Portuguese/Contents/Definite and Indefinite Articles

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In English, we use definite and indefinite articles all the time. They are the words 'the', 'a' and 'an'. In Portuguese there are articles as well, but the actual system is quite more complicated.

As you can learn from the Number and Gender section, Portuguese makes use of two features known as Number and Gender. What this means is that a noun is either singular or plural and at the same time it is either masculine or feminine. In Portugese, articles and nouns must agree; that is to say that the article and the noun must have both the same number and the same gender. So when there is a feminine noun, you use a feminine article; when the noun is plural, you have to use a plural article as well. Let's have a look at these articles.

Definite ArticlesEdit

The definite articles are used when one is referring exactly to one particular object or collection of objects. The following table resumes the four Portuguese definite articles. In English, the definite article is the.

Table I - Definite articles
  Singular Plural
Masculine o os
Feminine a as

So, to say the house, we first need to look at the word "casa", house. It is feminine (see Tips for Identifying Word Gender for tips on how to recognize word gender). Since there is only one house, we look for the feminine singular. It is a, so we say "a casa", the house.

Indefinite ArticlesEdit

We now need to look at the indefinite articles. They are used when the noun refers to something of one kind, but the particular instance isn't important. In English, the indefinite article is a or an.

Table I - Indefinite articles
  Singular Plural
Masculine um uns
Feminine uma umas

Again, if we want to say a house, we are looking for the feminine singular indefinite article, which is uma. Therefore, we say "uma casa", a house.


If you want to practice on articles, go to the Lesson page.