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"O" and "A" are definite articles and they both mean "THE". "O" is used with masculine nouns ("O menino" = the boy) and "A" is used with feminine nouns ("A menina" = the girl).
"UM" and "UMA" are indefinite articles and they mean "A" and "AN". "UM" is used with masculine nouns ("UM menino" = a boy) and "UMA" is used with feminine nouns ("UMA menina" = a girl).
The only way to learn difference between O and A is to know the object gender. And the bad news is...ALL objects have gender. I know it is difficult and makes no sense to English speakers to attribute gender to something that is inanimate. To make things easier - not a rule - you can identify the last letter of the word. If it ends with A, 85% chances the article you need is A. For other words ending in e, l, m, r, s, u, and o there is a great chance that you will need the "o". But again...Portuguese has lots of exceptions.
Hi Davu! I wouldn't say it is the only exception because I can think of some other words, like "a modelo" (the model) "a avó"(the grandma) and "a libido". And you also have many other words finishing with "ão" such as "a televisão" or "a ação", where the 'exception' does not apply :-)
I'm sorry, I guess I had mentally eliminated words like "televisão" which is one of a class of exceptions and words of two genders like "modelo" but, despite the fact that you can't read my mind, you managed to give me a true new one that fits what I was looking for: "a libido". Thank you!
According to the Vocabulário Ortográfico do Português the pronunciation of "homem" is:
- Lisbon: /ˈɔ.mɐ̃j/
- Rio de Janeiro: /ˈõ.mẽj/
- São Paulo: /ˈo.meɲ/
If that's correct then the nasal 'o' is unique to Rio.
It is interesting that Wiktionary says the first 'o' is open in Brazil:
- Brazil: /ˈɔ.mẽɪ̯/, /ˈɔ.mɪ̃/