"I hear them."
Translation:Eu as ouço.
The difference between 'a/o/as/os" is simply the gender of the object that's being referred to.
This sentence has distinct meanings because in Portuguese "They" can work as 'Eles - masc.' or as 'Elas - femin.'.
"Them" is the direct object of the simple pronoun "They", and this object pronoun in Portuguese is mostly translated as 'os - masc.' and 'as - femin.'. Since there's no noun to define the gender and to match the pronoun to it, you can use either the object pronoun as the feminine or the masculine.
If you had the clause "The men talk to me, I hear them", you'd know that the pronoun should be masculine. On the other hand, if it was "My sisters are smart, I hear them", then you'd have the feminine pronoun.
In Portuguese, "talk to" is translated to "conversar com" (lit. talk with), as in a casual conversation. So here we'd have:
The men talk to me, I hear them = Os homens conversam comigo, eu os ouço.
My sisters are smart, I hear them = Minhas irmãs são espertas, eu as ouço.
*Note that when "com" is referring to the 1st and 2nd persons, they become one word:
- with me/with us = comigo/conosco
- with you = contigo/convosco
Yes. "Os" and "as" are the translations of "them".
The version "eu ouço eles" instead of "eu os ouço/ouço-os" is very very popular, but formally wrong by grammar (since it's like using "they" instead of "them").
But no one would ever mind it, unless they are really grammar addicted. In texts though, if you want to prove you know formal Portuguese, use only "os/as".
Generally, if the groups are all one gender or the other, the choice is obvious. If there is mixed company, you always defer to the masculine. So, even a group of 20 women and 1 man would be referred to as "eles" or "os".
That is my impression, at least. Please correct me if I am wrong!
Never, because the pronouns "a/o/as/os" are always the direct object of the action and if they're placed after the verb, they lose their value as a pronoun and become acting as an article; e.g. "Eu ouço os barulhos" - "I hear the noises" x "Eu os ouço fazendo os barulhos" - "I hear them making the noises".
There's the case on which you MUST place the object pronoun after the verb, but when this happens, you shouldn't use the simple pronoun (eu, tu, ele, nós, eles...) while starting the sentence; Instead, you go straight to the verb and inflect it with the desired pronoun: "Ouço-os fazendo os barulhos" - "I hear them making the noises", "Vejo-as cantando" - "I see them singing", "Faça-os parar!" - Make them stop!".
In Portuguese, these pronouns are called Pronomes Oblíquos Átonos. and the order they appear in the sentence tells you if it is proclitic (pron. before the verb), enclitic (after the verb linked with a hyphen) or mesoclitic (within the verb linked with two hyphens between the verb and the inflection).
-Proclitic (the informal way, at least is the most used): Eu os ouço claramente (I hear them clearly);
-Enclitic (the basic and correct form, usually linking the verb to its complement): Ouço-os claramente (I hear them clearly);
-Mesoclitic (only for future perfect or conditional clauses): Ouvir-los-ei claramente (I'll hear them clearly) :simplifying: Eu os ouvirei claramente.
If you want to know more about it and its functions, I recommend you some websites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_personal_pronouns#Subject.2C_object.2C_and_complement (Look for 'OBJECT PRONOUN')
In fact, you can put the pronoun after the verb (as the "Enclitic" example shows).
But whenever you put it after the verb, you must use an hyphen: "ouço-os".
What defines whether it goes before or after the verb is the presence of an "attractive word" before the verb.
Negative words are attactive, for instance.
- Não os ouço
- Ninguém os ouve
You should never start a sentence with one of these pronouns, though:
- Os ouço is a wrong sentence. It shall be "ouço-os"
I'm not sure if "eu" is an attractive word, the sources do not agree and I'm not an expert.
Nevertheless, these rules are almost completely ignored by Brazilian people.
They are synonyms. I suspect "oiço" isn't used much or is only used in European Portuguese but I don't know for sure. [Edit: I found some more info here: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=333634]