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In Brazilian Portuguese, the articles are used mainly to identify specific things.
If we say "Calças têm bolsos", we mean "pants, in general, have pockets".
If we say "As calças têm bolsos", we probably have some known pants that we identify through the article "As". (if there is no pants to be identified, this last sentence can have the exact same meaning as the previous one. But the previous one cannot have the meaning of this one, it lacks the identification of the pants)
Yes, they are not the same! BolsOs = pockets (masculine); bolsAs = bags (feminine). I think bags could only have a sarcastic sense in that context!!)))) Smth. like "those are not the pockets, those are the bags (speaking about their capacity, maybe)! That what came first in my mind!))
Both are used in the US - with "pants" becoming popular since 1970 and "trousers" falling out of favor. However, "trousers" is still used in expensive men's clothing stores like Brooks Brothers.
Gabardine and linen trousers for men: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/mens/dress-pants/0219,default,sc.html