Eu moro em, no, na?

Eu moro em Lisboa. But my Grandson says " Eu moro na Ericeira" What are the gramatical rules governing the use of each of these regarding Where I live?
David from England.


@davidcowling949, it depends on whether or not the name of the town/region/country is preceded by a definite article. Many countries are, but most cities are not – we say “a França”, but we don’t say "o/a “Paris”, just “Paris”. There are no clear rules for the addition/exclusion of the article, other than what common usage has set in stone over time.

So, when no article precedes the place’s name, we simply use the base preposition em:

  • Em Portugal
  • Em Cuba
  • Em Lisboa
  • Em Londres
  • Em Trás-os-Montes

When a masculine or feminine definite article is there, we have to contract the base preposition em with them, and we end up with no or na, respectively. This is usual for names that derive from common nouns, but not exclusive to them.

  • o Porto --> no Porto (porto is also a common noun)
  • a Cidade do Cabo --> na Cidade do Cabo (cidade is a common noun)
  • o País de Gales --> no País de Gales (país is a common noun)
  • a Ericeira --> na Ericeira
  • o Japão --> no Japão
  • a Nazaré --> na Nazaré

Simple explanations like this are so helpful. It is what makes PP so different.


Thank you for the explanation Joseph, but I am still not clear on how you can tell that a town, city ,country etc has a definite article? My son and his family live in Ericeira, I have been there many times but have never seen it refered to as A Ericeira, just heard people refere to it as such in as Eu moro na Ericeira. Would it be acceptable if you are not sure to just use em? Ie Eu fui em Ericeira.


“Na” is a contraction of “em + a”, so if you hear other people say “na” or “no” (or “do”/“da” instead of “de”), you know that that particular place uses a definite article when talking about it in a sentence. Sounds like there’s not a way to know for sure without looking it up or hearing someone say it.

When in doubt, I try to use “em” for cities, “no”/“na” for countries, “no”/“na” for regions (e.g. “no Algarve”). Over time I learn more exceptions (e.g. It’s “em Lisboa”, but “no Porto”. It’s “em Portugal”, but “nos Estados Unidos”).

I think most Portuguese-speaking countries do NOT use a definite article (but there are exceptions, like “o Brasil”). And many cities that do use a definite article are that way because their name comes from a noun (e.g. o Rio de Janeiro). But these definitely aren’t hard and fast rules. If you just used “em” as a default I’m sure you would be understood.


This is it, @davidcowling949. The “na” already shows you that there’s a definite article there, it’s just contracted with "em’. And yeah, for the most part, you’ll have to listen for clues in other people’s conversations, if you don’t know in advance whether or not to use the definite article. If in doubt, feel free to stick to “em” until you figure out what people usually say.

“O Porto” and “os Estados Unidos” can both be explained away by the common noun rule. Other exceptions are harder to make sense of. I do like your way of managing this! I can see it working well a lot of the time.

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