Spanish and Portuguese Nouns and Pronouns

Foreign Service Institute: From Spanish to Portuguese

Object Pronouns

1. Placement

Your most formidable task in mastering the object pronouns will be learning where to put them. In Spanish, the arrangement of verb and object pronouns (direct, indirect and reflexive) is a rather complex affair. In Portuguese it may seem even more so, largely because of interference from Spanish. Let us check on some specific cases.

A. Object pronouns with a conjugated verb form


Spanish Portuguese
Ana se sienta. Ana se senta.
Ana senta-se.
Ella me conoce. Ela me conhece.
Ela conhece-me.
Pablo le dio un dólar. Paulo lhe deu um dólar.
Paulo deu-lhe um dólar.


In utterances like those above, in which a noun or personal pronoun precedes the conjugated verb, Spanish must put the object pronoun before the conjugated verb form. Portuguese may put it before or after, with a preference, in Brazilian portuguese, for putting it before.

Now, notice these examples:

Spanish Portuguese
Me levanté temprano. Levantei-me cedo.
Me conoce bien. Conhece-me bem.
Le dio un dólar. Deu-lhe um dólar.


No noun or pronoun precedes the conjugated verb in these examples. Spanish speakers, as always, must let the object pronoun precede the verb. Most Portuguese speakers, however, avoid beginning an utterance with an object pronoun, preferring instead to place it after the verb, as shown above.

Now, here are still more examples:

Spanish Portuguese
No se levanta. Não se levanta.
No me conoce. Não me conhece.
Quién le dio un dólar? Quem lhe deu um dólar?


The rule in effect for these Portuguese sentences is that if anything other than a noun or personal pronoun subject precedes the verb, the object pronoun is placed before the verb. These sentences and others like them fall right into the familiar Spanish pattern, so in themselves they represent nothing strikingly new to you. (However, compare them with examples 1, 2, and 3 above, where the verb is preceded by a noun, and the object pronoun may therefore either go before that verb or follow after it.)


B. Object pronouns with an infinitive

Spanish Portuguese
Juan va a levantarse.
Juan se va a levantar.
João vai levantar-se.
João vai se levantar.
Juan quiere llevarme al centro.
Juan me quiere llevar al centro.
João quer levar-me ao centro.
João quer me levar ao centro.
Juan puede decirme eso.
Juan me puede decir eso.
João pode dizer-me isso.
João pode me dizer isso.
... para recibirnos. ... para receber-nos.
... para nos receber.


In verbal constructions containing an infinitive and an auxiliary verb, Spanish puts object pronouns either after the infinitive or before the auxiliary.

In the same constructions, Portuguese puts object pronouns either after the infinitive (like Spanish) or before the infinitive (quite unlike Spanish).


C. Object pronouns with the present participle (the -ndo form)

Spanish Portuguese
Juan está levantándose.
Juan se está levantando.
João está levantando-se.
João está se levantando.
Juan está llevándome.
Juan me está llevando.
João está levando-me.
João está me levando.
Juan está diciéndole.
Juan le está diciendo.
João está dizendo-lhe.
João está lhe dizendo.


The situation with the -ndo forms is similar to that which we have described for the infinitives. In Spanish the object pronoun may go after the participle or before the auxiliary verb. In Portuguese it may go after the participle (which is done in Spanish), or before the participle (which is never done in Spanish).

2. Other Problems

In addition to handling the major problems of accurate placement, you will need to make other adjustments in order to control the complex of object pronouns in Portuguese.

A. Modification of infinitive and direct object pronoun.

Spanish Portuguese
Pablo va a llevarla. Paulo vai levá-la.
Ella va a mandarlos. Ela vai mandá-los.
Ellos van a hacerlo. Êles vão fazê-lo.


The Portuguese third person direct object pronouns o, os, a, as change their forms to lo, los, la, las when they follow an infinitive. As such they look and sound suspiciously like the comparable Spanish forms. Be sure to notice that in this construction the infinitive loses its r. It is almost as if the r changed to l.


B. Frequent omission of direct object pronoun in Portuguese

Spanish Portuguese
Quién compró los billetes?
Pablo los compró.
Quem comprou os bilhetes?
Paulo comprou.
Envuélvelo sin la caja. Embrulhe sem a caixa.
María lo vio. (Mary saw you) Maria viu o senhor.
Yo las llevo. (I'll take you) Eu levo as senhoras.


Spanish needs the object pronoun in these utterances. Portuguese can do without it. When the direct object is inanimate (as in the first two sentences above) the pronoun is often just simply omitted. When the direct object is 'you' (as in the last two sentences above), o senhor, a senhora, etc. are usually used in preference to the object pronouns.


C. Substitution of (a / para) for indirect object pronouns

Spanish Portuguese
Ella le dio un regalo. Ela lhe deu um presente. (or)
Ela deu um presente a êle. (or)
Ela deu um presente para êle.
El me contó una historia. Êle me contou uma história. (or)
Êle contou uma história a mim. (or)
Êle contou uma história para mim.
Quiero decirle. Quero dizer-lhe.
Quero dizer ao senhor.
Quero dizer para o senhor.


Portuguese speakers frequently use a prepositional phrase with a or para in place of the indirect object pronoun. Spanish can occasionally do this with para, with the meaning 'for', but can not ordinarily do it with a.

Te tengo un regalito.
Tengo un regalito para ti.


Notice that the prepositional phrase in Portuguese is used in place of the object pronoun, and not as a redundant addition to it. Such redundancies are common in Spanish, but they do not occur in Portuguese.

Spanish Portuguese
A mí me parece.
Le doy esto a usted. Dou-lhe isto. (or)
Dou isto ao senhor.
Quiero decirle a Pablo ... Quero dizer-lhe... (or)
Quero dizer para Paulo ...


You will not say: Dou-lhe isto ao senhor, with both lhe and ao senhor.


D. Spanish pronoun arrangements not appearing in Portuguese

a. Indirect and direct object pronouns combined

Spanish Portuguese
Me lo dio. (the check)
Deu-me. (or)
Deu-me o cheque.
Se la presté. (the pen) Emprestei-lhe. (or)
Emprestei-lhe a caneta.


In Spanish the combination of indirect and direct object pronoun in utterances like those above is very common. In Pportuguese it may occur but is almost always avoided in everyday speech. Either the direct object pronoun is omitted, or the direct object noun is used in its stead.


b. Reflexive and direct obiect pronouns combined

Spanish Portuguese
Juan se lo comió. (the bread) (Nothing comparable)
Me la tomé. (the milk) (Nothing comparable)
Se las llevó Alicia. (the keys) (Nothing comparable)


c. Reflexive and indirect obiect pronouns combined

Spanish Portuguese
Se me olvidó la llave. (Nothing comparable)
Se nos quedó en casa. (Nothing comparable)
Se le cayeron unas tazas. (Nothing comparable)


Direct Object Nouns

Spanish inserts a 'personal a' before a personalized, direct object noun. Portuguese does not have the 'personal a'.

Spanish Portuguese
Veo a María.
Vejo Maria.
Conozco al presidente. Conheço o presidente.


Definite Article

Portuguese may use the definite article along with the possessive pronoun. Spanish does not do this.

Spanish Portuguese
mi amigo
o meu amigo
mis amigos os meus amigos
mi amiga a minha amiga
mis amigas as minhas amigas



1. Gender in cognates

In most cases, Portuguese cognates have the same gender as their Spanish counterparts. There are some common exceptions to this, however, and we will list some of them here.

A. Many Spanish masculine words ending in -aje are feminine in Portuguese and end in -agem.


Spanish Portuguese
el viaje a viagem
el paisaje a paisagem
el masaje a massagem
el mensaje a mensagem
el sabotaje a sabotagem


B. Others

Spanish Portuguese
el color a côr
el dolor a dor
el árbol a árvore
el puente a ponte
el partido (game) a partida
el equipo a equipe
la nariz o nariz
la leche o leite
la sonrisa o sorriso
la sal o sal


2. Gender in the number 'two'

Portuguese has gender agreement for the number 'two'. Spanish does not. Remembering to make this agreement in Portuguese is not always as easy as it may seem.

Spanish Portuguese
dos libros dois livros
dos señoras duas senhoras


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