By Teacher Claudia
Jun 1, 2007

Dear readers, I had just explained a topic to my American student when he went, Nossinha!” showing his surprise. I corrected him immediately, because no one can say “Nossinha”, as it refers to “Nossa Senhora”, the mother of Jesus Christ. People may speak “Nossa!”, and not even recall what it originally means, but that’s a different issue. Robert then asked something very interesting: if Brazilians often use the diminutive degree, how can he know when or not change a noun into it? Here it is.

Activity 1 – Introduction
Read a piece of the song “Mulher de Fases”, by Raimundos.

Complicada e perfeitinha:
Voc me apareceu.
Era tudo que eu queria, estrela da sorte.
Quando noite ela surgia,
Meu bem voc cresceu.
Meu namoro na folhinha:
Mulher de fases.

(Woman of phases

Complicated and perfect:
You came to me.
You were all I wanted, lucky star.
When at night the moon appeared,
My love you bloomed.
My date follows the calendar:
Woman of phases.)

Activity 2 – Context
The two underlined words in the song above, perfeitinha and folhinha, are examples of diminutives in Portuguese. There are three possibilities to use such degree: regarding the size, in a pejorative tone or to show affection. In the song “Mulher de Fases” we can see two of them, perfeitinha in the pejorative way, she’s just too perfect; and folhinha, as the calendar size sometimes is very small. An example of affection is the way my family and friends call me: Claudinha. Perhaps it has to do with size as well, because I’m not tall!

Activity 3 – Form
To form the diminutive, we need to pay attention to the end of the noun:

  • If it ends in s or sa, we just add “inho” or “inha”: lpis – lapisinho; princesa – princesinha.
  • If it ends in z, a consonant or stressed syllable, we keep the z and add “inho” or “inha”: nariz – narizinho; flor – florzinha; ma – mazinha.
  • Activity 4 – Another Form
    There’s a lazy way to use diminutives in Portuguese, by simply adding the adjective pequeno or pequena to the noun: pequeno lpis, pequena princesa, pequeno nariz and so on. But it’s not as charming, is it?

    Activity 5 – Exercise
    Change these words to the diminutive form:

    Livro / homem / cabea / janela / coraão / mesa / jornal / amiga / carta / palavra

    See you next week!

    Teacher Claudia is available for private classes in São Paulo. She can be contacted at claudiafmla@uol.com.br

    To read previous articles by Teacher Claudia click below:

    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Final Part
    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Exceptions
    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs
    Brazil: A Day in São Paulo
    Why Not? (Or on Brazilian Indians)
    Portuguese Tip: Infinitives and Gerunds Part 1
    Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Ningum X Nenhum
    Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Tudo vs. Todo
    Brazil’s Independence Day
    Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Denials
    Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Não and Nem
    Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
    Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
    Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts Part 2
    Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts
    Brazil: To Tell or Not to Tell
    Brazil: Ipiranga Museum
    Portuguese Tip: Odd words
    Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
    A Brazilian Holiday: October 12th
    Portuguese Tip: Sounds
    Portuguese Tip: Verb Tenses
    Portuguese Tip: The Mystery of Seu, Sua
    Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
    Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 2
    A Brazilian custom: Kissing the Cheek
    Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Past
    Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 1
    Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Present
    Portuguese Tips
    Portuguese Tips: Adverbs in Portuguese
    Portuguese Tips: Comparative and Superlative
    Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes

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