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Articles before possessives

When should I add an article before a possessive pronoun?

As in "O gato bebe o seu leite" rather than "O gato bebe seu leite"

Is there a rule for this? Is it to emphasize the object rather than the subject?

November 14, 2012



As stated before, we always use the article if the object is not mentioned again. For example:

  • "What car is nicer: mine or yours?" = "Qual carro é mais legal: o meu ou o seu?"

In the second sentence, car is no longer used, so we need to use the article. Another example:

  • "Meu carro é mais legal que O seu!" = "O meu carro é mais legal que O seu!"

In the first, it can be omitted, but not in the second one because there is no noun.

Another tip: when using a comparison, we can say in both ways, totally correct: "Meu carro é mais legal (do) que o seu!"

The preposition do (of the) is optional.


Let's see if I'm getting this correct, based on your explanation. "Meu carro é mais legal que o seu." You add the article, because car isn't being mentioned again. Which means, this would be correct as well; "Meu carro é mais legal que seu carro."

Am I right on this one?


Yes, they both are correct, and you can say "o meu carro" and "o seu carro".


Since I am here, I will take this opportunity to say for those wishing to learn EU PT (which covers Europe, Asia, Africa... basically all PT outside of Brazil) that the article is almost always used in EU PT with possessives... except with singular family members (I've been told this goes back to the bible). This is the same in Italian so it is not a goofy PT-only thing.

Here is a great primer on the definite articles (o/a) and their uses:

The main thing is, even with singular family members, the article is never wrong to include, but it can be to drop it.


Does duo do an EU portuguese version I get confused and don't want to have to unlearn a language


that reference is excellent. Though, it is my suspicion that the article is beginning to be dropped in colloquial use. This is a natural linguistic tendency. Though, in written ptg it would be considered ungrammatical.


I understand, buy why? Why is it optional to say "O meu gato é grande" if "Meu gato é grande" is exactly the same?

Does adding the definite article change that phrase in any way?


Not in that sentence no.


Man, I never thought about that before! Thanks!


Actually I think this rule is for Brazilian dialect. In Portugal, people almost always use the article - which bugs me when I do practices here. I think both answers should be accepted at all times. Whom should we complain to?


Thanks for clarifying - I'll use the article because I'll then be right in Portugal or if speaking with a Brazilian!!


You should go to the "feedback" button. But, as Duo team quoted, it's supposed to teach Brazilian portuguese, so once in a while you may find these tricky things. I dunno how much they'll do about that since it is a specefic focus. I dont think they'll mix them... but give it a try! Who knows.... ;)


That's odd. I clearly remember selecting Portuguese not Brazilian Portuguese when I started.


the only portuguese option here is the Brazilian dialect of portuguese. Just like the only english option is the american dialect.


Have you noticed the flag beside your name?

[deactivated user]

    Am I reading this right? The two sentence examples given here -

    1) Meu carro é mais legal que O seu! 2) O meu carro é mais legal que O seu!

    are followed by "in the first, it can be omitted, but not in the second one because there is no noun"

    So surely sentence 2 is incorrect and it should be

    2) O meu é mais legal que O seu!

    If this is not the case then I am totally confused.

    • Meu carro é mais legal que O seu = right
    • O meu carro é mais legal que O seu = right
    • O meu carro é mais legal que seu = wrong
    • Meu carro é mais legal que seu = wrong

    When you do not have possessive + noun, add the article.


    What is an "article"? I see English grammar terms used a lot that I have never been taught so I asked my brother who is a writer and editor and he said we were never taught as kids. Only nouns verbs pronouns adjectives and adverbs. Subjunctive and many others we didn't learn. My Brasilian Portuguese teacher gets frustrated trying to explain things to me and can't believe we never learned something she had to and she suggested taking English classes first. Is this crazy or is it true? I have always scored very high in English but there seems to be a gap in what I know. The "O seu" and "a minha" among others seem random to me and your explanation wasn't clear. The object not being used again was confusing to me. I have struggled with it for 2 years and finally want to see if I can figure it out. Thanks


    Educational system in Brazil and USA are quite different. Here we learn articles, adjectives, subjunctives, all verb tenses, etc. during all the years at school. But don't worry, you can learn that little by little.

    Refer to this link for more information about articles in Portuguese: http://www.learningportuguese.co.uk/guide/grammar/basics/nouns-and-articles.

    Refer to this link for more information about articles in English: http://www.englishpage.com/articles/a-an-vs-the.htm. In English, you have "the" (definite), "a", and "an" that work as articles.

    Refer to this link for more information about possessive adjectives/pronouns in English: https://www.eurocentres.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-possessive-adjectives-and-pronouns/

    Refer to this link for more information about possessive pronouns in Portuguese: http://www.learningportuguese.co.uk/guide/grammar/portuguese-pronouns/possessive-pronouns

    After reading all of these references, we can have a QandA session to see if you still have any question! =)


    Thank you so much for those links. I was stuck and I feel this will help. Dou should incorporate these links or something similar. The explanation thus far in my learning on this topic is lacking. But that being said, doulingo is an excellent teacher! Your the icing on the cake Paulenrique. Thanks


    Pat from 3 years ago, don’t give up! I still don’t understand articles! Present day Pat


    This made me lol!! If it helps to have an English reference rather than talk about grammatical function, our articles are "a/an" and "the". So Portuguese articles are just their equivalent of ours (o/a/os/as = the; um/uma/uns/umas = a/an/some)


    Pat, I think we must be the same age because both my husband and I discussed never having been taught any grammar at school - I only started to understand it when I learned Latin!!

    It's fascinating - I'd urge you to buy a book!!


    It’s still a mystery, so much to remember that I can’t believe that it’s possible to learn enough and be able to remember it in a way where I can recall it fast enough to use it in a conversation. I’m stuck at “Bom dia” “tudo bem?” “Olá” “Por favor” “Obrigado” and basic things. Everything else has to be translated in my head or put together in a slow process. After studying for 4 years and going to Brasil 13 times I thought I would be able to converse and read. I must be doing something wrong. All of my Portugues classes have been in English because I can’t understand enough Portugues yet. I’ll keep going though in case something finally happens.


    i am 54 and raised in NJ. I remember doing all of these rules I just dont remember how to apply them czuse I only remember this being taught in hs


    Good question, it helped me too. Thanks

    [deactivated user]

      Ah, after re-reading it, you are talking about the first O, not the second one. But then the noun you referred to is the second instance of car, not the first. That is what confused me.

      Thank you for the clarification.


      The issue is that one is an adjective and one is a pronoun. When it is a possessive pronoun, you need the article. When it is a possessive adjective, the article is optional.

      It's just like in English, we say "My house is bigger than yours." (Not "My house is bigger than your.") "My car is better than hers." (Not "My car is better than her." (Unless you're comparing the car to her as a human being.))


      Possessive adjective? I’ve never heard of those! Wow! “That’s Gigantic’s car” or something? Now I’m going to have to study longer tonight.


      A possessive adjective is just an adjective that describes possession.

      E.g. "that's MY car" "It's YOUR turn" "HER book is here."

      Possessive pronouns show possession but work as pronouns (i.e. a subject that takes the place of a noun)

      The car is MINE

      My house is nicer than YOURS

      The book is HERS


      @antlane, você está completamente certo e eu nunca quis dizer que a gramática é inútil. Concordo com todos os seus pontos -- a meu ver eles são todos bem válidos.

      Pessoalmente, o meu estilo de aprendizagem preferido é mais formal e gosto muito de aprender através de textos didáticos, livros de gramática, etc.

      No entanto, quando um aluno iniciante estiver lutando com um idioma, a resposta é mudar o método de ensinar. Isso é especialmente verdadeiro com o estudo de línguas pois é possível aprender a gramática das duas línguas ao mesmo tempo. Em contraste, é muito mais desanimador dizer a um aluno para parar de aprender o idioma que ele quer aprender e começar a aprender o seu idioma nativo. Mas tudo isso é só minha opinião como um colega estudante.

      Passando a um outro assunto, como um estudante que tem lutado com o seu idioma, gostaria de me agradecer você por todos os seus comentários que tenho lido ao longo dos anos. Muito obrigado por todos os seus esforços. Abraços. :-)


      They seem the same to me. My brother and I talked about this and can to the conclusion that we weren’t taught much English grammar in school for some reason. Just very basic grammar in elementary school. I don’t know what prepositions, phrasal verbs, and articles are along with many other things I’ve heard people talking about in Portugues classes like everyone knows it. Do I need to learn English grammar first before learning Portugues? A teacher of mine said she couldn’t teach me Portugues until I learned English grammar.



      ... [we came] to the conclusion that we weren't taught much English grammar in school for some reason.

      Quite a while ago it seems that formal grammar was dropped from the curriculum in many (most?) American schools. That certainly was my experience. I have some compassion for this, since the body of human knowledge grows every day yet the amount of time we spend in school stays roughly the same, hence some "optimizations" have to be made. Having said that, I'm not convinced that reducing language study was a good decision.

      Do I need to learn English grammar first before learning Portugues? A teacher of mine said she couldn't teach me Portugues until I learned English grammar.

      I personally think this is a misguided point of view. Many language learners wind up learning a great deal about their own native languages as they pursue their foreign language studies. This has absolutely been my experience.

      Furthermore, there is an argument to be made that language can be acquired entirely through conversation -- listening and speaking. After all, this is how we all learn languages as children. And from this perspective, no grammar required.

      Having said that, becoming familiar with grammar will help and speed your learning, since it will allow you to link elements of the language(s) you know and the language you are learning. But there's no reason you can't learn grammar as you go.

      For example, in this thread you've been exposed to possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives. And this thread has provided examples in both Portuguese and English, giving points of comparison between the two languages. So that's a new element of grammar to remember, and tomorrow there will be others. We all learn this way, and that's a perfectly good way to learn. One brick at a time.

      You don't need to become a linguist or grammarian to learn a language. Just one bit of knowledge at a time. And as you learn, the more fun it will be, and the easier it will become.

      Don't lose hope. Hang in there.


      I still can’t converse or understand what people say in Brasil but I’m still studying. Being able to converse would help me learn. I practice every day with my girlfriend in Brasil but I still can’t understand her after 2 years of practicing with her. When I read about grammar it just confuses me because I don’t know the English grammar terminology that they use to explain things yet. I have to translate almost everything into English. That’s 5 years of studying and 16 trips to Brasil. Hopefully I will begin to understand.


      In “It’s your turn” wouldn’t the “your” be a pronoun? It seems like the adjectives and pronouns are the same. Very difficult. We never learned any of this in school but it seems necessary now. Thanks


      In the sentence is, "Meu carro e mais legal que o seu" It helps to specificy that you were talking about their car, If you just say "Meu e mais legal que seu" it doesn't make sense because the object being discussed isn't being introduced in the sentence.


      Thanks this was confusing me!


      I think this is actually similar to english - you can't say "your car is nicer than my" because there's no noun, you have to say "... than mine". In this circumstance "meu" = "my" and "o meu" = "mine". Não é? I was referred here from "eu amo a minha esposa" but I don't think this explains why the article is required in that sentence.


      You are right. You can say: eu amo a minha esposa, eu amo minha esposa.

      You have to say: Seu carro é mais bonito que o meu (no noun). or: (O) seu carro é mais bonito que (o) meu carro.


      For a second when reading this I thought this was such a lovely clear rule I could make use of, but it's literally the opposite of what it says 2/3rd of the way down this article: https://www.practiceportuguese.com/learning-notes/possessive-pronouns-determiners-meu-teu-seu/

      Paraphrasing: - Possessive determiners (my, your, his, her, their, and our) almost always require a definite article - Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours) usually do not require a definite article.

      To be honest I am 100% confused about this. I can't get any traction on a rule which seems to work consistently.


      Why doesn’t your sentence say “Qual o carro” instead of “Qual carro?’ I just read that all nouns need definite articles.


      This reminds me of Italian, except the particular use of the definite article is reversed.

      You're basically saying that with the possessive adjective (my X) the definite article is optional, and with the possessive pronoun (mine) the definite article is mandatory.


      How do you know if the car won’t be mentioned again? What happens if you need to mention it after first deciding that you aren’t going to mention it? Thanks


      hey Patoncho... Until the point I know living here, there's no difference in any of them... you can use both to express exactly the same meaning :) In English, French or Spanish we can´t use a definite article with a possessive adjective/pronoun, but it doesn't happen in Portuguese....


      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_personal_pronouns_and_possessives#Possessive_pronouns_and_adjectives The possessive pronouns are identical to possessive adjectives, except that they must be preceded by the definite article (o meu, a minha, os meus, as minhas, etc.) For the possessive adjectives, the article is optional, and its use varies with dialect and degree of formality.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Portuguese#Definite_article_before_a_possessive In Portuguese, one may or may not include the definite article before a possessive pronoun (meu livro or o meu livro, for instance). The variants of use in each dialect of Portuguese are mostly a matter of preference, i.e. it does not mean a dialect completely abandoned this or that form. In EP, a definite article normally accompanies a possessive when it comes before a noun: este é o meu gato 'this is my cat'. In Southeastern BP, especially in the standard dialects of the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the definite article is normally used as in Portugal, but many speakers do not use it at the beginning of the sentence or in titles: Minha novela, Meu tio matou um cara etc. In Northeastern BP dialects and in Central and Northern parts of the state of Rio de Janeiro, (starting from Niterói), rural parts of Minas Gerais, and all over Espírito Santo state, speakers tend to drop the definite article, but there is nothing such as a total preference for this form instead of the other, making both esse é o meu gato and esse é meu gato likely in their speech. Formal written Brazilian Portuguese tends, however, to omit the definite article in accordance with prescriptive grammar rules derived from Classical Portuguese, even though the alternative form is also considered correct, but many professors consider it inelegant.


      An interesting discussion. I asked my daughter’s boyfriend, who is Portuguese and he said the same thing, that they always use the definite article before the possessive. I am finding the Brazilian version on duo lingo very difficult as it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and it keeps correcting me when I think my version is right.


      you can say:

      Meu gato, O meu gato = my cat Seu irmão é alto, O seu irmão é alto = Your brother is tall

      If you say Este é o meu irmão = This is my brother - you emphasise Este é meu irmão.


      So it’s not “The my cat” I just ignore the “O”? Or do I think of it in a different way? I think I need to find a way to understand Portugues without translating everything. It doesn’t translate perfectly. Thanks


      So there is always an “O” or “A” before every noun or some or ? When I’m reading or listening do I just ignore the “O” and “A”? Thanks


      The way you're supposed to think about it is "Mine cat is taller than the your one" - Meu gato é mais alto que o seu. OR "The mine cat is taller than the your one" - O meu gato é mais alto que o seu.


      Meu gato = O meu gato. No difference.

      Meu cachorro late = O meu cachorro late. = Meu cão late. = O meu cão late. = My dog barks.

      Meu tio é maior que o seu. = O meu tio é maior que seu tio. = O meu tio é maior que o seu tio. = My uncle is bigger than yours.


      We love articles. We say O Lula, O Obama, O Trump. Our country is O Brasil. And you must only say Brazil. OK?


      What should I do when I see the “O”? Ignore it or think about it differently? I still have to translate everything into English to understand Portuguese. I need to learn how to understand Portuguese without translating everything word for word. My brain is stuck on English only after studying Portuguese for 4 years and 8 months and going to Brasil 15 times. It’s frustrating. I study every day. I have a Brasilian girlfriend that I practice with every day too. Thanks!


      When I’m reading it do I ignore the “O” or think about it differently? I don’t use the “O” when I’m writing or speaking. I need to learn how to understand when I’m reading or trying to understand Portuguese. Thanks


      Thanks for the help with “A” and “O”. I had a great time in Brasil. I was in Fortaleza for a month and spent Christmas and New Years with my girlfriend and her family. I was only able to understand 3 sentences that people said while I was there which was frustrating. I didn’t understand what you said about articles so I’ll read them again. When I’m reading or listening to English and I see or hear mistakes it really drives me crazy and Portuguese is very different than English so I still have to translate almost everything into English to understand when I am listening or trying to read. It doesn’t seem like a language yet. It’s still like a secret code. I have 5 classes this week and I practice every day with my girlfriend who only speaks Portuguese. I watch movies and videos and read books and use Duolingo every day. Thanks for the help!


      That’s very difficult for me to understand and remember. I’m going to Brasil next week for the 17th time and still can’t converse or understand what people are saying. I practice every day with my girlfriend who only speaks Portuguese. Thanks


      The article is necessary. He determines. It shows something known, mentioned before.

      • Mãe, há um menino pedindo pão. (unknown boy, indeterminate bread)

      • Quem é o menino? O pão está na cozinha. (- Who is the boy? The bread is in the kitchen. (boy mentioned before, determined bread, known kitchen)

      • Mas é o meu pão! (- But it's my bread! (this emphasizes the possessor). Compare: (o) meu pão eu não dou. ( My bread I don't give)

      • Dá o meu. ((this o is necessary because it distinguishes between one owner and the other).).

      • (o) seu pão é light! ( your bread is light)

      • Meu Deus! Dá logo o pão para o menino. ( (the first can disappear, the second is mandatory.)

      I hope you had a good trip and returned well before the covid. ( and I hope my the is good...)


      @El_capitan: "Meu tio matou um cara" hehehe! nice uncle, but I rather not meet him!

      Thanks for the answers to all. Really useful!


      haha what does um cara mean? :) :)


      It means "a guy". It's used in Brazil. "Um gajo" in Portugal, but slightly ruder. I can't be sure, but I suspect "o cara" used in this sense (because "a cara" means "the face") has its origin in a vernacular word for "penis": "caralho". (Pardon my French...) But this is me speculating...


      Cara in this sense is actually like dude or guy in American English. Here is a really funny example.

      O Cara do Fiat Uno: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpagev=3Wc1_oHszk0

      (The guy with the Fiat Uno) Alô Bruninha? (Hello, Bruninha?) Quem é? quem é? (Who is it? Who is it?) Sou eu! sou eu! (It's me! It's me!) O cara do Fiat Uno, (The guy with the Fiat Uno) E aí, qual é? (What's up?) Vamos sair! Dar um rolé? (Let's go for a ride?)

      Now "o coisa", at least in the area of Brazil where I lived, can have that sense of penis. Like when a mother is talking to a small child. I lived in Brasilia, but I suspect it was at least a feature of the Portugueses around the DF and Goiás. In southern Ohio and the Midwest we would say "bird" or "weewee" or maybe even "thingy".


      LOL thanks - I read that and again, since Spanish was my first second language, I thought he killed...face? Wait. aren't anglosaxons the only people who use the idiom "killed someone in the face"? hahah :) jk of course.


      It’s all very irritating when I get a correction after I’ve answered a question and it tells me it’s wrong. I would prefer to learn proper Portuguese as my daughter’s partner is Portuguese and he tells me that quite a few of the things of the things I say are not proper classical Portuguese - for instance the word for dog is not cachorro in Portugal. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it if I want to do Duolingo, which is obviously a US website, so they are bound to use Brazilian!


      Is the word they use “cão”? Because I see it used exclusively in some of my books. I can get the correct answers in Duolingo without knowing them and was up to 54% Fluent when I can’t even converse yet unless it’s “Ola” “Tudo bem?” “Bom dia” and things like that. How long have you been studying? Portugues to me is like a secret code. I have to translate everything. Good luck.


      Can the article be used before names too?

      I only ask, because when I have been to Lisbon, I am not quite sure if I am hearing someone say "Oh Ricardo!" or "O Ricardo!" in the street.


      Yes. At least in brazilian portuguese, we use the article before proper names. According grammatical rules, t is optional the use of the article before personativos names when there is an idea of familiarity or affection. Ex.: "Este é o Paulo, meu primo" or "a Maria já está chegando".


      As with Pat214197 my English and American schools, 1950's to 70's, taught me very little grammar. You kind of pick it up as you go along. I'm learning more doing this than I ever have before. Possessives are a real struggle.


      Thanks! When I see “O” or “A” before something I don’t know whether to ignore it or to think of it in another way. It seems like “O” and “A” are totally random. They are sometimes used and other times not used. I have no idea when to use them or why. The only explanation I’ve had from teachers is “Sometimes they are used and sometimes they aren’t used, you’ll get it!” I’m trying to discover a way to understand Portuguese without translating everything in my head or with a translator. When I see a Portuguese word I don’t get the idea behind it yet after 4.75 years of studying. I still have to translate it to the English word to understand the meaning. It makes understanding spoken Portuguese impossible so far because I can’t make out what people are saying either. I practice with my Brasilian girlfriend every day and have for 21 months. I had another girlfriend before that for 4 years and I couldn’t understand her either. I’ve always been able to learn quickly until now. Thanks


      could i say "o gato bebe dele leite"?


      if you're trying to say ''the cat drink his milk'' you wrongly placed the word ''dele = his'' the correct version would be ''o gato bebe o leite dele''


      I totally get that if you don't have a noun, you need to use an article. However, why is there an article in "A tua gata come peixe"? Is this Portuguese Portuguese, where they always use the article?


      It's just like you said. If there is a noun the article is optional, sometimes we say it, sometimes we don't, it doesn't really matter.

      You CAN drop the article in the sentence "A tua gata come peixe?" and just say "Tua/Sua gata come peixe?"


      Thank you so very much for your immediate reply to my question this morning, and for directing me to all these valuable posts! Going directly to the Duo site (rather team the app, which is limited), provides such enhanced features! and you're always a great resource!

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