Posted in English

Male And Female He Created Them

Portuguese words with very different meaning according to their gender

o rádio – a radio / a rádio – a radio station

o capital – capital, funds / a capital – the capital city

o caso – the case /  a casa – the house

o cargo – someone’s role or responsibility / a carga – cargo

o grama – gramme / a grama – creeping plants such as grass

o caixa – cash book / a caixa – box (caixa can also be a cashier, male or female)

o luto – grief / a luta – fight

o queixo – chin, jaw / a queixa – complaint

o polícia – police officer / a polícia – policy

o bolo – cake / a bola – ball

o carteiro – postman / a carteira – wallet

o cabeço – headland / a cabeça – head

o puto – a kid / a puta – a whore

Posted in English

Sauce for the Gender 2: Electric Boogaloo

This is a revisiting of one of my most useful blog posts, based on the criteria of number of times I go back to it! I felt like there were too many exceptions and it was worth looking again to see how safe the rules were and whether I could tweak them. To do this, I have taken the list of the 1000 most popular portuguese nouns I mentioned in that post (published on an extremely useful site called Hackingportuguese but currently only available on the Internet archive site because the original is having technical issues) and I have subjected it to extreme torture in an excel spreadsheet in order to see how many exceptions there were. This work has taken me two days so I hope it will pay off.

My version of the list is available as a spreadsheet here. It is actually modified: I took out a couple of words that I saw that were Brazil-specific and a couple that looked like they were (at least in European Portuguese) only used as adjectives, and replaced them with random nouns from a Memrise deck, to bulk it up to a thousand again.

So I’ve recreated my table (below) in what I hope is a more accurate way. TL;DR: Most of the rules are pretty good, I found a new rule I hadn’t heard of and I decided that nouns ending in e are a wilderness of chaos and despair from which there is no escape. In most cases, more specific rules seem to override more general ones. So for example, “dezena” is masculine because it meets the “all numbers are masculine” rule even though it ends in A. And Avó is feminine because it meets the “Male and Female people” rule even though it ends in an O. I’ll update the Memrise Deck I’ve been working on to reflect this new set of rules tomorrow.

Oh and again, sorry about the colour-scheme, but… well, you know… just trying to harness my cultural stereotypes in a way that makes it easier to follow.

Rule Examples Exceptions
Dependent:
Male and Female animals/people depend on individual’s sex*
  • o touro / a vaca
  • o irmão / a irmã
  • o dirigente/a dirigente
  • o autor, a autora
  • o rapaz
  • o socialista, a socialista
  • o jesuíta
  • o chefe
Dependent:
Ordinal numbers depend what’s being counted, because they are effectively adjectives!
  • o primeiro (dia)
  • a segunda (noite)
Masculine:
Nouns ending in
-o (nb, not -ão though)
-r
-l
-z
-u
  • o lugar
  • o amigo
  • o chapéu
  • o papel
  • o final
  • a tribo
  • a dor
  • a cor
  • a flor
 Variable:
Nouns ending in
-ão
The textbook says abstract nouns are largely feminine and concrete nouns largely masculine Slightly unclear and too many exceptions to list here. See the table below this one.
Masculine:
Names of Lakes, Rivers, Mountains etc
  • o Tejo
  • os Himalaias
  • o Brasil
  • o Atlântico
  • o Tamisa (despite the -a ending!)
Masculine:
Compass points
  • O Leste
  • O Oeste
  • O Norte
  • O Sul
Masculine:
Car brands** & types of wines
  • o Madeira
  • o Ferrari
  • a Mercedes (but only the brand. The car is “um Mercedes”)
Variable:
The seasons obey their last letter rules o=masculine, a=feminine
  • o verão
  • o inverno
  • o outono
  • a primavera
Variable:
Week days obey their last letter rules o=masculine, a=feminine
  • o sábado
  • o domingo
  • a segunda feira
  • a terça feira
Masculine:
Words from greek, usually ending -a: most usually in
-ema
-grama
-eta
  • o programa
  • o problema
  • o sistema
  • o poema
  • o cometa
  • o planeta
  • o mapa
  • o telefonema
“Gorjeta” is the only word with these endings that doesn’t match but Priberam says it’s not greek
Masculine:
Letters
  • o a
  • o p
Masculine:
Cardinal numbers
  • o um
  • o cento
  • o milhão
Feminine:
Most words ending in
-a
  • a dúvida
  • a água
  • a palavra
  • a terra
  • o clima
  • o dia

(likely also greek)

Feminine:
Words ending in -ez
  • a estupidez
  • a gravidez
  • a viuvez
  • a surdez
  • a vez
Feminine: 
Words ending
-dade
-ie
-tude
-gem
-ice
  • a cidade
  • a viagem
  • a garagem
  • a juventude
  • a espécie
  • a velhice
  • o índice
Feminine:
Names of towns & countries
  • A Madeira
  • A Rússia
  • A França
  • A Suiça
  • A Islândia
  • Londres
 Places specifically named after male things:

  • O Rio de Janeiro
  • O Porto

Places consisting of a male noun + adjective

  • O Reino Unido
  • Os Estados Unidos
Feminine:
Names of the Academic Arts and Science subjects
  • a medicina
  • a matemática
  • a biologia
  • a física
  • a geografia

*=Note that some of these change their endings but some – like dirigente, cientista, keep the same ending.

**= Jeremy Clarkson would love this, I’m sure

Nouns ending in -ão

This is a list of all the nouns ending with these two letters (excluding things like “irmão” and “verão” that trigger more specific rules). As you can see, they are largely feminine and largely abstract but with quite a lot of concrete masculine nouns acting as exceptions. Conclusion: the rule is pretty sound but if in doubt, err on the side of feminine.

Masculine Feminine
In theory, these should all be concrete (things you can see and touch) In theory these should all be abstract (ideas, emotions)
o alcatrão
o apresentação
o avião
o cão
o capitão
o cartão
o chão
o cidadão
o coração
o escaldão
o órgão
o padrão
o pão
o patrão
a acção
a actuação
a administração
a alteração
a aplicação
a aprovação
a associação
a atenção
a avaliação
a canção
a classificação
a colecção
a comissão
a competição
a composição
a comunicação
a concepção
a conclusão
a condição
a constituição
a construção
a criação
a decisão
a declaração
a definição
a designação
a dimensão
a direcção
a discussão
a disposição
a distribuição
a divisão
a edição
a educação
a eleição
a emoção
a estação
a evolução
a excepção
a expansão
a explicação
a exploração
a exportação
a exposição
a expressão
a extensão
a federação
a formação
a função
a fundação
a geração
a gestão
a impressão
a inflação
a informação
a instalação
a instituição
a intenção
a interpretação
a intervenção
a investigação
a ligação
a manifestação
a mão
a missão
a nação
a negociação
a obrigação
a observação
a ocasião
a opção
a operação
a opinião
a oposição
a organização
a orientação
a paixão
a participação
a população
a posição
a preocupação
a pressão
a prisão
a privatização
a produção
a profissão
a protecção
a publicação
a questão
a razão
a reacção
a realização
a redução
a região
a relação
a religião
a representação
a resolução
a reunião
a revisão
a revolução
a secção
a selecção
a sensação
a sessão
a situação
a solução
a televisão
a tradição
a transformação
a união
a utilização
a variação
a versão
a visão
a votação

Appendix 1: Not-so-Easy E

The original version of this post stated that nouns ending in -e followed the same pattern as those ending in -ão so I made up a list in the same format as the -ão list. However, as you can see, contrary to the textbook rule, it’s mixed pretty evenly between abstract and non-abstract on both sides. Conclusion: the rule is bollocks, I’m afraid, and we’ll just have to learn these the hard way.

Masculine Feminine
In theory, these should all be concrete (things you can see and touch) In theory these should all be abstract (ideas, emotions)
o acidente
o ambiente
o ataque
o barrete
o breve
o clube
o combate
o continente
o controle
o corte
o costume
o crime
o debate
o dente
o destaque
o empate
o exame
o filme
o gabinete
o golpe
o horizonte
o instante
o interesse
o legume
o leite
o limite
o mestre
o monte
o nome
o nordeste
o padre
o parque
o peixe
o príncipe
o regime
o romance
o sangue
o telefone
o teste
o transporte
o vale
o volume
a análise
a arte
a árvore
a ave
a base
a carne
a chave
a classe
a corte
a crise
a estante
a face
a fase
a fome
a fonte
a frase
a frente
a gente
a gripe
a hipótese
a mãe
a metade
a morte
a noite
a parede
a parte
a pele
a ponte
a posse
a rede
a saúde
a sede
a sorte
a tarde
a torre
a vontade

(NB Corte appears in both sides because it can mean either “The court” or “The cut”, both reasonably common but having differing genders just to be bloody awkward)

Apprendix 2: Mistakes, Mis-Shapes, Misfits

When I’d counted all the words that fit the rules and the exceptions, there was a short list left over of words that met none of the rules. The majority seem to be masculine, apart from fé, lei, ordem and nuvem.

  • a fé
  • o fim
  • o gás
  • o jardim
  • a lei
  • o mês
  • a nuvem
  • a ordem
  • o país
  • o pé
  • o som
  • o tom

Amended 1/2/19 – realised I’d written a “new rule” that was nonsense

Posted in English

Sauce for the Gender

In the third of what I am now definitely thinking of my Four Evil Exes articles, here’s what I can find on the subject of remembering which nouns are masculine and which feminine. It turned out to be easier than I thought, although I’m sure the exceptions will plague me. I wish I’d done it ages ago, actually, but that’s the trouble with the 4 evil exes: they are boring and difficult and don’t have fun workarounds I can use, so it was just a case of ploughing through the literature – in this case, “Portuguese – an Essential Grammar” by Amélia Hutchinson and Janet Lloyd, with some supplemental examples cribbed from Fun With Portuguese and My Five Romances. I also got some tips from Benny the Irish Polyglot and read an entertaining post on the subject by Lady of the Cakes, whose blog is a great deal prettier and better-written than mine. Her post is a bit more pessimistic when it comes to finding patterns in this mess, but on the plus side does have (a) a picture of some cake and (b) rude words.

As you can see, most of the rules have exceptions, so it’s not as if I can be guaranteed to never screw up again if I learn them but if I don’t happen to know a word, it might boost my hit-rate a few percentage points.In most cases, more specific rules seem to override more general ones. So for example, “milhão” is masculine because it meets the “all numbers are masculine” rule even though it’s an abstract noun ending in -ão.

Oh and sorry about the colour-scheme, but… well, you know…

Rule Examples Exceptions
Dependent:
Male and Female animals/people depend on individual’s sex*
  • o touro / a vaca
  • o irmão / a irmã
Dependent:
Ordinal numbers depend what’s being counted
  • o primeiro (dia)
  • a segunda (noite)
Masculine:
Nouns ending in
-o (nb, not -ão though)
-r
-l
-z
  • o lugar
  • o valor
  • o papel
  • o final
  • o rapaz
  • a foto
  • a tribo
  • a gravidez (understandably enough…)
 Masculine:
Concrete nouns ending in
-e**
-ão***
  • o sangue
  • o clube
  • o coração
  • o chão
  • o órgão
  • a fonte
  • a árvore
  • a mão
  • a televisão
Masculine:
Names of Lakes, Rivers, Mountains etc
  • o Tejo
  • os Himalaias
  • o Brasil
  • o Atlântico
  • o Tamisa (despite the -a ending!)
Masculine:
Car brands**** & types of wines
  • o porto
  • o Ferrari
  • a Mercedes
Masculine:
The seasons*****
  • o verão
  • o inverno
  • o outono
  • a primavera
Masculine:
Weekend days
  • o sábado
  • o domingo
Masculine:
Words from greek, usually ending -a: most usually in
-ema
-grama
-eta
  • o programa
  • o problema
  • o sistema
  • o poema
  • o cometa
  • o planeta
  • o dia
  • o mapa
  • o clima
  • o telefonema
Masculine:
Letters
  • o a
  • o p
Masculine:
Cardinal numbers
  • o um
  • o cento
  • o milhão
Feminine:
Most words ending in
-a
  • a dúvida
  • a água
  • a palavra
  • a terra
Feminine: 
Words ending
-dade
-ie
-tude
-gem
-ice
  • a cidade
  • a viagem
  • a garagem
  • a juventude
  • a espécie
  • a velhice
Feminine:
Abstract nouns ending in
-e
-ão***
  • a crise
  • a parte
  • a gente
  • a lição
  •  o norte
Feminine:
Names of towns & countries
  • A Madeira
  • A Rússia
  • A França
  • A Suiça
  • A Islândia
  • A Londres
 Places specifically named after male things:

  • O Rio de Janeiro
  • O São Paulo
  • O Porto

Places consisting of a male noun + adjective

  • Reino Unido
  • Os Estados Unidos
Feminine:
Names of the Arts and Sciences
  • a medicina
  • a matemática
  • a biologia
  • o teatro
  • o cinema
Feminine:
Names of days during the working week
  • a segunda feira
  • a terça feira

*=This rule supersedes all others. So “a mulher” is feminine even though it ends with r, for example

**=When looking for samples of nouns ending in -e as examples to use of concrete (masculine) and abstract (feminine) it was striking how many exceptions there were to this rule on the list. I’ve left it in because it’s in the textbook but, at least with the more common nouns, it seems like feminine outnumbers masculine for most -e nouns, even the concrete ones

***=When looking for samples of nouns ending in -ão as examples to use of concrete (masculine) and abstract (feminine) it was striking that the first twenty or so -ão words on this list were all abstract, feminine ones

****= Jeremy Clarkson would love this, I’m sure

*****=one exception out of four words is pretty shonky though. It’s only one away from a 50-50 split! Maybe best remember these by their endings and pretend the rule doesn’t exist!