I am an American living in Mozambique for the last 2 years. While I have learned a lot of Portuguese already, this is a great set of lessons. We had a cat and he was a boy, so we always referred to him as "o gato." Is cat normally expressed in the feminine when the gender is not known is does this refer specifically to a female cat? I ask because earlier in this lesson, the phrase was "as gatas" and I wondered if that meant specifically a group of female cats.
When a word can be written in either genders, masculine is the default.
Um gato = A (male/female) cat
Uma gata = A female cat
If you want to specify that it's a male cat, you say um gato macho. A female cat can be also um gato fêmea, but it isn't used, since you just have to say uma gata.
They seem to be doing this a lot for gendered nouns for animals, I think it's because while the gender of the cats is implied because of the feminine ending, the sentence still isn't making a point of saying that they're female (and I don't know if they ever would in Portuguese, if someone can answer this?). It is confusing though, coming from a language (English) that uses a separate word to distinguish gender.
Yes, the ending follows the gender, it's like menino / menina for boy / girl.
As I understand (mostly from similarities in other languages like Spanish, so this might not be correct for portuguese):
You use the male form (gato) as "default", i.e. if you don't know, or if you know the cat is male. You use the female form (gata) for a cat you know is female.
The female plural - gatas - is used for a group of all female cats, otherwise it's gatos.
Na forma plural, se houverem apenas fêmeas (o que é difícil de se saber apenas olhando a primeira vista), use: gatas, se houverem machos e fêmeas, ou apenas machos, use: gatos.
Um conjunto de gatos pode ser chamado de "gataria"
O plural sempre é masculino, ex: em 1 conjunto de alunos, com 3000 meninas e 1 menino, é referido como "alunos", se forem meninos e meninas, ou só meninos: "alunos", se forem apenas meninas: "alunas"
Duolingo says that there are three definitions that "gata" can assume, but when either one of the two definitions other than "cat" are submitted as a translation for "uma gata," Duolingo turns around and says that those answers are wrong. That makes no good sense at all. If Duolingo is correct that gata can mean either "cat," "female cat," or "hottie," then that means that "a cat," "a female cat," "a hottie," "one cat," "one female cat," and "one hottie" could all be one's intended meaning if one says "uma gata."
Firstly, you may learn the meaning of "cat" = "gato" (masculine) / "gata" (feminine) using it for pets, a domestic animal. After that, "gato" or "gata" can be used as "babe" and many other suggestions, as slang words. Also, to name a big cat, as the lion, "leão" (masculine) and the lioness, "leoa" (feminine).
Well, the first time I found this word I translated as cat, we were talking about animals. I got it wrong Duo translated as "babe"; there was lots of comments an discussion. Now I found it again I think to write "female cat" but it wasn't included in the definitions given in the discussion so I tried the "safe, proven" option...and got it wrong.