My post today is about Prepositions in Portuguese. Since my last post, about Portuguese verbs with prepositions, I have been receiving a lot of questions.
Mainly my students and followers of the page have a lot of difficulties understanding when to use certain prepositions and I know by my own experience that these little words can give a lot of headaches.
This is why in the next lines, I will be trying to explain the functions and use of the Portuguese prepositions. Stay with me through this and we probably will get out on the other side just fine 😉
The Portuguese Prepositions
When I was in school, in primary school actually, we had to learn the list of prepositions, and it went like this:
a, ante, após, até, com, contra, de, desde, em, entre, para, por, perante, segundo, sem, sob, sobre, trás
Listen to the Prepositions:
And this is the way we used to say it in school…
…faster and faster until we could say it even in our sleep =)
Now, some of these “get together” with some other particles, or with each other, to make new prepositions. Em and the word Cima (top), for example, party together to make up the preposition of place “em cima” (on top).
Therefore, you have to understand that the list I just gave above is the list of the “raw” prepositions, which sometimes can suffer “mutations” to convey other meanings.
Next, I will analyse them in more detail, speaking about their use and their meanings. I will focus mainly in the most used ones, leaving out some others I consider less important for the scope of this article.
So, shall we?
Where to start? Let us start from the very beginning, with the letter “a”, which also is a preposition in Portuguese. And a very used one for that matter!
This preposition is small, but do not let it fool you by its size. It conveys so many different meanings, and it can be added to so many sentences, that knowing it can be hard work. But let me simplify it for you:
|Place/ direction||When we want to tell where we go for a shorter period.||Vou à cidade.||I go to the city.|
|Time||To speak about the time.||Vou às cinco horas.||I go at five o´clock.|
|Mode/Way||The way we do something.||Vou falar à vontade.||I will talk at ease.|
|Instrument||To say what instrument we are using.||Vou fazer ao computador.||I am going to do it on the computer.|
|Distance||To tell at what distance something is.||A 400 metros, vire.||In 400 metres, turn.|
|At||Giving the idea of “next to”.||Alguém está à porta.||Someone is at the door.|
As you can see, a can have a lot of different uses and different meanings. In English, it can be translated into: “to”, “at”, “on” and “in”, for example. That can be a bit of a pain to learn, but the more you use it, the more you will start getting it.
So practice, practice and practice! Do not be afraid of making mistakes. They are there to help you improve, actually!
But going back to a! Did you notice that sometimes this preposition appears in its “raw” format, and sometimes it transforms into “à” or “ao”? Do you know why this happens?
Well, if you answered the above question by saying that it is because aliens attacked Portugal and they changed the prepositions, I am sorry but that is not the correct answer. The right answer is that prepositions in Portuguese are added to the articles “o, a, os, as” and they become different.
If you want to know more, you can check the table on my article Portuguese Verbs with Prepositions, where I speak all about these transformations.
But let us continue with the next preposition!
This preposition is a bit simpler than the one before. It means “after” and it works like depois de. So, you can either say:
Após o jogo, fui para casa.
Depois do jogo, fui para casa.
Bear in mind that após does not ask for the other preposition de but depois does.
You probably have seen this preposition a hundred times, in expressions like “Até já”, “Até logo” or “Até amanhã”. Sounds familiar?
|Place/ direction||Saying we are going somewhere.||Vou até à cidade.||I go to the city (lit. Until the city).|
|Time||To speak about the time.||Fico lá até amanhã.||I stay there till tomorrow.|
Looking at this table, you can now understand that when you say “Até amanhã”, you are really saying “Until tomorrow”, as this is the direct translation of this preposition to English.
The literal translation of com is “with”, but we use it in various different ways, as well. Take a look at the following table to find it out:
|Opposition||When speaking about opposition.||Ele luta com a doença.||He fights (with) the disease.|
|Company||To tell with whom we do something.||Eu vou com ele.||I go with him.|
|Mode/Way||To tell the way we do something.||Ele ensina com amor.||He teaches with love.|
|Instrument||To say what instrument we are using.||Ele pinta com o pincel.||He paints with the brush.|
This funny word, means “against”.
|Opposition||We use it to show opposition.||Ele luta contra o racismo.||He fights against racism.|
|Opposite Direction||To speak about opposite direction.||O salmão nada contra a corrente.||The salmon swims upstream.|
|Proximity||Saying that something is close to something.||Eu abraçei-o contra o meu peito.||I hugged him against my chest.|
Oh de… It has so many different meanings, I just advise you to look at the following table:
|Possession/Allegiance||To say that something or someone belongs or possesses something.||A casa das irmãs.||The house of the sisters.|
|Classification||To say to what class a certain thing belongs.||Os sapatos de verão.||The summer shoes.|
|Value||To say the value of something.||Um negócio de 20 milhões.||A 20 million business.|
|Time||To tell the time something will take/took.||Tempo de espera de dez minutos.||Waiting time of 10 minutes.|
|Way||To tell the way something happened.||Ele ficou de sobreaviso.||He stayed alert.|
|Cause||To tell the cause of something.||Ele morreu de ciúmes.||He was full of jealousy (lit. he died of jealousy).|
|Part||To describe to which part something belongs.||A ponta da língua.||The tip of the tongue.|
|Goal||To describe for what something is.||Este caderno é de colorir.||This notebook is for coloring.|
|Place||To tell where something happened or comes from.||É do Japão.||It is from Japan.|
|Content||To tell the content of something.||Copo de água.||Glass of water.|
As you can see on the table above, de can have many different meanings in English – “of”, “from”, “for” – so a direct translation is not really possible. I hope this table helps you, though!
The direct translation of this word, many argue, is “in”. However, if you look at the table below, you will see things are never that easy when learning prepositions:
|Value||To say the value of something.||Um negócio avaliado em 20 milhões.||A business worth 20 millions.|
|Time||To tell the time something takes.||Chegamos em dez minutos.||We arrive in ten minutes.|
|Mode/ Way||To tell the way something happened.||Viveram em paz.||They lived in peace.|
|Goal||To describe for what something is.||Ele pediu-a em casamento.||He asked her to marry (lit. he asked her in marriage).|
|Place||To say where something or someone is.||Estou no Porto.||I am in Porto.|
|Change||To tell about something that changed.||Transformou a água em vinho.||He transformed the water into wine.|
|Restriction||To talk about a restriction.||Isto não é bom para comer.||This is not proper to eat.|
|Goal||To describe for what something is.||Isto é para ela comer.||This is for her to eat.|
|Place||To say where something or someone goes for a longer time.||Eu vou para o Porto.||I go to Porto.|
|Time||To tell when something will happen.||Vou fazer isso para a semana.||I will do it next week.|
In this case, para can be translated into “to”, “in” and even as “next week”. Weird, no? Do not despair, though, just keep using it and paying attention to when people speak and eventually you will get there =)
I wish I could give you better news, but this preposition has so many different meanings that it seems unbelievable. Keep going, though. We are almost there. =)
|Cause/ Agent||To talk about the cause or the agent of something.||Foi maltratado pelo desconhecido.||He was mistreated by the stranger.|
|Goal||To describe for what something is.||Faço isto por ti.||I do this for you.|
|Place||To say through which way something or someone goes.||Eu vou pela avenida.||I go through the avenue.|
|Time||To tell the timeframe of something.||Vou fazer isso por toda a vida.||I am going to do that throughout my whole life.|
|Mean||To speak about the means used for something to happen||Eles comunicam pelo telefone.||They communicate by telephone.|
|Exchange||To speak about exchanges of one thing by another.||Eu troquei uma nota de 20 Euros por duas notas de 10.||I exchanged one 20 Euro note by two 10 Euro notes.|
|Value||To speak about the value of something.||Eu vendo esta casa por 120.000 Euros.||I sell this house for 120.000 Euros.|
|Preference||To talk about our preferences.||Eu tenho amor por ele.||I have love for him.|
|Subject/ Theme||To talk about the subject of something.||Falaram sobre aquilo.||They talked about that.|
|Superior Position||To say that something is in a superior position.||A bola está sobre a mesa.||The ball is on top of the table.|
And that was it!
Uffff…I know, I know. It is not easy to remember all of this. On the other hand, this can serve as a guide for you and you can even come here as often as you want and consult it in case of doubt.
Then, my advice for you is…you guessed it!…practice, practice, practice!
In my materials page, you will soon be able to find some exercises about the prepositions.
If you haven’t read my post about Portuguese Verbs with Prepositions yet, I advise you to do so. There you will also find explanations about the transformations that the prepositions suffer in Portuguese, when mixed with the articles, like in the example “Eu sou do (de + o) Porto”. I have a table explaining the main transformations as well. Just check it out 😉
Last but not least, make sure to check out my European Portuguese Online Course, where I am covering this and many more topics in more detail.
Alright, my “dearests”!
I hope you enjoyed this article, even if the subject is difficult to grasp. Please leave your comments about it below and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
I wish you a wonderful weekend!