8. formation of the plural and masculine and feminine forms

Once again we are confronted with a problem we have been confronted with already very often. In what follows we have a lot of rules that obviously nobody can remember and which are therefore completely useless from a didactical point of view and the reader asks himself the same question he has already asked himself in previous chapter. Why describe rules if it is crystal clear that nobody can remember them?

The answer to this question is the same as the one given in the previous chapters. The scope is not to memorize them, but to get sensitized for certain phenomenons. Furthermore it is helpful to know the rule passively. Even is we can't remember the rule actively, in other words even if we are not able to form the feminine form of an adjective / noun by applying the rule, we can deduce the rule if we see the feminine form. That helps us to remember the feminine form, otherwise we would have the impression that there are an endless amount of possibilitie how the feminine form can be formed.

Then it is easier to remember that the plural of anel is anéis and if we see this form several times, we can remember it. The general advice is always the same. Try to get quickly an overview over the whole system and forget the details. Then read and hear several times the audio books included in this website. If you see an unknown structure, it is enough to know what kind of problem you are confronted with. It is then very easy to figure out how it works. If you not even know what the problem is about, you are definitely lost. Furthermore if you understand a structure passively, hearing and reading, you will soon dominate it actively, speaking or writign, as well. Memorising rules is very boring and not very efficient. To have a sufficient idea about the whole system, allows you to get in touch with the culture behind a foreign language, literature, music, videos etc.. and that is much more fun than learning rules.

Grammar is one of the most hated subject at school and considered as something completely useless. However it is usefull to distinguish between two very different scenarios. The first scenario are rules that don't have any relationship to the non-verbal reality. The rules that describe the formation of the feminine and masculine form belongs to this kind. In this case it is more a lexical than a grammar problem and we learn this things automatically if we hear and read a foreign language. If there is connection to the non verbal world we have a completely different scenario. The differences between "I worked", "I have worked" and "I have been working" must be explained. It is true that the differences between these three verbal tenses exists, more or less, in any language and it is true as well these differences are to a certain degree "genetically" fixed in the humain brain, otherwise not even a native english speaker would be able to learn the differences, but in this case it is easier to learn the few rules. In most of these cases, when the correct use depends on the context, we can activate the inherent knowledge of the native speakers, because in any language the differences are more or less the same, but this inherent knowledge needs to be activated. This is a usefull approach to grammar.

In general the plural of something are several examplers of the same thing, person or animal. One house is one house and several houses are more than one house. However in the case that a thing can't be imagines as an element, flour, sugar, butter etc.. the plural are variations of this thing. The plural of marmelade doesn't refer to several marmelades, but to different types of marmelades, cherry, strawberry, orange, apricot etc.. The term plural is a little bit missleading in this case.

In almost all languages, English and Persian are some rare exceptions, we have a feminine and a masculine gender, although that makes only sense in relationship to living beings. Some people try to figure out why the sun is masculine in roman languages, the moon feminine and why in German it is the other way round and get to strange conclusions. No need to look for a deeper reason. It is just arbitrary. As arbitrary as the fact that the table is feminine in Roman languages and masculine in German.

For any kind of professions, sustantivated adjectives, members of a religion, nationalities there have to exist a feminine and a masculine form.

The following tables show the most important rules to which exist always some exceptions, which we are not going to mention.

The plural in Portuguese always ends in -s. If the words ends with a vowel, an oral or a nasal one, this -s is simply added to the singular.

Word ends with a vowel. The plural is formed by adding an -s.
o livroos livros the book => the books
o pai os pais the father => the fathers
a maçã as maçãs the apple => the apples
o garfo os garfos the fork => the forks
a faca as facas the knife => the knifes
o prato os pratos the plat => the plats
o copo os copos the glass => the glasses
a mãe as mães the mother => the mothers
a alemã as alemãs the German woman => The German women
a irmã as irmãs the sister => the sisters

If the word ends in -em, -im, -om or -um an s is added as well, however -em, -im, -om, -um becomes -ens, -ins, -ons, -uns.

-em, -im, -om, -um becomes -ens, -ins, -ons, -uns
o fim os fins the end => the ends
o som os sons the sound => the sounds
a vantagem as vantagens the advantage => the advantages
a origem as origens the origin => the origins
o homem os homens the man => the men
o jovem os jovens the youngster => the youngsters
o álbum os álbuns the album => the albums
a viagemas viagens the trip => the trips

If the word ends in -r, -z or -n, the plural is formed with -es.

-r and -z becomes -res and -zes
a flor as flores the flower => the flowers
a mulher as mulheres the woman =>the women
o tradutor os tradutores the translator => the transloters
o rapaz os rapazes the boy => the boys
o mar os mares the sea => the seas
a cruz as cruzes the cross => the crosses
a raiz as raizes the root => the roots

Monosyllable words ending on -s form the plural with -es. The same is true for words with several syllables if the last syllable is stressed. (There are not a lot of examples for this kind of words.) In this case the stressed syllable remains the same and the accent is left out, because if we add a syllable, the stressed syllable can be deduced from the general rules, see 3.4.1.

monosyllable word ending in -s, -es is added
o gás os gases the gas => the gases
o mês os meses the month => the months
o deus os deuses the God => the Gods
o Portuguese os portugueses the Portuguese => the Portugueses
o país os países the country => the countries

Furthermore there are some polysyllabic words ending in -s. In this case the singular doesn't differ from the plural. (There are very few examples for this type of words.)

polysyllabic words ending in -s. No difference between singular and plural.
o ônibusvários ônibus the bus => the busses
o lápisos lápis the pencil => the pencils

Nouns ending in -al, -el, -ol or -ul subsitute l by -is. If the word ends in i when the l is left out, only an s is added. In other words -iis doesn't exist. (Something one could have imagined.)

-al, -el, -ol, ul become -ais, -éis, -oís, -uis. -is becomes -eis.
o anel os anéis the ring => the rings
o anzol os anzoís the fishhook => the fishooks
o varal os varais the clothline => the clothlines
o animal os animais the animal => the animals
o hotel os hotéis the hotel => the hotels
o papel os papéis the paper => the papers
o túnel os túneis the tunnel => the tunnels
o réptil os répteis the reptil => the reptiles
o sol os soís the sun => the suns
o farol os faróis the lighthouse => the lighthouses
o taful os tafuis the bon vivant => the bon vivants

A big group of words ends in -ão. Those who speak Spanish can guess a lot of words. Words that end in Spanish with -ón, end in -ão in Portuguese. It is well possible that there are exceptions and the rule doesn't work the other way round, not all the words ending in -ão end in -ón in spanish, but in general it works. There are exactly 4008 words in Spanish ending in -ón and we can assume that most of them exist in Portuguese as well with the ending -ão.

Spanish Portuguese pronunciation English
convicción convicção conviction
opinión opinião opinion
sugestión sugestão proposal
lección lição lesson
ladrón ladrão thief
león leão lion
abstenciòn abstenção abstention
educación educação education
acusación acusação accusation
acción ação action
corazón coração heart
transmission transmissão transmission

Less nice is the fact that in the words ending in -ão we have three different possibilities to form the plural. The plural of the words ending in -ão can be formed with the endings -ões, -ãos or -ães and there is no rule allowing to deduce the correct form, although the majority of the nouns ending in –ão forms the plural with –ões. (Alemão doesn't belong to this group. The plural of alemão, the German, is alemães.)

–ão becomes -ões
o botão os botões the button =>the buttons
o cordão os cordões the thread => the threads
a estação as estações the train station => the train stations
o limãoos limões the lemon => the lemons
a paixão as paixões the passion => the passions
a visão as visões the view => the views
a razão as razões the reason => the reasons

The next most important nouns of this group, the group with the ending –ão, are the words that simple add an s, –ão becomes –ãos.

–ão becomes –ãos
a mão as mãos the hand => the hands
o chãoos chãos the floor => the floors
o grãoos grãos the grain => the grains
o irmãoos irmãos the brother => the brothers
o artesãoos artesãos the craftsman => the craftsmen
o orgãoos órgãos the organ => the organs

Furthermore there is a small group, where - –ão in singular becomes -ães in plural.

–ão in singular becomes -ães in plural
alemão alemães the German => the Germans
o cão os cães the dog => the dogs
o capitão os capitães the captain => the captains
o charlatão os charlatães the charlatan => the charlatans
o escrivão os escrivães the law clerk => the law clerks
o guardião os guardiães the bodyguard => the bodyguards
o pão os pães the bread => the breads
o sacristão os sacristães the sacristan => the sacristans
o tabelião os tabeliães the notary => the notaries

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