Posted in English

Possessive Pronouns and Round Skirts

So I’m trying to sort out some basic grammar that I probably should have worked out a long time ago. To do this, I’ve been working with a different teacher who lives in the UK, simply because I don’t have the skills to be able to even ask the question in Portuguese and I needed someone

Today: What’s the difference between these ways of exressing possession.

  • A sua propriedade
  • Propriedade sua
  • A propriedade dele

It always seems a bit random and I’ve never quite been able to spot a pattern. The third one is the obvious odd one out because it’s the only one that makes it clear that it’s the property of “him”, whereas the others could all be him, her, them, or, if you’re being formal, the person you’re speaking to, so in a way that helps – you could use when you wanted to be very specific about who it belongs to. In practice, I’m told, it’s also used in less formal, spoken situations.

As for the first and second, the answer seems to be simpler than I thought though: it just depends whether you have a definite article in there. If it’s a specific thing: this is his property, it’s “a sua propriedade”, whereas the second quote, which comes from my review of the film Comboio de Sal e Açúcar is about the subject’s attitude: he treated the passengers as his property.

There are some examples given here on Ciberdúvidas:

  • O livro é de um amigo meu [indefinite article: it belongs to a friend of mine]
  • O livro é do meu amigo [definite article: it belongs to my friend]

Now, here’s the shock though: I had been thinking of these words – seu, meu, minha, etc as possessive pronouns, but they’re not, they’re determinantes – more like adjectives, really: In “o meu amigo”, “amigo” is the noun and “meu” just determines whose friend he is. Meu can also be a possessive pronoun but only when it stands in for the noun.

“O Donald, as suas mãos são pequenas; as minhas são grandes”. In this sentence, “suas” is another determinant but “minhas” is a possessive pronoun because I’m using it instead of saying the whole noun again “as minhas maãos”. In english it’s doing the job of “mine” instead of just “my”. There are some other examples, explained in portuguese on Ciberdúvidas.

OK, simple, I can understand a couple of simple rules like that. I guess, though, it’s like most rules in english: you obey them only insofar as you can do so without writing something ugly. So I cam across a counter-example within about ten minutes of this conversation happening in the song “Saia Rodada” by Carminho. I’ve pasted the lyrics below and highlighted forms that match in green and the one that doesn’t in red.

Vesti a saia rodada
P’r’ apimentar a chegada
Do meu amor
No mural postei as bodas
Rezei nas capelas todas
Pelo meu amor
Vem lá de longe da cidade e tem
Os olhos rasos de saudade em mim
E eu mando-lhe beijos e recados em retratos meus
Pensa em casar no fim do verão que vem
Antes pudesse o verão não mais ter fim
Que eu estou tão nervosa com esta coisa do casar
Meu Deus
Vesti a saia rodada
P’r’ apimentar a chegada
Do meu amor
No mural postei as bodas
Rezei nas capelas todas
Pelo meu amor
Por tantas vezes pensei eu também
Sair daqui atrás dos braços seus
De cabeça ao vento e a duvidar o que faz ele por lá
São os ciúmes que a saudade tem
E se aos ciúmes eu já disse adeus
Hoje mato inteiras as saudades que o rapaz me dá


I think all that’s happening here is that she’s stretched the normal rules to make the rhyme with “adeus” work in the next triplet. I’ve added it to my list of questions for next time.

Anyway, as a side note, I wondered what a “saia rodada” was anyway. A round skirt? I googled it and saw a load of pictures of… well… skirts. So I asked online and was told it would all make sense if I searched for videos of “saia rodada danca” but it didn’t work because there’s an insupportable brasilian rock band called saia rodada and this is the first video I got.

But then a portuguese guy mentioned that it was “folclorico” so I added that into my search and had more luck. Apparently it’s a long, swishy skirt that is used in a lot of dances because of the way it moves. Here are some people demonstrating. Tag yourself, I’m the guy in the grey trousers.

WHew! It’s been a long time since I wrote this much about grammar and general musings. Well, come for the determinantes possessivos, stay for the grupo folclórico.


Just a data nerd

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