Prepositions are short words that usually occur before a noun (or pronoun). They show how the noun relates to another element in the sentence in terms of time, location, movement, or other parameters.
For example, the English prepositions in, at, on, and through could be used to create prepositional phrases such as in the morning, at the park, on the table, and through the rain.
Here are some examples of Portuguese prepositions that translate somewhat easily into English:
Ir de carro = To go by car.
Sou de Lisboa = I am from Lisbon.
Eu espero por ti = I wait for you.
Eu vou para Portugal = I go to Portugal.
Translating a preposition is often not very straightforward. There are examples like the first two examples de = by, from. Sometimes we will even come across Portuguese phrases that use a preposition, while the corresponding English translation does not. For example:
Eu vou para casa = I go home.
Contractions between prepositions and articles. In both English and Portuguese, prepositions are usually followed by an artIcle (in the, at a, for the, etc.) Unlike English, however, in Portuguese we often combine the preposition with the article in order to form a new word. These are referred to as contrações (contractions).
Prepositions + Definite articles. The most common translation for “in” is em (one of the Portuguese prepositions). The word “the” corresponds to a for feminine nouns or o for masculine nouns. As a result, there are 2 different ways to say “in the”, depending on the gender of the noun that follows it.
Em + a = na (in the); eg, Estou na escola = I am in the school.
Em + o = no (in the); eg, Ela está no carro = She is in the car.
Portuguese prepositions de contracts with o and a:
De + a = da (of the); eg, Está em cima da televisao = It’s on top of the TV.
Prepositions + Indefinite articles. Contractions can also be formed with indefinite articles: um, uns, uma and umas. Preposition em and the indefinite article uma:
Em + uma = numa (in a, on a); eg, Deve estar numa prateleira = It must be on a shelf.
We should keep in mind that, while some of the prepositions can translate smoothly between Portuguese and English, most of the time you have to step back and focus on the construction and meaning of the entire phrase. Don’t get too caught up in the exact word-to-word translation, as you’ll discover that they are wildly inconsistent.