Change Meaning with the Article in Portuguese

Palabra con cambio de significado según el artículo en portugués: O guia. Ejemplo: Meu professor de português é o melhor guia do Rio. Vê só a RioLIVE!

Can a Word Really Change Its Meaning with just the Article in Portuguese?

Learning Portuguese is no easy task. Thank god you have a Portuguese language school like us to help you out! And the topic of today is no child’s play – we’ll be talking about how to change the meaning of a word with just the article in Portuguese. But wait up! What does that even mean?

Remember how we learned about masculine and feminine words in Portuguese? What if I told you the same word could be both masculine and feminine? No, it’s not just a matter of it referring to the same thing but with a different gender, like estudante or artista. Today we’ll be talking about words that mean completely different things depending on the article used: is it going to be or a? Let’s take a look!

Examples of Words that Change their Meaning with the Article

A cabeça: head (part of the body), mind.
O cabeça: leader, or the smartest/most intelligent in a group.

Durante a Copa de 2010, Lúcio foi o cabeça da Seleção Brasileira.
O futebol não sai da cabeça dos brasileiros.
During the World Cup of 2010, Lúcio was the captain of the Brazilian team.
Soccer is always in the minds of Brazilians.

O capital: capital, assembly of material goods, money, property.
A capital: capital city, city where the government is based/located.

Para criar uma empresa, o capital precisa ser muito bom.
A capital do estado do Rio de Janeiro é a cidade do Rio de Janeiro.
In order to build a company, the capital needs to be very good.
The capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro is the city of Rio de Janeiro

A caixa: box, square or rectangular recipient.
O caixa: place where you pay for services/goods, where the cashier is at.

Ele foi para o caixa pagar a conta.
Ele trouxe a caixa do aeroporto.
He went to the check-out counter to pay the bill.
He brought the box from the airport.

O guia: guide, book or person that guides you.
A guia: document, form; or the rope part of a leash.

Eu pedi informações sobre a cidade para o guia turístico.
O senhor precisa assinar a guia antes de receber o pacote.
Minha cachorra sempre morde a guia, por isso tenho que comprar uma nova.
I asked the tourist guide for information about the city.
You must sign the form before receiving the package.
My dog always bites the leash, that’s why I need to buy a new one.

A moral: set of moral rules, morality.
O moral: morale, mood, state of mind, spirit.

A moral é um campo muito interessante da filosofia.
O moral da equipe está muito baixo. Devem todos acabar pedindo demissão.
Morality is a very interesting branch of philosophy.
The teams’ morale is very low. They might all resign.

Other Words that Change their Meaning with the Article in Portuguese

O guarda: guard, watchman, person who protects something.
A guarda: act of guarding, level of attentiveness (guard), surveillance, vigilance.

A grama: grass.
O grama:
gram, measurement of weight.

O rádio: radio, electronic device.
A rádio:
radio station, radio channel.

O nascente: orient, direction from which the sun rises.
A nascente:
a spring, natural source of water where rivers spring from.

A banana: banana, fruit.
O banana: someone who’s idiotic, an imbecile.

A cabra: female goat, animal.
O cabra: man, person, used to refer to anyone.

Now it’s your turn!

Read the sentences below and figure out whether you should use the article o or a according to the meaning. Remember, these articles can vary according to number (singular/plural) too!

  1. Mariana é _____ cabeça do trabalho em grupo dela.
  2. Muitas pessoas pensam que _____ capital do Brasil é o Rio de Janeiro. Mas é Brasília!
  3. A fila para _____ caixa está muito grande. Prefiro voltar outro dia.
  4. Meus professores de português são _____ melhores guias do Rio. Dá para ver pela RioLIVE!
  5. _____ moral da história é: nunca se dê por vencido.
  6. Quando se está numa situação de perigo, não dá para abaixar _____ guarda.
  7. _____ rádio que eu mais gosto está saindo do ar.
  8. _____ grama da casa deles está toda seca.
  9. Já pensou onde fica _____ nascente que traz água para esta cachoeira?
  10. João e Júlia bateram com _____ cabeça no vidro.

Well, that’s it guys! Those are probably the most common words where you’ll find the article changes the meaning entirely. Let us know if you found any new ones!

See you guys!

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Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Artigos Indefinidos
Artigos Definidos
Masculino e Feminino



  1. Mariana é o cabeça do trabalho em grupo dela.
  2. Muitas pessoas pensam que a capital do Brasil é o Rio de Janeiro. Mas é Brasília!
  3. A fila para o caixa está muito grande. Prefiro voltar outro dia.
  4. Meus professores de português são os melhores guias do Rio. Dá para ver pela RioLIVE!
  5. A moral da história é: nunca se dê por vencido.
  6. Quando se está numa situação de perigo, não dá para abaixar a guarda.
  7. A rádio que eu mais gosto está saindo do ar.
  8. A grama da casa deles está toda seca.
  9. Já pensou onde fica a nascente que traz água para esta cachoeira?
  10. João e Júlia bateram com a cabeça no vidro.

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