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>>Portuguese Pronouns > Subject Pronouns

The pronouns that act as the doer of an action are subject pronouns. You may also see them referred to as nominative pronouns. In English, these are I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.

Like nouns, certain pronouns are sometimes said to have number and gender. They also have another property known as person. The pronoun I is a first-person pronoun, referring to the speaker, you is a second-person pronoun, and he, she, and it are third-person pronouns. The pronoun we is the first-person plural pronoun, referring to more than one person. These conventional terms allow you to pinpoint any one pronoun, along with its properties and functions. If you are told to use the "first-person singular subject pronoun" in a sentence, you can provide the word I.

Subject Pronouns

singular Portuguese English
1st person eu I
2nd person tu you
  vocÍ you
  o senhor, a senhora you
3rd person ele, ela he, she
plural    
1st person nůs we
2nd person vůs (all of) you
2nd person vocÍs (all of) you
2nd person os senhores, as senhoras (all of) you
3rd person eles, elas they

Notice the many ways that Portuguese speakers can express the concept of you. The word tu is standard only in Portugal, where it is used to informally address one person you know well or who shares your age and social status. VocÍ is the standard word for addressing one person as you in Brazil. In Portugal, vocÍ is an equalizing "you", not too familiar, but not very formal. O senhor and a senhora are a very formal "you", and are used specifically in Portugal.. The plurals of these words all address more than one person (like all of you), but still carry these same nuances.

There is no direct translation for the word it in Portuguese. Since verbs do not require a subject, an inanimate one is most often clear from context. If not, ele and ela can stand in for a noun with the same gender, but this is not extremely common. For emphasis, the demonstrative pronouns, words like this and that, can approximate the meaning of it.

The word vůs meaning all of you is archaic, found mainly in poetry, literature, and religious usage. It used to stand as the plural counterpart to tu in common speech.

As far as gender is concerned, os senhores all of you (very formal) and eles they can indicate a mixed group of males and females or an all-male group. The pronouns as senhoras all of you (very formal) and elas they are only acceptable when the group is composed entirely of women. The phrase elas falam inglÍs means they (a group of females) speak English.