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The Study of Structure of Words  The rules of word formation may vary from language to language. Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning, and they influence the main characteristics of the English language, which is considered to be a morphophonemic language. When considering the Portuguese language, it is important to distinguish between two major kinds of word classes: the variable and the invariable.

Variable words are those that may vary in relationship to gender, number, degree, person, tense, mode and voice. They include nouns, articles, adjectives, numerals, pronouns and verbs. Of these, verbs provide the greatest number of variations because verb conjugation in Portuguese is very elaborate and highly inflectional. Verbs present variation in person, number, tense, mode and voice.

Example of the Portuguese Verb Variation

First person Variation
Person - estudo (I study) estuda (s/he studies)
Number - estudo (I study) estudamos (we study)
Tense - estudo (I study) estudarei (I will study)
Mode - estuda! (study!) oxalá estudes (I hope you study)
Voice - estudo a lição(I study the lesson) a lição foi estudada por mim(the lesson was studied by me)

Mode and voice differ from English, in that the subjunctive mode and the passive voice are more common and acceptable in Portuguese. (For example, “Portuguese is spoken by many people in the U.S.” is written in the passive voice, whereas, “Many people speak Portuguese in the U.S.” is in the active voice.) Consequently, when this language characteristic is applied to English, it has an expected linguistic influence.

Invariable words present only one form and include adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections, although adverbs may vary in degree. English prepositions present a major challenge to Portuguese and Spanish students learning English. (See Semantics) In addition, the use of conjunctions also differs primarily in the frequency of use of coordinating conjunctions in both verbal and written communication. This conveys the wrong impression of disorganization, when in fact, the logic is just different from the linear style used in English.

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