Mastering Portuguese prepositions can be tricky for learners, especially the forms “do”, “da”, and “de”. Knowing when to use each one correctly is key to fluent speech and writing. This guide will explain the difference between these three terms and when to use them. Grasping the proper contexts for “do”, “da”, and “de” will boost grammar skills and conversational ability.

Understanding Portuguese Prepositions

Prepositions play an important grammatical role in Portuguese. They connect nouns, pronouns and phrases to the rest of the sentence. For example, they indicate location (“em Lisboa”, in Lisbon), direction (“para o trabalho”, to work) or possession (“o livro do João”, João’s book).

The preposition “de” has a versatile range of uses. It can indicate origin (“de Portugal”, from Portugal), composition (“feito de ouro”, made of gold), description (“um copo de água”, a glass of water) or other abstract relationships between sentence components. Mastering “de” is key to fluency.

The Role of “De” in Portuguese

The standalone preposition “de” has many uses in Portuguese grammar and speech. Some key roles include:

  • Indicating possession: O carro do Rui (Rui’s car)
  • Linking nouns and adjectives: A cidade de Lisboa (the city of Lisbon)
  • Introducing the agent after a passive verb: O prato foi feito de barro (The dish was made of clay)
  • Indicating characteristics: Ela é de origem latina (She is of Latin origin)
  • Expressing opinion: Na minha opinião, de todos os lugares… (In my opinion, of all the places…)

Understanding how to correctly use “de” opens up fluent expression. It connects crucial sentence components.

Contracting “De” with Definite Articles

In Portuguese, combining the preposition “de” with the definite articles “o” (the) and “a” (the) creates contractions:

  • de + o = do
  • de + a = da

Contractions make speech more fluid. For example:

  • Origem do problema (Origin of the problem)
  • Chegada da primavera (Arrival of spring)

Contracting “de” is mandatory in these cases, not optional. Proper contraction use signifies fluency.

Usage of “Do”

The contraction “do” combines “de” and the masculine definite article “o”. It is used when “de” precedes a masculine singular noun. For example:

  • O som do trovão (The sound of the thunder)
  • O cheiro do mar (The smell of the sea)
  • O tempo do recreio (Recess time)

“Do” can also combine with the masculine demonstrative pronoun esse (that) in set phrases:

  • Do que se trata? (What is this about?)
  • Aquele ali do fundo (That guy in the back)

Learning the pattern of when to contract “de” and “o” as “do” develops intuitions. With practice, it becomes automatic.

Usage of “Da”

“Da” is the contraction of “de” with the feminine article “a”. Use “da” when “de” comes before a feminine singular noun. Situations include:

  • O tamanho da mesa (The size of the table)
  • A saudade da família (Missing the family)
  • A qualidade da educação (The quality of education)

“Da” can combine with the feminine demonstrative pronoun essa (that) in set phrases like:

  • Da última vez (The last time)
  • Da próxima vez (Next time)

Noticing the gender and number agreement guides proper “da” usage.

Distinguishing Between “Do,” “Da,” and “De”

How can learners avoid misusing “do”, “da” and “de”? Two key skills are:

  • Recognizing the relevant noun’s gender and number
  • Identifying if a definite article could combine with “de”

For gender, is the noun masculine or feminine? For number, is it singular or plural?

If a singular, definite noun follows “de”, contraction may apply. Test if “o” or “a” makes sense there. If so, contract to “do” or “da” instead of “de”.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Two frequent errors arise with “do”, “da” and “de”:

  1. Incorrectly contracting “de” when no contraction should occur. Use “de” before plural nouns or when no article follows it.
  2. Failing to contract “de” and “o” or “a”. Don’t use “de o”, “de a”. Apply the gender and number tests.

Actively thinking through the grammar prevents mistakes. With practice, proper usage becomes second nature.

Further Contractions with “De”

While “do” and “da” are most common, “de” can contract with other definite articles:

  • de + os = dos (of the, plural masculine)
  • de + as = das (of the, plural feminine)

For example:

  • Chegada dos soldados (Arrival of the soldiers)
  • Origem das palavras (Origin of the words)

This demonstrates the flexibility of Portuguese contractions.


Knowing when to use the Portuguese preposition “de” alone or contracted as “do” and “da” improves fluency. Check the noun’s gender and number, noting if a definite article could combine there. Regular practice internalizes proper contraction patterns. Paying attention to grammatical details will make “de”, “do” and “da” second nature. Soon you’ll use them like a native speaker.

Anonymous Answered question March 8, 2024