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I'm learning Brazilian Portuguese via an app called Babbel. I've recently encountered an issue, which confused me.

There was one sentence in one course section which read:

Você quer ir ao cinema?

The translation said:

Do you want to go to the cinema?

I don't think the course has taught anything about the word "ao" in such a context. The only time I remember the contraction ao being taught was in the context of "em frente a" + male noun = em frente ao cinema.

I've only learned so far that "a" is an article for female nouns. I don't understand what the "a" is doing here because "cinema" is a male noun in Portuguese. Does "a" have a different meaning or function besides being an article?

Why is "ao" being used here? It's still the same contraction of a + o, right? Shouldn't it be "no" (em + o)? Because you want to go into the cinema.

=> Você quer ir no cinema?

Can someone explain why ao is being used instead of no? Isn't "a" for female nouns only?

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  • Welcome to Portuguese SE and thanks for your contribution! I've slightly changed the formatting to improve readability and the title to include the key question from the body, but feel free to undo/modify these changes as you see fit.
    – stafusa
    Commented Apr 21 at 8:19
  • em frente de algo: em frente do cinema but em frente da casa.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 21 at 15:55

1 Answer 1

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Yes, the translation is correct. The piece of information you're missing is that "a" can also be a preposition, meaning:

to (movement) (direction)
on, at, to (position)

Such that you can understand "ir ao cinema" as "ir para o cinema". Notice that "a"+"o" is written together, "ao", and that "a"+"a" contracts to "à" (with the grave accent), as in "ir à farmácia".

As for the form "ir no cinema", it's formally correct when meaning "to go into the cinema", but, colloquially, the preposition "em" is often used instead of "a", even in situations where "a" would be called for.

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  • + 1 And many others: ir ao parque, ir ao supermercado, ir ao aeroporto. etc. ir a + masculine noun is ao. You might want to add that?
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 21 at 15:54
  • Unfortunately, incorrect usage is deeply rooted in some regions of Brazil. People tend to say "eu fui na casa da minha prima", "eu fui no cinema ontem", "você foi na festa da sua prima?" When they mean "fui à casa", "fui ao cinema", "foi à festa".
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 23 at 23:24
  • Guilty as accused, @Centaurus. :-) It's very unlikely I'd use "à casa", orally, instead of "para a casa" or, indeed, "na casa". Funnily enough, "ao", e.g. "ao médico" rolls off more easily.
    – stafusa
    Commented Apr 25 at 5:01
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    @Lambie, added!
    – stafusa
    Commented Apr 25 at 5:01
  • @stafusa That's one of the Transatlantic Differences.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 25 at 15:18

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