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Portuguese Preposition ‘De’

The Portuguese preposition de is primarily a preposition of origin and the Portuguese equivalent of from. Additionally, we use de in genitive constructions, as a noun modifier, and to express time, among others.

Here’s an example of de used as a preposition of origin:

De onde és?
Where do you come from?

In what follows, I will show you the ins and outs of de. We’ll start by looking into its contracted forms, then go through a usage rundown with examples, and finally, we’ll look into certain verbs and question words often followed by de.  

Reading tips! Dive into the prepositional bread & butter of Portuguese:  Basic Portuguese Prepositions and Contractions: An Inclusive Usage Rundown.

Contracted forms

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

de+ articles

By default, de merges with any article 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)

Note! Sometimes we won’t merge de with the indefinite articles. Thus, we often say and write de um instead of dum, or de uma instead of duma. Both are correct. 

de + demonstratives 

When preceding demonstrative determiners, de often melts 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

As we said in the introduction, de is first and foremost a preposition of origin: 

Eu venho do Paquistão. 
I come from Pakistan.

Ela é do Minho. 
She’s from the Minho region.

Possession

We use de in genitive constructions to indicate possession, much as we use the suffix ’s in English:

Aquela é a casa da Isabel. 
That house over there is Isabel’s.

Esta é a quinta do Miguel. 
This is Miguel’s farm.

Modifier

We use de to articulate two nouns where the second modifies the first. In this context, de always shows in its non-contracted form. Here’re some examples: 

Copo de vinho
Wine glass

Máquina de café 
Coffee machine

Cadeira de plástico 
Plastic chair

Casa de madeira 
Wooden house

Time

We also use de to express time. Concerning the parts of the day, we use it to refer to the morning: 

Ela trabalha de manhã e está livre à tarde.
She works in the morning and she’s free in the afternoon.

! As you see above, we use the preposition a, not de, to refer to the afternoon. The same applies to evenings and nights.

We use de to contextualize time in relation to the part of the day:  

O curso começa às 8 da manhã e acaba às 4 da tarde.
The course starts at 8 in the morning and finishes at 4 in the afternoon.

Also, we use de to articulate days, months, years when we say the date:

Ontem foi 23 de fevereiro de 2021.
Yesterday was the 23rd of February, 2021.

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

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

Means of transport

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

Vou para a escola de autocarro. 
I go to school by bus.

de comboio. 
by train.

de carro.
… by car.

But,

a cavalo. 
on horseback.

a pé. 
on foot.

Importantly, we say em, not de, when we indicate the specific train or bus:

Vou para Braga no comboio das 9h.
I’ll go to Braga on the 9 am train.

no autocarro 43. 
… on bus 43.

Verb + de

Several verbs, some of them rather frequent, are often followed by the preposition de:

Gostar

The verb gostar is always followed by de:

Gostas de pescar?
Do you enjoy fishing?

Gosto daquela* camisa ali.
I like that shirt over there.

* daquela = de+aquela

Ter

The verb ter  followed by de is the equivalent of the English modal verb* must

Tens de parar de fumar!
You must stop smoking.

* Learn more about Portuguese modal verbs: Portuguese Equivalents of English Modal Verbs.

Precisar

The verb precisar followed by de means need to:

Ele precisava de falar comigo.
He needed to talk with me.

Precisas de praticar mais o teu Russo.
You need to practice Russian more.

Acabar

Acabar de is a grammaticalized expression that means just

Acabei de fazer o jantar.
I just cooked dinner.

Ele acabou de sair.
He just left.

Other verbs

Falar
Talk

Estás a falar de quê?
What are you talking about?
Mudar
Change

Vou mudar de escola.
I will change schools.
Sair
Leave/go out

A que horas sais de casa?
What time do you leave home? 
Chegar
Arrive

Cheguei agora do trabalho.
I just came from work.
Lembrar-se
Remember

Lembras-te do Ricardo?
Do you remember Ricardo?

De + question word

The questions words onde, quem, que, and quando can be preceded by de

De onde
Where from

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

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

De que cor gostam mais?
What color do you like best?
De quando
How old, from which year/month

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

Reading tips! Learn more about Portuguese Question Words: Asking Questions in Portuguese: Question Words and Beyond.

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