4.1.2.1 in front of possessive pronouns can stay a definite article

Possessivpronouns indicate to whom somethings belongs to, but we have no intention to describe the whole system of the possessive pronouns here, we will do that in chapter 7 Possessivpronomen. We only want to discuss the use of the definite article in front of possessive pronoun.

We can distinguish between adjectives pronouns, my car, and pronouns, mine.

adjective pronouns
O* meu carro é velho, mas está pago.

-

My car is old but is paid.

* In front of possesiva, whether used as adjectives or pronouns, we can use a definite article, but this is not compulsory.

Adjective pronoun is actually a contradictory expression, because an adjective doen't stand for something else, it just describes something. However possessive pronouns have a doble functions. They specify a noun, describe to whom it belongs to and at the same time they stand for someone / something. In the sentence "It is his house" we get informed to whom the house belongs to, but his is a pronoun as well, stands for somebody. If we don't know to whom the word "his" refers too, the sentence is meaningless.

sustantive possessive pronouns
O* meu é mais caro.
- Mine is more expensive.
 

* In the case of possessive pronoun, if the pronoun is used alone, the article is compulsory.

The sustantive possessive pronoun is a doble pronoun. First of all we have to know what belongs to me, a car, a house, a bicycle, a book. Second we have to know who is the person this unknown thing belongs to.

In grammar books you find often the remark that in European Portuguese there is a definitive article in front of the possessive pronoun, but not in Brasilian Portuguese. However the Brasilians themselves have a more discriminating opinion on this issue, as we can read here: A minha dúvida. In this article Sérgio Rodrigues, a Brasilian linguist answers to the questions of the readers of a Brasilian newspaper related to linguistic issues. Concerning the question whether a definite article should be use or not in front of a possessive pronoun he answers.

O artigo definido é opcional. “Gosto muito de sua coluna*” e “Gosto muito da sua coluna*” são frases igualmente corretas do ponto de vista gramatical. Como nem tudo é gramática, isso não quer dizer que sejam rigorosamente idênticas. Entre as razões que podem determinar a decisão do falante – consciente ou não – quanto ao emprego do artigo definido está, além do ritmo da frase, o grau de familiaridade que pretende sugerir.

 

The definite article is optional. Both sentences "Gosto muito de sua coluna" (I like your articles) and "Gosto muito da sua coluna*" are correct from a grammar point of view. However as it always occur with grammatical problems that doesn't mean that the meaning is completely the same. One reason that might influence unconscioulsy the decision of the speaker to use the definite article is, apart from the rhythm of the sentence, the degree of familiarity that he wants to establish.


* da = de + a (in da the definite article is used)

-Gosto muito de sua coluna.
I like lot of your column.
- Gosto muito da sua coluna
I like lot of the your column.
I like your column.

He disagrees therefore with the opinion exposed in most grammar books. A preceding definitive article can be used in Brasil as well, although it is not compulsory. However only in the case of an adjective possessive pronoun there is a choice. In the case of sustantive possessive pronoun it is compulsory, if it refers to a noun already mentioned in the sentence.

Note-se que, se é facultativo na maior parte dos casos, o artigo definido é obrigatório quando vem antes de um pronome possessivo de valor substantivo, ou seja, aquele que substitui um substantivo já mencionado: “Por falar em namorada, onde anda a sua?”. Take note that although the definitive article is optional in most cases, it is compulsory before sustantive nouns, if it refers to something already mentioned: "Speaking about girl friends, where is yours?"


Remark: The use of the definite article before a possessive pronoun was common in Spanish until the fourteenth century. We find this structure in "El cantar de mio Cido": Con los sus ojos fuertemente llorando <=> With (the) his eyes full of tears.

Furthermore it is an example we can see very often. A lot of supposed differences between European and Brasilian portuguese are not as obvious and clear as they are supposed to be.

What is surprising is the fact that in Italian the definitive article before a possessive pronoun is still used and in most cases compulsory, whereas in Spanish this use of the definite article disappeared. This use of the possessive pronoun was common in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese until the 14th century. One could believe that Portuguese have made the same development as Spanish, since they have a closer contact, but that is not the case. Concerning this point, Portuguese has more similarities with the far away Italian.

Sometimes Portuguese has more in common with French, for instance the nasale vowels. Furthermore we will see some really astonishing grammar structures in Portuguese that exists in no other roman language, see 16. infinitivo pessoal.




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