Plural of Adjectives in Portuguese

Adjectives in Portuguese – the Plural

If you have been struggling to deal with the adjectives in Portuguese, you have come to the right place!

I will tell you all about these little pieces of language goodness, and I will let you know the rules to form their plurals.

Adjectives in Portuguese


Adjectives are words that describe or modify other words, making your writing and speaking much more specific, and a whole lot more interesting.

Basically, adjectives are words like big or small or cute or funny or all those words you use to describe something or someone and that modify the nouns.

In Portuguese, they also are used the same way, so no problems in there!

However, unlike English, Portuguese adjectives have two things that make them very original:

  • their position on the sentence
  • the fact that they vary.

Position of the Portuguese Adjectives


So, let me first tell you about where adjectives normally come on a sentence.

While in English (and some other languages) adjectives come before the nouns, in Portuguese they generally come after.

Take a look at the following examples comparing English to Portuguese:

  • The big car (order: adjective –> noun) vs O carro grande (order: noun –> adjective)
  • The beautiful girl (order: adjective –> noun) vs. A menina bonita (order: noun –> adjective).

So, as you can see, in English the adjective comes before the noun it modifies, but in Portuguese the adjective comes after the noun it modifies.

This is true for the majority of the cases, however we do have instances when the adjective also comes before the noun in Portuguese.

When the adjective comes before the noun in Portuguese


This is rare, but it does happen!

We normally do this when we want to reinforce and idea or when we want to give a more metaphorical meaning to the words.

Compare the following examples:

  • Um homem grande (A big man)
  • Um grande homem (A great man)
  • Uma mulher pobre (A poor woman)
  • Uma pobre mulher (A poor woman – but metaphorically)

If you look at the sentences above, you see that they have different meanings, just because of the position of the adjective.

In both examples, the first sentences of each group refer to the actual/physical characteristic of the person, while the second sentences refer to a trait of the character of the people – it conveys a more metaphorical meaning.

Another reason to change the “normal” order of the sentence in Portuguese, is when we want to highlight the characteristic we are describing.

Check it out:

  • Uma ideia má
  • Uma má ideia
  • Um concorrente bom
  • Um bom concorrente

Here we want to really let the others know that the idea was really bad and that the contestant was really good, so we highlight those characteristics by bringing the adjective to the position before the noun.

So, in general, adjectives come after the noun in Portuguese, but there are some exceptions, when we want to convey a more metaphorical meaning or when we want to highlight a certain characteristic.

Bear in mind, though, that this does not apply to every adjective. It applies only to some.

The variation of the adjectives in Portuguese


Another fact to bear in mind is that, unlike in English, adjectives will vary according to the gender and number of the noun they are modifying.

If the noun is masculine and singular, the adjective will have one form. If it’s feminine and singular, generally the adjective will have a different form. The same happens if the noun is plural, either feminine or masculine.

Take a look at the following examples:

  • A mulher bonita (Feminine singular form)
  • O homem bonito (Masculine singular form)
  • As mulheres bonitas (Feminine plural form)
  • Os homens bonitos (Masculine plural form)
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As you can see, not only the nouns, but also the adjectives, changed according to the gender (masculine or feminine) and the number (singular or plural) of the noun.

In general, adjectives have four different forms, then. However, if an adjective ends in something other than an “o” in the masculine singular form, it generally will only change according to number (singular and plural) and not according to gender (masculine and feminine).

This is the case of the adjective “contente”, for example:

  • A mulher contente (Feminine singular form)
  • O homem contente (Masculine singular form)
  • As mulheres contentes (Feminine plural form)
  • Os homens contentes (Masculine plural form)

As you see, you only have two forms – contente and contentes – because this adjective does not end in an o in the masculine singular form.

So, we now know that there are, in general, four different forms for the adjectives. But how do we form the plurals? Read on to find out!

The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese


To form the plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese, we must follow some rules.

  1. When the adjective ends in an a, e, i, o or u in the masculine singular form, just add an -s to form the plural.
bonitobonitabonitosbonitas
contentecontentecontentescontentes
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 1

2. When an adjective ends in an m, exchange the m for an n and add an s:

bomboabonsboas
comumcomumcomunscomuns
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 2

3. When an adjective ends in a consonant, add es to form the plural:

exemplarexemplarexemplaresexemplares
felizfelizfelizesfelizes
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 3

4. When an adjective ends in an s, it has the same form in the singular and plural:

simplessimplessimplessimples
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 4

5. When an adjective ends in an ão, it can form the plural in three different ways:

  • adding an s
orfãoorfãorfãosorfãs
cristãocristãcristãoscristãs
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 5
  • transforming the ão into ões
anãoanãanõesanãs
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 6
  • transforming the ão into ães
anciãoanciãanciãesanciãs
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 7

Unfortunately, you will have to know these by heart, as there is no rule that I know of that can guide you.

6. When an adjective ends in an l, it will form the plural by transforming the l into an is:

formalformalformaisformais
banalbanalbanaisbanais
The plurals of the adjectives in Portuguese – Table 8

And this is it! These are the rules to form the plural forms of the adjectives in Portuguese. Some of these rules are the same for the nouns, but I will be making a new blog post about this soon.

Conclusion


In conclusion, adjectives in Portuguese can be a bit tricky, especially when forming the plurals. However, if you follow the rules above, you will likely use them correctly.

Now, I would like to ask you to answer the following question in the comments below:

  1. What is the plural of the following adjectives:
  • importante
  • coerente
  • capaz
  • formal
  • invernal
  • bom
  • mau
  • feliz
  • triste
  • melhor
  • cordial
  • idiota
  • janota

Don’t forget to leave me your answers! Don’t go checking the other ones (if there are any!).

Beijinhos,

Mia.

4 thoughts on “Adjectives in Portuguese – the Plural

  1. I’m learning Portuguese and found your articles quite useful. Carry on 🙂

    1. Great! Obrigada pelo feedback 🙂 Thank you for your feedback!
      If you are interested, check my free online course here: https://school.learn-portuguese.org/p/kickstarter-course

      Please let me know if you have any questions, and welcome to my school 🙂

      Beijinhos,
      Mia

  2. I have 3 years learning Portuguese. I have found that adjective sometimes come before the noun and I decided to research about it online. I am so happy to find your site. I had come to your blog about 2 years ago but back then hadn’t bookmarked and had lost track of your good articles. I’m glad you’ve helped me now with these cases in which  adjectives come before nouns. But I’m even happier finding your site again.

    1. Hello 🙂

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you liked my article.

      Beijinhos,

      Mia

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