The Language Brazilians Speak

Articles and nouns 

Nouns in Portuguese may be masculine (male) or feminine (female). No matter if you’re talking about living things that may be male or female or if you talking about things, that have no gender, the noun is always either masculine or feminine.

The article – definite articles or indefinite articles – follows the noun according to its gender – male or female – and according to its number – singular or plural. 

O homem – The man / Um homem – A man

A mulher – The woman / Uma mulher – A woman

Os homens – The men / Uns homens – (some) men

As mulheres – The women / Umas mulheres – (some) women

O carro – The car / Um carro – A car

A casa – The house / Uma casa – A house

Os carros – The cars / Uns carros – (some) cars

As casas – The houses / Umas casas – (some) houses

A text for helping make it clear:

O homem pesca todo dia. Há uns peixes de que ele não gosta. A mulher limpa a casa. Ela fica com raiva quando o homem traz os peixes sem limpar. O homem tem um barco. Ele não gosta de limpar os peixes no barco. A mulher limpa os peixes, mas ela detesta o cheiro que os peixes têm.

(The man fishes everyday. There are fishes that he doesn’t like. The woman cleans the house. She gets angry when the man brings the fishes without cleaning them. The man has a boat. He doesn’t like to clean the fishes in the boat. The woman cleans the fishes, but she hates the smell that fishes have.) 

Some expressions in the text are hard to understand if you are a beginner, but don’t worry about them now. The goal at this moment is to learn about nouns and articles. Learn how to use them and we’ll learn the rest later. 

Some things that you’ve probably noticed:

O / Um – male singular / Os / Uns – male plural

A / Uma – female singular / As / Umas – female plural


Normally nouns that end in –O are masculine and the ones that end in –A are feminine. 

O carro (the car)

A casa (the house)

O menino (the boy)

A menina (the girl)

O quarto (the bedroom)

A cozinha (the kitchen) 

But some nouns end in –O and they are feminine:

A libido (the libido)

A foto (the photo) – it is a short way for “fotografia” (photogragh). “Fotografia” may be “photograph” or “photography”, but only when it has the first meaning it can be shortened to “foto”.

A moto (the motorcycle) – it is a short way for “motocicleta”.

A loto (the lottery) – it is a short way for “loteria”. 

There are also the nouns ending in “ão” that may be masculine or feminine, but they are kind of a special case. 

Some nouns end in –A and they are masculine: 

O mapa (the map)

O grama (the gram) – “grama” is also a word for “grass”, and when it means “grass” it is feminine: “a grama”. The word for “grass” in Portugal is “relva”.

O samba (the samba) – kind of music typical of Rio de Janeiro. It is the rhythm of carnival in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Some nouns ending in –A may be either masculine or feminine. Most of them are referred to what people do, their profession or activity:

O artista / A artista / Um artista / Uma artista (Artista = Artist)




Flautista (Flute player)




Bolsista (some student or researcher that holds a studentship or fellowship)



Estudante (student)

Atleta (athlete)

Some nouns can be used only in the masculine form, even if they refer to females: 

Membro (member) – Ela é o novo membro desta associação (She is the new member of this association). – Never say “a membra

Animal – A vaca é um animal sagra para os hindus. (Cow is a sacred animal to Hindus). – Never say “uma animal” 

Some nouns can be used only in the feminine form, even if they refer to males: 

Pessoa (pessoa) – Marcos é um homem bom, ele é a pessoa mais legal que já trabalhou nesta empresa. (Marcos is a good man, he is the nicest person who ever worked in this company). Never say “o pessoa

Criança (kid, child) – Não sei o que se passa com esse menino, ele é uma criança bem alegre, e está tão calado hoje. (I don’t know what is going on with this boy, he is quite a joyful kid, and he’s so quiet today). Never say “um criança

Some nouns end in –A and they are masculine, and they have a special way to make the feminine: 

O poeta (the poet) / A poetisa (the poetess)

O profeta (the prophet) / A profetisa (the prophetess) 

Some regular masculine and feminine nouns: 

Gato – Gata (cat – tabby)

Pato – Pata (duck)

Cachorro – Cachorra (dog – bitch)

Ganso – Gansa (goose)

Rato – Rata (rat; mouse – in some regions of Brazil the African word “camundongo” is used for “mouse”)

Frango – Franga (Chicken – when the animal is alive; when it becomes meat only the masculine word is used)

Esposo – Esposa (husband – wife)

Sogro – Sogra (father-in-law – mother-in-law)

Filho – Filha (son – daughter)

Cunhado – Cunhada (brother-in-law – sister-in-law)

Enteado – Enteada (stepson – stepdaughter) 

Some irregular masculine and feminine nouns:

Galo – Galinha (rooster – hen)

Cão – Cadela (dog – bitch) – In Portugal the words “cachorro” and “cachorra” are used only for baby dogs – pups. In Brazil they are used as synonym of “cão” and “cadela” respectively. In Spanish “cachorro” is used for babies of several animals, but it is not the same in Portuguese. The pronunciation is not the same either.

Cavalo – Égua (horse – mare)

Touro – Vaca (bull – cow) – English has been distorted along the years and now a cow may be the male or the female animal, and I guess it is same thing about. In Portuguese some people would say the male for “vaca” is “touro” or “boi”, but this is also something that has been distorted in Portuguese. “Boi” was the same as “ox”, that is a castrated male animal. In other words “an ox” was “a bull” that had lost his balls, and “boi” was the same thing. In current English an ox is a large bull or cow, and in current Portuguese “boi” is a synonym of “touro”. Other words for “touro” in Brazil are “marruco” and “marruá”.

Marido – Mulher (husband – wife) – I myself prefer to use “esposo” and “esposa”, it sounds more polite.

Homem – Mulher (man – woman)

Pai – Mãe (father – mother)

Genro – Nora (son-in-law – daughter-in-law)

Padrasto – Madrasta (stepfather – stepmother)

Rapaz – Rapariga (boy – girl) – used for people that are no more kids but are still young or are not adult yet. The word “rapariga” in Brazil normally means “whore”, so use the word “moça” instead, it is the feminine for “moço” (lad). 

Nouns ending in “ÃO”: 

Irmão – Irmã (brother – sister)

Cristão – Cristã (Christian)

Alemão – Alemã (German) – “alemoa” is an informal word for “alemã”; it doesn’t sound good to some people.

Leitão – Leitoa (piglet) 

Words ending in “ÃO” may be masculine or feminine. Most of words that mean an object or a person are masculine and most of the words that mean an action or event or a group are feminine. 

O coração – the heart

A canção – the song

O anão – the dwarf (very short people in general)

O avião – the airplane

A ação – the action

A negociação – the negotiation

A população – the population

A multidão – the crowd, the multitude 

Exceptions: o leilão – the auction

Nouns ending in –DADE and –EZ are normally feminine:

A felicidade – the happiness

A cidade – the city, the town

A idade – the age

A vontade – the will

As surdez – the deafness

A timidez – the shyness

A embriaguez – the drunkenness

Nouns tha end in –ÊS are normally masculine and have feminine form by removing the circumflex accent (^) and adding –A: 

O freguês – A freguesa (the customer)

O inglês – A inglesa (the Englishman – the Englishwoman) 

Masculine nouns ending in –OR normally make the feminine by adding –A: 

O cantor – A cantora (the singer)

O professor – A professora (the teacher; the professor)

O tradutor – a tradutora (the translator) 

Some other irregular masculine – feminine: 

O imperador – a imperatriz (the emperor – the empress)

O duque – a duquesa (the duke – the duchess)

O cônsul – a consulesa (the consul)

O barão – a baronesa (the baron – the baroness) 

Plural do substantivo (Plural of nouns) 

You make the plural of nouns in Portuguese by adding –s to them: 

Gato – Gatos; Gata – Gatas 

For nouns ending in –r or z you must add –es: 

O rapaz – Os rapazes

O lugar – Os lugares (the place – the places) 

For nouns ending in –ês, you remove ^ and –es: 

O freguês – Os fregueses (the customer – the customers) 

For nouns ending in –m, you remove –m and add –ns: 

O homem – Os homens 

For nouns ending in –l, you remove –l and add –is: 

O animal – os animais 

Some nouns are the same in the singular or plural form, you know they are in the plural because of the words related to them: articles, adjectives, verbs. 

O lápis – Os lápis (the pencil – the pencils)

O pires – Os pires (the saucer – the saucers; it is a small plate in which you put a cup) 

O lápis preto; Os lápis vermelhos (The black pencil; The red pencils)

O pires amarelo; Os pires brancos (The yellow saucer; The white saucers)