pequeno & grande – menor & maior


Stumbling block #1 for new learners is making sense of how Brazilians say small, smaller, smallest & big, bigger, biggest.

What's the big deal?

In all Portuguese you express things like short, smart, fat, fast, sexy like this:

short = baixo
shorter = mais baixo
shortest = o mais baixo
* And of course, the feminine counterparts: baixa, a mais baixa

But when it comes to big & small it's goes like this:

small = pequeno
smaller = menor (NOT mais pequeno)
smallest = o menor (NOT o mais pequeno)

big = grande
bigger = maior (NOT mais grande)
biggest = o maior (NOT o mais grande)

Only on these two adjectives small & big/large have this variation. There is no equivalent of menor or maior for say, sexier/sexiest or quicker/quickest.

That's why it's important that you embrace the menor/maior thing for these two, extremely common words. Let's leatn it:

small : pequeno | smaller : menor | the smallest : o menor

Is it small? > É pequeno?
Is it smaller? > É menor?
Is it the smallest? > É o menor?

* Just using the masculine versions here to simplify.

large : grande | larger : maior | the largest : o maior

Is it large? > É grande?
Is it larger? > É maior?
Is it the largest? > É o maior?

* Again, just using masculine examples here.

Here's some examples using feminine versions:

It's a small bicycle > É uma bicicleta pequena.
It's the smallest bicycle > É a bicicleta menor.

Good news! You don't have to worry about learning any more words like these two. Whenever you want to say: smarter & smartest; heavier & heaviest; stranger & strangest - all you need to do is use this format:

heavy = pesado (a)
heavier = mais pesado (a) : He looks heavier > Ele parece mais pesado.
heaviest = o(a) mais pesado (a) : The watermelon was the heaviest of all! > A melancia foi mais pesada de todas!

It's consistent for all descriptions except the words for small/large.