Gender may be a new concept for you, linguistically speaking. That boats and cars aren’t ‘your girls’ in Portuguese, but ‘our boys’ a disappointment. I get it. Let me clarify this topic that I find so fascinating.

Perhaps you think of an object as intrinsically having a gender. Sure, people and animals do, but a chair, a flower or a burger do not. It’s words that have a gender and therefore we start looking at the object they refer to as having that same gender.

This means we need to look for clues in the word itself: if a word ends with an ‘a’ it’s feminine, as in ‘barriga’ (belly); if it ends with an ‘o’ it’s masculine, eg. ‘ombro’ (shoulder).

The rest are exceptions, full of regularity (sometimes), which will naturally make you feel nauseous till the end of your interaction with the language.

So how not to trip all over gender when speaking Portuguese?

It’s very simple: every time you come across a new noun, write down a whole sentence. This is particularly useful because gender is not just about the noun, but also other components of the sentence. Everything has to match!

Take ‘barriga’ as an example:

A minha barriga está queimada. (My belly is burnt).

A minha: check!

Queimada: check!

To add an extra layer to your long-term memory use some sort of mnemonic: imagine a woman belly dancing; imagine a belly with sexy lipstick on it are just some examples.

If you have enjoyed this quick lesson and would like to learn more Portuguese outside of the box, then please contact Catarina from The Language Unschool -