Portuguese Sentence Structure

7 de June de 2013

Figuring Out the Portuguese Sentence Structure

Whenever you learn a new language, it’s the same old song all over again. You try saying something as you would in your language and then have to face the puzzled looks of a native speaker, such as your teacher at Rio & Learn. You double-check the conjugation, your pronunciation, hell, the spelling even – but it usually comes down to one thing: sentence structure. So today, why don’t we take a look at the Portuguese sentence structure?

Portuguese Morphology: Types of Words in a Sentence

First things first, we should probably try to understand a bit better about the types of words we can find in a sentence in Portuguese. This way it is easier to explain how sentence structure works. Our friend Moisés explains in the video below what ‘category’ words can belong to (noun, adjective, adverb, etc.), as well as a little about word order. Remember to turn on the subtitles! Let’s watch it:

If you would like to read more on these types of words, you can check out the following dicas:

Definitive Articles
Indefinitive Articles

The Order of Portuguese Sentence Structure

As you probably saw from the video, the sentence structure in Portuguese is not that different from that in English. Portuguese and English both follow the idea of: subject + verb + object. This is how we could break that down based on Moisés’ explanation:

subject = article + noun (optional: adjective)

verb = it can follow or precede an adverb

object = the thing that the verb describes (adjective) or impacts (article + noun, optional: adjective)
ex: to be pretty, to throw a ball

Using Adjectives in Portuguese

You may have noticed that in Moisés’ example he says: a moça bonita. Which is a ‘girl pretty’. That’s right! Adjectives in Portuguese must come after the nouns they are describing. Take a look at some more examples:

Minha mãe tem um carro vermelho.
My mother has a red car.

Aquela estátua grande é o Cristo Redentor.
That big statue is Christ the Redeemer.

Omitting Subjects

In Portuguese, much like Spanish, sometimes we casually drop the personal pronoun in a sentence. That means that a sentence such as ‘I live in Rio de Janeiro‘ can be said as ‘Live in Rio de Janeiro’. We usually refer to these as ‘hidden subjects’, and they are more common in the first-person, although we can drop personal pronouns whenever. Check it out:

Corro todas as manhãs para manter a forma.
I run every morning to stay in shape.

Lemos sempre a Dica do Dia.
We always read a Dica do Dia.

Fez o dever de casa?
Did you do the homework?

Asking Questions

Pay attention to that last example we saw and you may already figured out what this is all about. In English, when we ask questions, we must start the sentences with a verb. But we like to keep it simple – the Portuguese language structure is the same for statements and questions. How can we tell questions and statements apart, then? Well, by the intonation, of course. It’s all about the way you say it. Here are some examples:

Vocês vão na RioLIVE! de hoje? É no Pão de Açúcar.
Are you going to RioLIVE! today? It’s at the Sugarloaf Mountain.

Ela gosta de caipirinha?
Does she like caipirinha?

Do you see how the question mark makes all the difference? And even if we didn’t have them, the statements would still retain their meaning without any change in word order.

Now it’s your turn!

Rewrite the sentences in the correct order according to the Portuguese sentence structure we have just studied:

1) menino – O – está cansado

2) bem – mulher – A – dança

3) O – quente – Rio – é

4) é – muito – caro – computador – O

5) Luana – alto – A – muito – fala

6) bebê – frequentemente – chora – O

7) A – malhadagrama – a – vaca – come

8) sujo – O – vermelho – casaco – está

9) de – homem – sério – O – preto – é – terno

10) Paulo – Fernanda – estão – e – apaixonados – loucamente

That’s all for today guys. Did you like it?
Abraços e até mais!

Ler esta Dica em Português        Leer esta Dica en Español
Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
Regular Verbs in Portuguese
Adverbs of Denial in Portuguese
Types of Sentences in Portuguese



1) O menino está cansado.
2) A mulher dança bem.
3) O Rio é quente.
4) O computador é muito caro.
5) A Luana fala muito alto.
6) O bebê chora frequentemente.
7) A vaca malhada come a grama.
8) O casaco vermelho está sujo.
9) O homem de terno preto é sério.
10) Paulo e Fernanda estão loucamente apaixonados.