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The Diminutive in Brazilian Portuguese

The diminutive in Portuguese can be recognized by the -inho/-inha at the end of a word. 

The masculine noun carro, car, becomes carrinho, or small car and the feminine noun casa, house, becomes casinha, or small house

Nouns, adjectives and adverbs can become diminutive words.

Nouns: Que lindas estrelinhas! What beautiful little stars!

Adjectives: O meu gato é bonitinho. My cat is cute.

Adverbs: Por favor, dirija devagarinho. Please drive a little slowly

Before learning more about how to form the diminutives, let’s look at when they’re used. 

In general, Brazilians use the diminutive in four situations:

1) To talk about small sizes, amounts and portions:

Há várias bandeirinhas coloridas na frente da loja. There are many small colored flags in front of the shop. 

Coma mais um pedacinho. Eat another little piece

Dona Ana leva seu cachorrinho para passear todas as manhãs. Mrs. Ana takes her little dog for a walk every morning. 

2) To create nicknames, especially when referring to children’s names:

Pedrinho e Aninha vão a escola de ônibus. Little Pedro and little Ana ride the bus to school.

3) To express tenderness:

A minha avozinha veio almoçar. My granny came for lunch.

4) To belittle:

 Eles serviram um jantarzinho muito ruim. They served a horrible little dinner

To form the diminutive, remove the final vowel of the word and add –inho when the word is masculine: caderno/caderninho (notebook), tempo/tempinho (time), and –inha when the word is feminine: mesa/mesinha (table), vida/vidinha (life).

If a word ends in a stressed vowel, in l, nho/a or lho/a, add –zinho, -zinha to the word 

Examples: 

mãe/mãezinha (mother), café/cafezinho (coffee), irmã/irmãzinha (sister), pão/pãozinho (bread).

jornal/jornalzinho (newspaper), hotel/hotelzinho (hotel), mel/melzinho (honey)

vinho/vinhozinho (wine), malha/malhazinha (sweater).

Some words change the spelling so the final syllable keeps the original sound: pouco/pouquinho, (little), louca /louquinha (crazy).

Here are some more examples of the diminutive:

Eu quero só um pouquinho de cerveja. I want just a little bit of beer

Eu adoro os pãezinhos desta padaria. I love the little loaves in this bakery.

O apartamento tem dois quartos grandes e um quartinho para escritório. The apartment has two big rooms and small one for a study.

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