Gender issues 2

October 9, 2008 at 12:10 pm 1 comment

This post follows on from what I wrote about getting the gender right in Portuguese.

I thought I’d try and make a list here, which I will keep updating, of the most common irregular nouns that don’t follow any of the rules that I listed before.

Words that are feminine that you might think were masculine

a carne = the meat
a colher = the spoon
a chave = the key
a fase = the phase
a foto = the photo
a luz = the light
a noite = the night
a torre = the tower
a vez = the time/the phase

Words that are masculine that you might think were feminine

o chá = the tea
o clima = the weather
o dia = the day
o sofa = the sofa

 

Compound Nouns

Generally, it seems to me (unless anyone can tell me otherwise) that compound nouns – words made up of two nouns often end up being masculine even if both the nouns are feminine. Some examples:

o guarda-roupa = the wardrobe (guarda and roupa are both feminine separately)
o guarda-chuva = the umbrella (guarda and chuva are both feminine separately)
o homem-aranha = the spiderman (homem is masculine and aranha is feminine)

Other compound words

When there is a preposition between the words, the first word is usually the one that has to agree with the gender and plural rules. For example:

o Pé-de-moleque = lit. young boy’s foot, a kind of brittle candy popular in Brazil.

The gender can change in some compound nouns depending on if you are talking about a male or a female person:

o Amigo-da-onça / a amiga-da-onça = the friend of the jaguar (an idiom meaning a person who seems like a good friend but is hypocritical or insincere).
O Ex-governador / a ex-governadora = the ex-governor.

Some compounds combine adjectives and verbs with nouns. Then the gender and plural agrees with the noun:

O Beija-flor = lit. the kiss-flower / hummingbird.
Os Beija-flores = lit. the kiss-flowers / hummingbirds.

Thanks to Jack Scholes’ book (see Links & Resources) for giving me some of the examples for this section.

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Entry filed under: Gender, Grammar. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Babi  |  December 7, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Guarda is not femnine, it is actualy from the verb “guradar”. So I think (and I am not a 100% sure) when you have a verb and a noun, it is masculine (masculine is the “default” gender in portuguese).

    If it is a noun-noun composition, it is feminine when the first noun is feminine. Example: a arte-final (a arte, o final).

    And there are some you change the gender as needed, as you already showed, but with no change: o/a boa-praça (roughfuly means nice person/good fellow).

    “Some compounds combine adjectives and verbs with nouns. Then the gender and plural agrees with the noun:

    O Beija-flor = lit. the kiss-flower / hummingbird.
    Os Beija-flores = lit. the kiss-flowers / hummingbirds.”

    I don’t know if the rule is right, but beija is a verb and flor is feminine. With this example, it doe not make sense.

    Hope it helps some how.

    Reply

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