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Learn how you should use the preposition EM (and its variations NO and NA) in Portuguese

Do you know how to say where you live in Portuguese? If someone asks you where you live in Portuguese they will say Onde você mora?. And to answer it, you will need the preposition em.

The basic structure to answer the question is Eu moro em… + the city you live in, like “Eu moro em São Paulo”, “Eu moro em Nova Iorque” or “Eu moro no Rio de Janeiro”.

Wait! Why is it “em Nova Iorque” but “no Rio de Janeiro”? Let’s understand the preposition em better and then we’ll see its variations (no and na)!

Preposition EM

In English, we use the prepositions “in”, “on” and “at” to talk about places. In Portuguese, the word that has the same meaning as these three prepositions is the preposition em. But the thing is that the Portuguese language has masculine and feminine words, so when we say in the, on the, at the in English, we should say the combination of the preposition em with the definite articles o (masculine) or a (feminine), which turn into no (in the, on the, at the – masculine) and na (in the, on the, at the – feminine). Let’s see some examples!

em casa

at home

When we say we are at home, there is no need to use the definite article the, so we would just say I am at home by saying Eu estou em casa, or We are going to stay at home, Nós vamos ficar em casa.

no banheiro

in the bathroom

However, when we say we are somewhere else, like in the bathroom, or in the school, we have to use the definite article in English, and so is the same in Portuguese. To say, for example, He is in the bathroom, we should say Ele está no banheiro.

na escola

at the school

Even though banheiro is a masculine word in Portuguese, the rule of having to add em + a definite article is the same for escola, a feminine word. So to say They are at school today, in Portuguese, you should say Eles estão na escola.

Okay, but how about the names of places? Why is it “Eu moro em Nova Iorque” but also “Eu moro no Rio de Janeiro”.

Cities, countries, and names of places

For cities, the basic rule is to say em + the city you want to refer to, like:

  • em Lima (in Lima)
  • em Atenas (in Athens)
  • em Liverpool (in Liverpool)

Except for the cities of Rio and Cairo, you should say no Rio and no Cairo.

But how about countries and places? Are there any exceptions?

To say in which city you live or in which place you are, you should say no for masculine places and na for feminine, like:

  • no restaurante (at the restaurant)
  • no hotel (at the hotel)
  • na escola (at the school)
  • na cidade (at the city)

For countries is the same:

  • no Brasil (in Brazil)
  • no Japão (in Japan)
  • no Peru (in Peru)
  • na França (in France)
  • na Austrália (in Australia)
  • na China (in China)

But with the exceptions of some countries such as Angola, Portugal, Israel, and Cuba, you should say:

em Angola”, “em Portugal”, “em Israel” and “em Cuba”.

preposition em + no and na

How about you? Onde você mora? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to leave any questions you have for us to make content about it to answer you! And, if you enjoyed learning about Brazilian Portuguese Grammar and want to learn more about Verb Conjugation in Portuguese, access our podcast Portuguese Verb Guide! Also, follow us on InstagramTikTok, and YouTube for more free content about Brazil!

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Milena Abreu
Milena Abreu
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