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Portuguese Grammar Features You Should Grasp as Soon as Possible

Introduction

Understanding the fundamentals of Portuguese grammar can be extremely helpful. In this blog post, I’ll touch on a few relevant aspects of Portuguese grammar that you should be aware of from the outset.

1. Gendered Nouns

One of the most distinctive features of Portuguese (and other Romance languages) grammar is the concept of gender and how pervasive it is. 

Accordingly, nouns are assigned either a masculine or feminine gender and this includes inanimate objects and abstract concepts. 

For example:

O livro (the book) is masculine.
A intenção (the intention) is feminine.

While there are general guidelines to help determine the gender of nouns, exceptions abound. Practice is key to becoming proficient in this aspect of Portuguese grammar.

2. Gender and Number Agreement

The gendered nouns we saw above have a large repercussion in the language, namely, they will impact other words surrounding them. 

Accordingly, articles, adjectives, and other word classes will agree with the noun they refer to concerning gender. 

But wait! Not only will they agree in gender (masculine/feminine) but also in number (singular/plural).

For example, Portuguese definite and indefinite articles will have 4 different forms depending on the gender and number of the noun they are referring to: 

Definite articles
Masculine singular: o 
Feminine singular: a 
Masculine plural: os 
Feminine plural: as 

Indefinite articles
Masculine singular: um 
Feminine singular: uma 
Masculine plural: uns
Feminine plural: umas 

By and large, the same principle applies to adjectives and other word classes. 

Here’s an example where the noun’s gender (carro  → masculine, casa → feminine) will impact what the articles, possessive pronouns, and adjectives surrounding it look like:

O meu carro é branco. (My car is white.)
A minha casa é branca. (My house is white.)

The same applies concerning number: 

O meu carro é branco. (My car is white.)
Os meus carros são brancos. (My cars are white.)

If you want to explore the intricacies of gender and number in Portuguese, I suggest you take a look at Module 3 of All-Round Beginners A1.

3. Verb Conjugation

Compared to other languages (including English), Portuguese has a relatively complex verb system with way more verb conjugations.

See, Portuguese verbs are conjugated to indicate tense, aspect, mood, and person. If we assume the existence of 3 tenses, 3 aspects, 3 moods, and 6 person-subjects, then, in theory, we’d end up with 3x3x3x6 = 162  verb conjugations. (It doesn’t work exactly like that in practice, but you get the idea.)

Furthermore, Portuguese has regular and irregular verbs. Concerning the former, there are three sets of regular conjugations (each having its own conjugational pattern).

For instance, here’s how we conjugate the regular verb Falar (to speak) in the Present tense:

Eu falo (I speak)
Tu falas (you speak)
Ele/elas fala (he/she speaks)
Nós falamos  (we speak)
Vocês falam (you speak)
Eles/elas falam (they speak)

Module 1 and Module 2 of All-Round Beginners cover regular conjugation and much more. Give it a look.

Irregular verbs, on the other hand, will require more individual memorization. But fear not! Consistent practice will help you become more comfortable with the Portuguese verb system.

4. Word Order

Portuguese word order generally follows the Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) pattern. However, like in many languages, word order can be flexible depending on context and emphasis. 

In general, pronouns come before verbs and adjectives often follow nouns. Adverbs, on the other hand, usually come after the verb. For example:

Eu gosto muito de música. (I really like music.)
Ele é um bom cantor. (He is a good singer.)

Conclusion

Whether you like it or not, grammar has its place in language learning, especially concerning adults learning a new language from scratch. Developing a good understanding of the rules and patterns governing the Portuguese language can indeed be very useful.

While you don’t need to master Portuguese grammar in order to develop a certain degree of fluency, you should at least grasp its underpinnings. If you want to develop a solid foundation in Portuguese to build on, consider taking a look at All-Round Beginners A1

Boa sorte.

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Olá! This is Pedro and I'm the founder of Portuguesepedia, a platform created to support and accelerate your Portuguese learning journey. Até já, p

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