words quem, que, quando, and como are sometimes preceded by a. A few examples:

A quem
To whom, who

A quem vais dar a prenda?
Who are you giving the present to?
A que
To which

A que restaurante foste?
To which restaurant did you go?
A quanto é/são
A como é/são 
How much

A quanto são as batatas?
How much do you sell the potatoes for? (per kg)

Portuguese preposition para

Like the preposition a, we often use para to indicate movement. With para, however, the sense of direction and final destination is more strongly marked. 

Besides movement, we use para to indicate purpose and to refer to the time ahead. In English, para often corresponds to either to or for

What’s more, para is the only preposition of the Big Five that won’t merge with determiners. Thus, we’ll jump straight to the usage examples: 

Usage

Movement > direction and destination

We use para to denote both direction and final destination: 

Ele virou-se para mim. 
He turned to me.

Este comboio vai para Lisboa. 
This train is going to Lisbon.

Para vs. a > long vs. short stay

Language learners often struggle to discern between the prepositions a and para – either indicates a movement towards a destination or point. There’s a difference, however. 

While a suggests a kind of a round-trip with a short stay at the implied destination, para suggests more of a one-way motion, thus implying a longer stay at the place of arrival. Let’s understand this better through a few concrete examples:

O Luís foi à Madeira passar o fim de semana.
Luís went to Madeira for the weekend.

But,

O Luís foi viver para a Madeira.
Luis went to Madeira to live there. 

Let’s look at another example on a different time scale:

A Matilde saiu de casa às 9h e foi para o teatro.
Matilde left home at 9 am and went to the theatre. (She works there.) 

But,

Ontem a Matilde foi ao teatro. 
Yesterday, Matilde went to the theatre. (She went there to watch a play.)

Purpose

We use para to denote intention and purpose:

Ela saiu para ir ao banco. 
She left to go to the bank.

Ele está a aprender Inglês para poder viajar pelo mundo.
He’s learning English so that he can travel the world.

Recipient

Also, we say para to refer to a recipient:

Isto é para ti!
This is for you.

Aqueles morangos ali são para o Carlos.
Those strawberries over there are for Carlos.

Time

Finally, we use para to indicate the time ahead:

Até para a semana.
I will see you next week.

Para o ano que vem vou à Colômbia.
Next year I will go to Colombia.

Vou marcar uma consulta para as 17 horas.
I will book an appointment with the doctor at 5 pm.

São 20 para as 18 horas.
It’s 20 to 6 pm.

Verbs followed by para

Some verbs are often followed by para. Typically, these are verbs implying either movement, direction, or purpose:

Ir
Go

Vais para Lisboa?
Are you going to Lisbon?
Voltar
Return/come back

Quando voltas para o Porto?
When are you coming back to Porto?
Vir
Come

Ela vem para Portugal.
She comes to Portugal.
Chegar
Arrive/come

Ele  chegou para ficar.
He came to stay.
Olhar
Look

Olha para mim!
Look at me!
Pedir
Ask

Pedi à Joana para me dar uma ajuda.
I asked Joana to give me a hand.

Question words preceded by para

The question words quem, que, onde, and quando are sometimes preceded by para. A few examples:

Para quem
To whom, who

Para quem é o livro?
Who is this book for?
Para que
Why

Para que precisas disto?
Why do you need this?
Para quando
When

Para quando quer o fato?
When do you need the suit to be ready?
Para onde
Where

Para onde vai?
Where are you going?

Portuguese preposition por

We often use por as a preposition of movement to denote an “on-the-go” motion. In English, por often becomes by or through.

Let’s take a look into por’s contracted forms. 

Contractions

The preposition por only combines with the definite articles: 

definite articles oaosas
contracted forms pelo
(por + o)
pela 
(por + a)
pelos 
(por + os)
pelas 
(por + as)

Usage

Movement > on the go

We use por as a preposition of movement to indicate passage, that is, an on-the-go transitory state. Here are a few examples: 

Podes passar pelo supermercado?
Can you drop by the supermarket?

Hoje à tarde passei pela Catarina mas ela não me viu! 
This afternoon I passed by Catarina but she didn’t notice me!

Movement > itinerary

We also use por when we talk about a route or itinerary: 

Vai por aqui, é mais perto.
Go this way, it’s closer.

Ele foi pela estrada velha.
He took the old road.

Reading tips! Many language learners struggle to discern between por and para, especially when they both are being used in the quality of preposition of movement. Is that you? Here’s a spot-on read: Portuguese Prepositions “Para” vs. “Por” – When to Use Either.

Place > vague, faraway, and unknown

Also, we use por to refer to people being at some distant place without really knowing their detailed whereabouts. In other words,  it implies spatial vagueness. From the speaker’s side, it can also convey a sense of unfamiliarity/abstraction with the place in point: 

Ele está a viajar pela Ásia.
He’s travelling around Asia.

Ela está lá pela Índia.
She is somewhere in India.  

Time > approximation

What’s more, we use por to indicate vicinity (timewise): 

Eles chegam hoje pelas 15h.
They arrive today around 3 pm.

Time > duration

We also use por  to refer to a time period:

Ela vai ficar na Índia por um mês.
He’s staying in India for a whole month.

Verbs followed by por

We often use the following verbs in conjunction with the preposition por:

Passar
Pass by

Passaspor casa?
Are you dropping by my place?
Ir
Go

Vou por este caminho.
I am following this path.
Voltar
Return / come back

Desta vez vou voltar por Lisboa.
This time around I will return via Lisbon.
Vir
Come 

Vens pela ponte?
Are you taking the bridge?

Question words preceded by por

The question words onde and quanto can sometimes be preceded by por:

Por onde
Where to go

Por onde é o caminho?
What’s the way?
Por quanto
How much

Por quanto vende estas flores?
How much do you want for these flowers?

Beyond the Big Five

There are, of course, other commonly used Portuguese prepositions other than em, de, a, para and por. Let’s take a look at some of them. 

Single-word prepositions

com
with
sob
under
conforme
according to
sem
without
sobre
over, about
segundo
according to
após
after
desde
from
salvo, exceto
except
até
until
durante
during
contra
against
perante
in the presence of, before
entre
between

Prepositional phrases

em vez de
in place of, instead
de acordo com
in accordance with, accordingly
abaixo de
below
apesar de
despite, in spite of
através de
through
em abaixo de
under
a fim de
in order to
graças a
thanks to
acima de
above
antes de
before
junto a, perto de, próximo de, ao pé de 
next to, near, close to
em cima de
on, over
depois de
after
longe de
away from
ao lado de
next to
diante de
before, in front of
em frente de
in front of
ao longo de
along, throughout
além de
beyond
atrás de
behind
por entre
through
em torno de, em redor de, por volta de
around
dentro de
inside, in
acerca de
concerning, about
fora de
outside

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