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Portuguese Grammar: Indefinite Article and Plural Forms of Nouns and Adjectives

written by: Mark Muller • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 4/5/2012

In this article about Portuguese grammar, we look at the definite article which naturally leads over to plural forms of nouns and adjectives. Here you find all you want to know about the definite article as well as the plural of substantives and adjectives including a lot of grammar examples.

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    The Definite Article

    The definite article (o artigo definido) in Portuguese has a masculine and a feminine form (there are no neuter forms of nouns). The singular masculine (m) article is “o", and the feminine (f) singular article is “a." Plural forms are made by appending an “s" to the respective singular forms as shown below:

    • o gato [m, singular] (the cat)
    • os gatos [m, plural] (the cats)
    • a caneta [f, singular] (the pen)
    • as canetas [f, plural] (the pens)

    Example: O gato brinca com as canetas (the cat plays with the pens).

    Now you are ready to learn the plural forms of nouns (substantives) and adjectives. For the sake of conciseness, the term “word" acts as a placeholder for a noun or adjective throughout the rest of this article.

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    Plural Forms of Nouns and Adjectives

    In Portuguese, plural forms of nouns and adjectives (o plural dos substantives e adjectivos) are built according to these rules:

      In general, especially if the word has an ending vowel then append “s":

        • a menina (the young girl) –> as meninas
        • o menino (the young boy) –> os meninos
        • alemã (German) –> alemãs

          Examples: A menina e os meninos gostam de canetas alemãs (The girl and the boys like German pens).

          Stressed aõ usually becomes ões:

            • a lição (the lesson)–> as lições
            • But: a mão –> as mãos

            Examples: As lições duram 45 minutos (the lessons are three quarter of an hour). Minhas mãos são pequenas (my hands are small).

            If the word ends in r, s, or z then append “es":

              • o elevador (elevator) –> os elevadores
              • o Portuguese (Portuguese, masculine) –> os Portugueses
              • a vez (time(s)) –> as vezes

              Example: Às vezes e quando (sometimes) os Portugueses usam o elevador (The Portuguese [people] sometimes use the elevator).

                If the word ends in m then change its ending to ns:

                • bom (good) –> bons

                Example: Os carros são muito bons (the cars are very good).

                If the word ends in al the plural becomes ais:

                • qual (which)? –> quais?

                Example: Quais são as coisas mais importantes na vida (which are the most important things in life)?

                If the word ends in ol the plural becomes óis:

                • o anzol (fishhook) –> anzóis

                If the word ends in ul the plural becomes uis:

                • azul (blue) –> azuis

                Example: Canetas azuis (blue pens).

                If the word ends in el the plural becomes éis:

                • o anel (ring) –> os anéis

                If the word’s ending is unstressed il or el the plural becomes eis:

                • amável (lovely) –> amáveis
                • fácil (easy) –> fáceis

                Example: As lições são fáceis e a professora é amável (the lessons are easy and the teacher is lovely).

                If the word’s ending is unstressed is, es, as or ax the adjective or noun remains unchanged:

                • o lápis (pencil) –> os llápis
                • o tórax (chest) –> os tórax
                • pires (tawdrily)
                • o atlas (atlas) –> os atlas

                Example: Os alunos escrevem com canetas ou lápis (the pupils write with pens or pencils).

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