Adjective Inflections & Positioning With Their Rules & Exceptions



Adjective inflections


As you may have noticed up to now, adjectives in Portuguese must be inflected according to the noun they refer to, even when connected with a linking verb such as "to be".

Adjectives change in gender and number:
Carro novo = New car (singular masculine)

Carros novos = New cars (plural masculine)

A casa é nova = The house is new (singular feminine)

As casas são novas = The houses are new (plural feminine)


Some of them, especially those ending in "e" or a consonant in singular form, have their masculine and feminine forms the same:

Carro grande, casa grande

Carros grandes, casas grandes

Homem responsável, mulher responsável

Homens responsáveis, mulheres responsáveis

That doesn't mean they ignore the rule that "all should be inflected" though, they just don't have different forms.

Adjective positioning


Should they come before or after the noun?


This question is not so easy to answer. Mostly, adjectives should come after the nouns, but some can only come before nouns, some can only go after nouns, and some can go anywhere, with a slight change in meaning.

Adjectives that can go anywhere


The adjectives that can be placed either before or after the noun can have a slight change in meaning depending on the position.

Adjectives after nouns get a very literal meaning, while adjectives before nouns can get a more sentimental meaning:

Um homem grande = A big man (size)

Um grande homem = A great man

Uma casa velha = An old house (an aged house, probably showing some problems)

Uma velha casa = An old house (probably full of stories and feelings, or well known)


This is not a strict rule though, intonation might have an influence too and many adjectives wouldn't be able to show any difference in meaning.

Adjectives that can't change position


There is nothing special about them, but they just don't fit both positions, such as:
Cultural - only after

Impossível - only after

Familiar - only after - Family (adjective)

Nacional - only after

Industrial - only after

Primeiro - only before (except in titles such as "Pedro Primeiro - Pedro the first")
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