Adjectives before or after the noun?

In the learning Units ‘Adjectives 1, Lesson 5: Good and Bad, Plural’, there is the sentence ‘Eu tenho maus olhos’. I thought the adjective always went after the noun so that the sentence would be ‘Eu tenho olhos maus’. Are there certain times / exceptions when the adjective goes before the noun?



Word order is rather flexible in Portuguese and adjectives are one of the word classes that moves around the most :slight_smile: So, it would be equally fine to say “maus olhos” or “olhos maus”. This other thread about word order may also be of interest: Word order/ order of words

1 Like

I thought the rule was literal adjectives come before the noun and figurative come after. Or maybe I have that wardsback.

Thanks Joseph. That’s good to know. Being someone who is OCD, I’ll have to be a bit more flexible with my word orders! LOL

@albertsoemail Yes, if we break it down into literal/figurative use, that’s a rule of thumb we can follow. It’s more important with certain adjectives, such as simples, grande or pobre, where the placement really changes their meaning, as discussed in this Learning Note: Introduction to Portuguese Adjectives

In several other cases, there’s no difference in meaning when we change their positions (but we can consider that there’s a difference in emphasis):

  • Que casa linda = Que linda casa (What a beautiful house)
  • Eles deram um forte abraço = Eles deram um abraço forte (They gave a strong/tight hug)
  • É uma longa estrada = É uma estrada longa (It’s a long road)

Then, there are adjectives that should preferably be placed only after the noun, such as any adjectives that classify/categorize the noun or describe very concrete attributes:

  • Animal selvagem (Wild animal)
  • Clima tropical (Tropical climate)
  • Roupa escura (Dark clothing)
  • Manga curta (Short sleeve)
1 Like