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Nationalities in Portuguese – What Should I Watch Out For?

nationalities in portuguese aren't hard but you must pay attention to a few things

The nationalities in Portuguese are one of the first things you should learn.

After all, if you want to have lots of conversation practice, you should introduce yourself quite often.

In addition to that, when you visit Brazil, saying where you are from is a great conversation starter. The server in a restaurant is always interested in learning where you’re from and what it’s like to live where you lived.

For all these reasons, we are going to learn how to say the nationalities in Portuguese and some other important things you should watch out for.

Countries and Nationalities in Portuguese – Important Considerations

When I arrived in Salvador, I was asked by a Portuguese woman whether I was Greek.

  • O senhor é grego? Are you Greek?

That’s one of the most common questions you’ll hear — I mean, not whether you’re Greek but where you come from.

Sometimes people assume your origin. But most of the time they won’t, and they’ll ask you an important question:

  • (neutral) De onde você é? Where are you from?
  • (formal) De onde o senhor / a senhora é? Where are you from?

If they’re talking to Brazilians, the answer will always be a state or a city.

But if they understand that you are a foreigner, they want to know about your country.

And when you want to answer that question, you should pay attention to two things:

  1. countries have grammatical genders.
  2. but sometimes the articles are not used.

Grammatical Genders of Countries in Portuguese

In general, countries ending in -a are feminine. And countries ending in either a consonant or -o are masculine. (See more in the table below.)

But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

If a place ends in an accented a (á), it’s masculine.

Example: o Canadá.

Some exceptions don’t need an article before it. And the exceptions are:

  • Portugal
  • Marrocos
  • Moçambique
  • Cuba
  • Timor
  • Israel

And why are these exceptions and rules important?

Because you have to remember to use the prepositions.

And as you can see in this article, prepositions get together and form a different word with a different pronunciation.

So…

If you want to say where you’re from, you have to use the preposition “de” and blend it with the corresponding article.

Examples:

  • Sou do Brasil. I’m from Brazil.
  • De onde ela é? Where is she from?
  • Ela é de Portugal. She is from Portugal.
  • De onde você é? Where are you from?
  • Sou da China e ele é dos Estados Unidos. I am from China and he’s from the United States.

But the most common way to express where you are from in Portuguese is by saying “Sou + adjective of nationality”.

Adjectives of Nationality in Portuguese

In English, you have it easy.

If someone is from Chile, you say this person is Chilean. If you’re from the United States, you say you are American (but that is subject to change, you know? We’re I see it in a moment.).

But in Portuguese…

It may be regular but it might follow a different rule.

Let’s start with what is regular.

Most adjectives of nationality in Portuguese end in -o if masculine, and in -a if feminine.

Examples:

  • Ele é grego. He’s greek.
  • Sou brasileiro. I’m Brazilian.
  • Somos turcos. We’re Turkish.

But sometimes the ending changes.

(And by now you may have gotten accustomed to these “changes” in Brazilian Portuguese.)

Some of the most common endings are:

Masculine / feminine forms

  • -ês / -esa
  • -eno / -ena
  • -ano / -ana
  • -guaio / -guaia
  • -l / -la
  • -ão / -ã
  • -ense (for both genders)

And in the list below you’ll find good examples of all these endings.

List of Countries and Nationalities in Portuguese

And here I include a table with the country and the corresponding adjective of nationality.

CountryAdjective of nationality
A ColômbiaColombiano.
O JapãoJaponês.
A ChinaChinês.
A AlemanhaAlemão.
A GréciaGrego.
A África do SulSul-africano.
O CanadáCanadense.
A FrançaFrancês.
A ItáliaItaliano.
A RússiaRusso.
A ArgentinaArgentino.
A Coreia do SulSul-coreano.
PortugalPortuguês.
A EspanhaEspanhol.
AngolaAngolano.
IsraelIsraelense.
A TurquiaTurco.
O UruguaiUruguaio.
Os Estados UnidosAmericano ou estadunidense.
O Reino UnidoBritânico.

Oh, Eli. But I don’t see my nationality on this table.

Not a problem. I included just some of the most common, but people from all of the world to learn Brazilian Portuguese. If you don’t find a nationality in this table, you can ask in the comments section below or, if you want to be more effective with the time, use a dictionary.

And chances are your nationality will fall into one of the categories I listed above — for the endings.

And Eli, I have double nationality — I was born in France but I grew up in the United States. Is there a word for “French-American?

Yes, there is.

But Portuguese has special words for that. They’re based on the full name of the country. Sometimes they’re rooted in Latin words (like Sino- for Chinese). If you know Latin, good for you 😊

Some of the most common are:

Reduced formExample of usage
afro- (África)Afro-brasileiro
anglo- (Inglaterra)Anglo-brasileiro
franco- (França)Franco-brasileiro
germano- ou teuto- (Alemanha) Teuto-brasileiro
greco- (Grécia)Greco-brasileiro
hispano- (Espanha)Hispano-brasileiro
indo- (Índia) Indo-brasileiro
ítalo- (Itália)Ítalo-brasileiro
luso- (Portugal)Luso-brasileiro
nipo- (Japão)Nipo-brasileiro
sino- (China)Sino-brasileiro

Wrapping Up — This is the Most Important

And that’s it. This is a rather basic subject so you shouldn’t waste your time trying to learn everything there is to learn about it.

The most important things you should take away with yourself are:

  • How to say where you’re from.
  • How to ask where someone is from.
  • Say your nationality and be able to make an educated guess as to how you can say others.

And since you’re here, you probably learn Portuguese.

And if that’s the case, you’ll probably want to have our free learning guide for the verbs in Portuguese.

Why do I say that? Because the verb tenses are the most difficult part for learners of Portuguese is a foreign language.

And it doesn’t matter what their level. It’s just hard all the time.

But with this simple guide, you’ll have a good reference booklet to come back to whenever you have a question about where and when to use a specific verb tense.

If you want to download it, you can click here.

After filling the form, I will send you the book and you can start benefiting from it from now on.

And if you want to have more vocabulary tips, visit our vocabulary page.

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