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Diminutive in Portuguese: why it is important to know what it is and how to use it • Vila Brasil

Diminutive in Portuguese: why it is important to know what it is and how to use it

[styled_title]Diminutive in Portuguese: why it is important to know what it is and how to use it[/styled_title]


How to use the diminutive in Portuguese

Many students are left in doubt as to the use of the diminutive in the Brazilian Portuguese, but the Brazilians are known worldwide  for the diminutive in their daily vocabulary. Anyone has once heard or said: -“A ‘little’ coffe (cafezinho), please”; -” Just a ‘little’ minute (minutinho)“; “Rapidinho” (diminutive for “fast”); -“Just a ‘little’ little” (pouquinho)



Do you remember the Coca-Cola video during the World Cup? It talked about this characteristic of ours in a playful and relaxed way. (We all speak “portuguesinho”). It is important to emphasize that the use of the diminutive in Portuguese doesn’t always indicate a decreased size. It all depends on the context: it can be the manifestation of the speaker’s emotions and intentions.

The main morpheme of the Portuguese for forming the the diminutive is -“inho(a)”. However, we have some other forms, like for instance, my dad, in a loving way, always calls me “filhota” (-ote), which means daddy’s girl, mama’s girl, babygirl, etc.

Some examples of the diminutive in Portuguese:


1 – Casinha* (little house): two friends meet and one of them invites the other to go to her “casinha” (it is a diminutive that expresses affection, coziness). Her friend, as they arrive, realizes it was actually a very large house and says: “What a ‘little house’, huh…”


2 – Cafezinho* (little coffee): sometimes we envite someone over for a “cafezinho”, but we actually mean a snack or a large cup of coffee. (And sometimes it is only an excuse for a get together).


*We saw the words casinha and cafezinho. When do we use -s and when do e use -z? It’s simple! When the word is written with the letter -s (casa, mesa [table]…), we keep the letter for the creation of the diminutive (casinha, mesinha [little table]). If the word doesn’t have the letter -s, then the diminutive will be written with -z.

We can also use the diminutive in Portuguese to soften a situation. For exemple, the students always get a little frightened when they hear the word prova (test). So, to reduce this fear caused by the word, we say “provinha” (little test). (Wether it’s a large test or not… LOL)



We must be careful with the use of some of the words in the diminutive, because in certain situations they may cause embarassments or even offend or hurt people.


1 – Professorinha (little teacher): “I didn’t like that new ‘professorinha’.” In this case, the diminutive expresses irony, contempt or even a dislike. (It will all depend on the intonation used to say the word).

The diminutives must always be analyzed taking into account, as stated earlier, the context and intonation used, as this is the only way to know its meaning exactly.

2 – Coisinha (little thing): “What a cute coisinha (little thing) this (little) baby outfit!” X “They argue for every coisinha (little thing)!”

Do you want to practice your Portuguese with us?
Send an email to contato@cursovilabrasil.com.br and schedule a free sample class! 

Teacher Aline Simo

Translation by Flora Aggio

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