General Information About Prepositions

Those who are just starting to learn the Portuguese language very soon plunge into the study of prepositions. In fact, there are only six main ones, but still the students manage to get confused. In this article, we have collected the main information without delving into the various exceptions. Let’s learn or revise together!

Preposition “a”

Like other prepositions in Portuguese, the preposition “a” has several uses. First, it is a preposition of direction. Using it, we can not only indicate the direction in which we are moving, but also the direction of action in relation to someone. For example:

  • Eu vou à praia. (I go to the beach.)
  • El deu o livro à Maria. (He gave the book to Mary.)

Secondly, using the preposition “a” we indicate the time of day or the day itself:
A 5 de abril às 14.00 tenho a primeira aula de português. (On April 5th at 2 pm I have my first Portuguese class.)

We remind you that in these examples, the preposition “a” merged with the feminine definite article “a” and it turned out “à”.

Everything would be very easy if there weren’t other prepositions that are sometimes used in the same situations, only with their own nuances, so there are exceptions that you just need to remember.

For example, after the verb chegar (to come), the preposition “a” is always placed.

  • Ele chega a casa muito tarde. (He comes home very late.)

Preposition “com”

Perhaps this is the most trouble-free preposition in Portuguese, because it has a specific translation, unlike other prepositions, and a specific meaning, namely “with”.

  • Vou passear com os meus amigos. (I’ll go for a walk with my friends.)

Of course, there are additions. For example, the preposition “com” merges with personal pronouns and loses its original form: com + eu = comigo, com + tu = contigo, com + você = consigo, com + nós = connosco, com + vocês = convosco.

  • Queres ir a um bar comigo? (Do you want to go to the bar with me?)

Preposition “de”

This is the most popular preposition in Portuguese. What makes it popular is that it has several different uses, so we see it often. And also, its popularity is increased by the verb, which we study one of the first – gostar (to like), because it is always followed by the preposition “de”.

  • Nos gostamos de viajar. (We like to travel.)

So, with the pretext for indicating the direction, we figured out, now let’s deal with the starting point.

To do this, we just need the preposition “de” and it will be translated as “from”.

  • São de Portugal. (They are from Portugal.)

The second important case in which we need this preposition is to indicate ownership. Of course, we have possessive pronouns for this, but often they are not enough.

  • Este livro é da Maria. (This is Mary’s book.)

What’s more, in Portuguese, the preposition “de” helps explain something when you don’t know a specific word. For example:

  • Esqueci-me da profissão dele, mas sei que trabalha na área da construção. (I forgot what his profession is, but I know that he works in the construction industry.)

Preposition “para”

This is where the confusion begins, because the preposition “para”, like the preposition “a”, also indicates the direction! How to choose? There is a hint: the preposition “a” is used when the destination is planned to spend a short period of time, and the preposition “para” is used for a long period of time. Of course, duration is relative, for example:

  • Ela vai à Embaixada e depois vai mudar-se para Portugal. (She will go to the Embassy and then move to Portugal.)
  • Vou ao supermercado e tu vai para casa. Encontramo-nos lá. (I’ll go to the supermarket, and you go home. We meet there.)

The second main purpose of the preposition “para” is also similar in meaning to the preposition “a”, because it indicates the direction of action or intention in the same way, and is translated as “for”.

  • Compraste esta prenda para mim. (You bought a present for me.)
  • Vou ao banco para abrir uma conta. (I will go to the bank to open an account.)

Preposition “por”

This preposition also has several meanings. For example, it shows that the action is committed by someone. For example:

  • Este bolo foi feito pela Maria. (This cake was made by Maria.)

Also, the second meaning of the preposition “por” is related to direction, but this time it is movement along.

  • Os estudantes passaram pela avenida da Liberdade. (Students walked along Liberty Avenue.)

In the two examples above, the preposition “por” merged with the feminine definite article “a” and became “pela”.

Let’s add a third situation – an indication of the price for a product or service, namely:

  • Comprei um vestido por 100 euros. (I bought a dress for 100 euros.)

And the fourth situation in which we can use this preposition is to indicate a reason, that is, to translate it as “because” or “for”:

  • Obrigada por fazer a festa para mim! (Thank you for making the holiday for me!)
  • Não vou ao trabalho por estar doente. (I won’t go to work because I’m sick.)

Preposition “em”

The preposition “em” is often confused with the preposition “a”, although they have different purposes, but very similar. If the preposition “de” shows the starting point of the movement, the preposition “a” shows the direction of movement, then the preposition “em” shows the end point of the movement and the location of the object.

  • Estou em Portugal. (I’m in Portugal.)
  • Eu pus o livro na mesa. (I put the book on the table.)

A popular verb that goes with the preposition “em” is “entrar(to enter).

  • Quando ela entrou na loja, viu o vestido dos sonhos dela. (When she entered the store, she saw the dress of her dreams.)

In the two examples above, the preposition “em” merged with the feminine definite article “a” and became “na”.


For advanced learners, this article may seem boring, however, we must help those who have just started their journey in Portuguese. Moreover, refreshing your knowledge is never superfluous, especially when the topic with prepositions is inexhaustible!

1 thought on “General Information About Prepositions”

  1. Penso que esta informação é muito util. Eu estou aprendendo português pela segunda vez. Eu sempre tenho problemas com as preposições. Eu espero viagar ao Portugal de novo cedo ou tarde. (Eu visitei Lisboa em 1978). Talvez na proxima vez eu posso visitar Setûbul.


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