fbpx

Build a Strong and Reliable Portuguese Vocabulary with Our Stories

Let's connect! I'm Eli.

A Beginner’s Definitive Guide to Using De In Portuguese

the examples of using de in portuguese

 

It’s Janice’s first week learning Portuguese. She’s had a hard time figuring out how to use de in Portuguese.

With her textbook — and the aid of a teacher — she’s learned a couple of sentences: “De onde você é?”Sou de Atlanta.” And here, “de” is pronounced “djee.” Simple enough.

But then, her teacher asks her to say, “I’m from Brazil.” With a smile and quite proud of herself, she replies, “Sou djo Brasil.”

Now it’s her teacher’s turn to smile. “Doo”, he pronounces loud and clear.

“What happened?” Janice thinks. “Why did the pronunciation change?”

First Things First

I don’t need to remind you that “de” means “from, of,” in English. You already know that.

But one quick thing that I should remind you is that “de” combines with any word that follows as long as it starts with a vowel.

  • Do país. From/of the country.
  • Da mulher. From/of the woman.
  • Dos homens. From/of the men.
  • Das crianças. From/of the children.

In isolation, it’s standard pronunciation is “djee”. I say standard because in other regions — especially in the northeastern part of Brazil — de might be pronounced dee.

(It’s the accent people from the countryside of my home state Ceará have, and it’s the accent people from the Southeastern region usually find “funny”.)

But when combined, it becomes a hard “D” as in “doughnut”.

  • Do país. From/of the country.
  • Da mulher. From/of the woman.
  • Dos homens. From/of the men.
  • Das crianças. From/of the children.

Now, we can finally move on to more important stuff.

Uses of De in Portuguese

Below you’ll find the most common uses a beginner – or upper beginner, for that matter – need to know.

When Asking Where Someone Is from and Answering This Question

You already know — and so does our friend Janice — that “de” corresponds to the preposition “from, of” in English.

So, it stands to reason that when asking “where are you from?” you would use that.

But there are some rules.

  1. When talking about cities, you use only “de”.
  2. When referring to countries, you need to use “do”, “da” depending on the gender of the country.
  3. And if you’re talking about a specific location — like a street — you need to use “do”, “da”.

Here are some examples.

  • De onde você vem? Where do you come from?
  • Eu venho de São Paulo. I come from São Paulo.
  • Eu venho do Brasil. I come from Brazil.
  • Ele vem da Rua do Ouvidor até aqui a pé. He comes from the Ouvidor Street up to here on feet.
  • Todos os dias, ele vem da Quinta Avenida para nosso bairro, para comprar frutas. Every day, he comes from the fifth Avenue to our neighborhood to buy fruits.

But just like the best things in life, there are exceptions to this rule.

  • Eu sou do Rio de Janeiro (a city). já a minha amiga é de Portugal (a country). I’m from Rio de Janeiro. As for my friend, she is from Portugal.
  • O meu vizinho é de Cuba (a country). As minhas amigas são de lá também. My neighbor is from Cuba. And so are my friends.

When Describing the Means of Transportation Used

There’s one important thing you and Janice should bear in mind when speaking Portuguese.

Portuguese is a language that likes abstraction. We don’t have many verbs that describe a very specific way of doing something. Saunter, walk, scuttle, scurry, stride, for example… Everything is “andar” (walk) for us.

Brazilians usually resort to extra expressions, so that they can be more precise.

And that’s what happens when we talk about transportation.

We don’t ride a bike, drive a car, fly, ride the bus…

We walk by bus, by bike, by car… And the preposition you need in this case is “de.”

  • Vamos esperá-lo um pouco. Ele está vindo lá da Avenida Paulista de carro. Let’s wait for him a little. He is driving from the Paulista Avenue to here.
  • Eu prefiro ir de carro para o trabalho. Assim, não preciso pegar o ônibus. I’d rather drive a car to work. In this way, I don’t need to catch the bus.
  • Eu gosto de andar de bicicleta para perder peso. É muito bom. I like riding a bike to lose weight. It’s very good.

And of course, there are exceptions.

Você vai para o trabalho a pé? Não é muito longe? You walk to work? Isn’t that a long way?

With Specific Verbs

In English, Janice would hardly ever use “compensate for.” She’s more likely to use “make up for.”

Why do you need “up for” in that verb?

The reason is, there is no clear reason. It just helps us be clearer in what we mean.

The same happens with Portuguese. And some verbs require “de”.

Luckily, they are very common verbs as well.

  • Precisar de (with nouns). To need.*
  • Gostar de. To like.

*You don’t use “de” with verbs (e.g., preciso falar com você.)

Examples.

  • Eu gosto deste I like this book.
  • Preciso de uma explicação melhor. Pode me ajudar? I need a better explanation. Can you help me?
  • Você precisa daquilo? Aquilo é meu equipamento de exercícios. Do you need that? That’s my gym equipment.

I prepared a more advanced lesson about this. If you already speak some Portuguese, you’ll benefit from it. It’s conducted in English, but I present examples in Portuguese.

Bonus: When Describing the Purpose of Something

This is something people sometimes forget to say and textbooks are remiss.

When describing the purpose of something, a common structure is “main noun” + de + “purpose of the main noun”.

  • Máquina de escrever. Typewriter.
  • Máquina de lavar. Washing machine.
  • Toalha de mesa. Tablecloth.
  • Isso é de fazer o quê? Isso é de limpar os ouvidos. What is this for? This is for cleaning your ears.

Talking about a Period of the Day (Morning, Afternoon, Evening)

There are two ways to talk about a specific period of the day.

One: “pela manhã, à tarde, à noite.”

Two: “de manhã, de tarde, de noite.”

We usually prefer using “de” because it avoids confusion. And, it’s much easier to pronounce. “À” sounds like the article “a.” To avoid ambiguity, we use “de”.

  • O que você gosta de fazer de manhã? What do you like doing in the morning?
  • De tarde, sempre tira uma boa soneca. Me ajuda a trabalhar com maior foco durante a tarde. In the afternoon, I always take a good nap. It helps me work with more focus during the afternoon.
  • Você pode vir hoje de noite? Tenho um tempinho antes das oito. Can you come over tonight? I have some time before eight.

Takeaways

A common question people have — Janice included — is “when should I use de, do, da in Portuguese?”

That’s a fair question. But there’s no good answer to it.

That happens because we have some general rules when it comes to using articles in Portuguese. But they may be broken any time without notice, depending on what you mean. (This [PT] is just a preliminary discussion, and it’s mind-boggling!)

My best advice for you is, pay attention to how people use these words. Read as much as you can, listen to as many podcasts as you like, and take notes.

But when you take notes, do so by hand. It will help you so much.

And because I really like you — you finished this article! — I’ve included some exercises for you below. It should take you less than a minute and will help you see whether you got everything right.

And for more grammar help, I always suggest you visit our content-rich grammar section.

And if like Janice, you would like to count on a teacher’s help, I might have some spots available for you.

  • Consegui três pontos!

  • >