BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE NOUNS & WORD GENDER LESSON
Portuguese Nouns are either Masculine or Feminine. In English, our words don’t have gender and so this will get some getting used to. Fortunately, the gender of most nouns in Brazilian Portuguese is quite predictable. For example, the world for girl, “menina” is obviously going to be feminine (a menina, uma menina, duas meninas). You will also come to realize that many nouns end in –o or –a. So, for the most part, nouns ending in an ‘a’ will be feminine and those ending in an ‘o,’ masculine.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. For example: for weeks I thought that the word in Portuguese for “day,” – dia – was a feminine word. However, I was soon corrected. O Dia is a masculine in Portuguese, other words like cometa, the Portuguese word for “comet” are also masculine. If you are a perfectionist, go ahead and memorize all of these rule-breakers. But my strategy was more trial and error based, I preferred to just follow my –a ending = feminine, -o ending = masculine rule until I got corrected. This allowed me to speak faster and focus on other things like my sentence structure. And not to worry, people will still understand you if you get a gender wrong here or there. But for those of you who wanted a list of nouns that break the rules, I have made one here. Please feel free to e-mail me if you know of any more!
The Noun is Feminine…:
-if it ends with –a (usually *see list at the bottom for notable exceptions).
-if it ends with –dade. Examples: lealdade – loyalty, liberdade – liberty.
-if it ends with –dão. Example: solidão – lonliness.
-if it ends with –gem. Example: viagem – journey/ trip.
-if it ends with –ise. Example: crise – crisis.
-if it ends with –ite. Example: bronquite – bronchitis.
-if it ends with –são (corresponding with english’s –sion). Example: decisão – decision.
-if it ends with –tude. Example: juventude – youth.
The Noun is Masculine…:
-if it ends with –o (usually *see list at the bottom for notable exceptions).
-if it ends with –ão (cidadão – citizen, cartão – card/credit card).
-if et ends with –dor or –tor. Examples: cantor – singer, traidor – traitor.
-Even though they end in –o, words which end with – ção or –são (corresponding to English nouns ending in –tion/-sion) are feminine! Examples: ação – action, tripulação – crew
-the word mão – hand, is feminine!
-the word tribo – tribe, is feminine!
-Words ending in –o that are abbreviations of longer feminine nouns can be feminine! Example: foto – photo, is feminine, because this word is really an abbreviation of the word “fotografia”. Also, moto – motorcycle is feminine because it comes from “motocicleta” (which nobody says).
-sometimes if a word ends with –ma, it can be masculine. Examples: um dilema – a dilemma, um sistema – a system, um problema – a problem, pyjama – pyjamas, um alerta – an alert/warning, um mapa – a map, um cometa – a comet, um planeta – a planet, um tapa – a slap, and samba – samba (the Brazilian dance), o clima – the climate.
-Nouns ending in a stressed ‘a’ (á) are at times masculine! Examples: maracujá – passion fruit, sofá – sofa, tamanduá – anteater, chá - tea.
-Even though it ends in ‘a,’ o Irã – Iran (the country) is masculine!
Another problem is, sometimes, we can get confused about whether a noun is masculine or feminine (ends in an -a or an -o). The ending can make a huge difference in the meaning of a word, so be careful. Examples:
bola – ball, bolo – cake
foca – seal (the animal), foco – focus
tira – cop, tiro – (gun)shot
vaga – space (as in parking space), vago – vague (which is actually an adjective)
verba – financial budget, verbo – verb
*If there are any other elements in Portuguese that get you confused please share them in the comments below. Thanks everyone!*
Meanwhile, here are some other common mistakes made by Portuguese students: