English for Portuguese Students – Possessives


Possessives in Portuguese – like nouns – can either be masculine or feminine.

You also know possessives take on the gender of the noun that it refers to.

For example:

You would use “seu” or “sua” according to the gender of the possession – be it masculine or feminine.


  1. Your mother – sua mãe
  2. Your car – seu carro

So you see we use the possessive adjective “your” irrespective whether the possession is masculine or feminine.

Also in English we do the opposite.

We use the gender of the possessive adjective according to the gender of the possessor/owner and not according to the possession.

The possessive noun is thus determined by whether the possessor/owner is masculine or feminine – he or she, his or her.


In Portuguese, “carro” is masculine and you would say “seu” regardless of whether the possessor is masculine or feminine.

In English this is different.

  • Is it John’s mother? Yes, it’s “his” mother.
  • Is it Mary’s car? Yes, it’s “her” car.

This should be fairly easy to understand, but Brazilians still seem to be confused by it.

  1. Let’s look at another difference when using the possessive form in English.

Esse é o livro de John or Aquele é o livro de John

Lit. That is the book of John.

In English we say:

That is John’s book.

Thus in English this possessive statement would normally be reversed.

Also in English we would use the apostrophe – s to indicate possession – i.e. John’s book

What about your use of dele and dela?

  • A casa de Maria e bonita. Eu gusto da casa dela
  • A casa de Joao e bonita. Eu gusto da casa dele

In English:

  • Mary’s house is beautiful. I like her house.
  • John’s house is beautiful. I like his house

Note in English we have:

  1. The apostrophe -s, and
  2. The reversal of the possessive adjective and noun.

casa dela = her house

casa dele = his house

Note: Exactly the same principle would of course apply for the plural forms, deles and delas

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