pequeno & grande – menor & maior


Stumbling block #1 for new learners is making sense of how Brazilians say small, smaller, smallest & big, bigger, biggest. (or, large/larger/largest)

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

In Portuguese comparisons are made by adding mais in front of the word being modified. For example:

mais rápido
mais pobre
mais alto
mais triste

But when it comes to big & small it 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)

These two adjectives small & big/large have this variation and, they are the most important. 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 learn it:

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

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

*Just using the masculine versions here to simplify.

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

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

*We're just using masculine examples here.

Here are some examples using the feminine versions:

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

Good news! You don't have to worry about learning too many 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. *Well, there are of course others... but nothing very important for the moment. 😇 (FYI the others are pior:worse & melhor:better)