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Most words have similarities to Spanish or sometimes French. However, people who know a little Spanish may hastily conclude that it's close enough that it need not be studied separately. While they may be able to figure out the meaning of some signage, items on a menu, etc., understanding of verbal communication will be very low to nothing. Words such as "gente" (people) are pronounced so differently in Brazilian Portuguese, that you would never recognize them.
The Portuguese alphabet (alfabeto) has 23 letters, plus 3 foreign ones. Accented vowels, cedillas (see below), diphthongs, digraphs (including ch), etc. do not count separately. The alphabet is a b c d e f g h i j l m n o p q r s t u v x z with additional characters á à â ã ç é ê í ó ô õ ú ü. By far, the most common diphthong is ão. The alphabet, when pronounced, is quite similar to Spanish: á bê cê dê é efe gê agá i jota ele eme ene ó pê quê erre esse tê u vê xis zê. The letters k (ká / kápa), w (vê duplo/duplo vê / dábliu/dâbliu), and y (ípsilão) are usually used only on words of foreign origin.
Written vs. spoken
Especially in Brazil, spoken language can be very different from written language and official grammar, confusing non-native speakers. While slang (gíria) is common in Brazil and difficult to understand, it is generally not used around foreigners. Less educated people are likely to use slang a lot. The written language is also much closer to Spanish than what is spoken. But make no mistake, Portuguese is a foreign language for Spanish speakers.
Gender, plurals, and adjectives
To avoid duplication, see wikibooks. Also, Portuguese words ending in _ão are often, but not always, feminine. Their plurals, most of the time, simply replace _ão with _ões. To be sure, look it up in a dictionary. Unlike most other Romance languages, Portuguese genderizes the names of many countries of the world, and also many cities in Portugal, (but mainly just 'o Rio de Janeiro' in Brazil).
Pronouns for "You"
These can be a little confusing, especially for those transitioning from other Romance languages to Brazilian Portuguese. Originally, você (Spanish usted; French vous) and the plural vocês were the formal "you," while tu and the plural vós were the informal, with all four having separate sets of verbs endings. Today in Brazil, vós is almost never used, and tu used only in certain areas such as the Northeast (nordeste) and Rio Grande do Sul. Where it is used, it is often followed by the same verb endings as você. Thus, virtually all of Brazil does not use the verb endings for tu and vós (i.e. no 2nd person verbs), making it much easier to learn just the remaining four sets. However, most Brazilians do use the informal reflexive pronoun te (based on tu and the same word as Spanish and French). Since this eliminates much of the grammar-based formality, to be formal replace you with o senhor (oh sen-YOUR) for a man, a senhora (ah sen-YOUR-ah) for a woman, and a senhorita (ah sen-your-REE-tah) for a young unmarried lady. This can also be done just before their name (equivalent to Mr., Mrs., and Miss respectively), or it can be spoken by itself initially (with or without a name) in order to get someone's attention.
In Portugal, vós is rarely used anymore except in some isolated regions of the country. Tu is used with its own verb set, making você sound somewhat more formal than in many parts of Brazil. However, to be extra formal use o senhor, a senhora, and a senhorita. Short-term tourists could easily get by without learning the tu verbs, and they are not used in this Phrasebook. As an obvious foreigner, it's very unlikely any child will think you're being sarcastic if you use você in speaking to them. Also, Brazilian television programs are popular in Portugal, and the use of Brazilian Portuguese should not raise an eyebrow. However, the reverse is not true, and many Brazilians have trouble understanding European Portuguese (Luso).
In Brazil, it's very common (though technically incorrect) to use ele/a as the object pronoun for "it." Eu encontrei ele. I found it. If the "it" is intangible, best to change to the Portuguese genderless word for "this." Amo muito tudo isso. I'm loving it.
he, it (m)
she, it (f)
they, them (mixed gender ok)
they, them (all females/feminine)
This topic is much too complex for a phrasebook. See Learning more below. In general though, infinitive verbs (i.e. as found in the dictionary) end in _ar, _er, and _ir (like Spanish) plus there's one irregular infinitive pôr (to put). A lot of the most common verbs are irregular and must be memorized. Você, ele, ela, (and usually tu in Brazil -- see above) share the same verb set, as do (separately) vocês, eles, and elas.
Portuguese has nasal vowels and reduced vowels. If you don't reduce the vowels you will still be understood but you will sound over-enunciating. If you don't nasalize the vowels, you can easily be misunderstood: mão means "hand", while mau means "bad." So, be extra careful not to ouch the ão sound. For starters, try something in between English no and now for não (which means English no). A good native pronunciation of this diphthong will take lots of listening and practice. The nasals are transcribed as "ng", but don't pronounce "ng" as a consonant.
Brazilian and Luso (European Portuguese) pronunciation differ, and within Brazil, there are regional differences as well. The pronunciation of Minas Gerais is especially difficult, for its tendency to merge syllables, reduce vowels, affricate consonants, etc. In the Northeast, the consonants tend to be harder and the vowels longer. The populous region surrounding Rio, São Paulo, and Curitiba generally follow the Rio pronunciation in this guide where indicated (though they do have their own distinctive accents). If there is no separate mention for Rio, then it is the same as the rest of Brazil.
Beware (especially if you know some Spanish) that words ending in i and u are stressed on the last syllable without any accent mark, as are those ending in a constant other than m or s (except im/ins and um/uns).
a (á, â, ã)
e (é, ê)
o (ô, õ)
b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z
y ed w soltanto in parole stranieri
like 'b' in "bed"
like 'c' in "cat"
like in cell and civil.
like 's' in soft or super. The mark below the letter "c" is called a cedilla in English or cedilha in Portuguese. It is used to force the soft C before vowels other than E or I.
like 'd' in "dog". In some regions of Brazil (e.g. Rio) it is affricate before i (like in dia sounding roughly like an English "j": "jeea").
like 'f' in "father"
like 'g' in "good"
like 's' in "treasure". (Like French je.) Note: this is completely different from Spanish.
silent. See Common digraphs below and r and rr for the English "h" sound.
like 's' in "treasure". (Like French je.) Note: this is completely different from Spanish.
Found only in words of foreign origin, so pronounce accordingly. Mostly, like 'c' in "cat". (Not part of Portuguese alphabet.) See letters c and q for the English "k" sound.
like 'l' in "love". The final L is vocalised (like in "cold"). Brazilians will make it a "u" sound (like in "mal" sounding like the English "ow", as in "now".)
like 'm' in "mother".
Nasalizes the preceding vowel, and is dropped at the end of a word (Luso). Letter 'N' used in the phrasebook for Brazilian pronunciation.
like nice. Nasalizes the preceding vowel and is silent when followed by a consonant. (See Common digraphs below.)
like 'p' in "pig"
like "unique". Qu is usually followed by e or i as a way to get the k sound. Words with qua will sound just as 'qua' in the English word "quack".
like 'h' in "help", only harder. See also RR in Common Digraphs below. It is often pronounced as the Spanish J, especially in Brazil.
like 'r' in "morning" or the (usually dropped) 'r' in British pronunciation.
like the Spanish 'r' (and similar to English).
Examples (Brazilian pronunciation):
fresta (FRES-tah) a loophole hora (OH-rah) hour, time
like "hiss" at the beginning of words, "haze" between vowels, "sure" in Luso dialect and final position/before consonants in Rio de Janeiro, or as s elsewhere (like the regular plural ending sound in English).
like 't' in "top"
...te (if unstressed, i.e. no accent mark) Brazil only -- except some areas near Argentina and Uruguay ti (regardless of position) Brazil only -- except some areas near Argentina and Uruguay
like 'chee' in cheese, or with _s like 'chees' Note this is completely different from Spanish
Examples (Brazilian pronunciation):
tipo (CHEE-po) type rotina (ho-CHEE-nah) routine assisti (ah-sist-CHEE) I watched/helped/attended teste (TES-chee) test até (ah-TEH) until
like 'v' in "victory"
Found only in words of foreign origin, so pronounce accordingly. Mostly pronounced as 'v' (Volkswagen) or 'u' (Wilson). (Not part of Portuguese alphabet.)
like "box", "shoe", "zip" or even "yes". The correct pronunciation of the X is not easy to deduce. In Brazil, the sh sound is most often correct (but not always).
Found only in words of foreign origin, so pronounce accordingly. (Not part of Portuguese alphabet.) The digraph lh produces a sound similar to the English consonant "y". (see Common digraphs below)
like 'z' in "zebra," or like sh or s when final ("paz", "luz")
Note: Two vowels together not listed as diphthongs usually means a syllable split. Example: ia in Bahia. Any accent mark (not counting the tilde such as ão and õe) will split a diphthong into two regular vowels (see above).
same as ão, but unstressed andam they walk
like bike (often equivalent to Spanish 'AY' but not always a diphthong) praia beach
similar to uwng (u as in cup) dão they give
like house Manaus Brazilian city in the Amazon
like say (best equivalent to Spanish 'E') meio half
the e vowel plus a w semivowel (no equivalent in English) Europa Europe
nasal ei, similar to raintambém also
like boyoito eight
same as õ som sound
as in own ouro gold
nasal oiele põe he puts
Gruppi di consonanti comuni
like machine (sh sound) Note this is completely different from Spanish. In Brazil, letter t when followed by i or final e produces the Spanish & English "ch" sound (see above).
chuva (SHOU-vah) rain
like million (equivalent to Spanish LL) Note: Spanish words starting with "LL" very often convert to "CH" (with the sh sound) in Portuguese
velho (VEH-yo) old
like canyon (equivalent to Spanish Ñ)
banho (BAN-yo) bath; piranha (pee-RAHN-yah) man-eating fish
the r is pronounced like help
honra (OH-ha) honor
In Brazil, like help (same as R at the beginning of a word). In Portugal, usually trilled more vigorously than Spanish RR.
cachorro (cah-SHOW-rroh (Port.) / cah-SHOW-ho (Brazil)) dog
prevents the sonorisation of the S between vowels.
assado (ah-SAHD-oh) roasted
Lista di frasi
Notte de Buona.
Como està. Como vai?
Piacere di conoscerla.
Prazer em conhecê-la.
Non parlo portoghese.
Não falo português.
Eu não entendo.
Mi chiamo nome.
Eu sou nome / Meu nome é nome.
Dov'è il bagno?
Onde é a casa de banho ?
Você fala italiano?
Come si dice?
Como è que se diz?
Qualcuno parla italiano?
Alguém fala italiano?
Leave me alone.
Deixa-me em paz. (DEY-shah meh eng PAZH)
Don't touch me!
Não toque! (NOWNG TOH-keh!)
I'll call the police.
Eu chamo a polícia. (yoo SHAH-moo a poh-LEE-see-ah)
Pára! Ladrão! (PAH-rah! lah-DROWNG!)
I need your help.
Preciso da sua ajuda. (preh-SEE-zoo dah SOO-ah ah-ZHOO-dah)
Preciso de um médico. (preh-SEE-zoo deh oong MEH-dee-koo / MEH-jee-koo (Rio))
Can I use your phone?
Posso usar o seu telefone? (POH-soo oo-ZAR oo seoo teh-leh-FOWN (Port.) / teh-leh-FOW-nay (Brazil)?)
Note: Spanish speakers need to practice pronunciation of Portuguese numbers to be understood, even though they are quite similar in written form. Give particular attention to dropped middle syllables in numbers 7,9,10, and those ending in e for Luso and te for Brazil.
um(m)/uma(f) (oong / OO-mah)
dois(m)/duas(f) (doysh / DOO-ash)
seis/meia (seysh/may-ah) Use meia in a numerical series (e.g. phone numbers, postal codes, etc.) to prevent confusion with "três". "Meia" is short for "meia-dúzia" (half-a-dozen).
tarde (tahrd (Port.)/ TAHR-day (Brazil)/TAHR-jay (Rio))
Use afternoon ("tarde") for early evening, and night ("noite") for late evening. Unlike English, "boa noite" is used as an initial greeting and not just to say goodbye.
noite (NOIT (Port.)/ NOI-chay (Brazil))
Note: In a sentence add é just before one o'clock, noon and midnight, and são just before two through eleven o'clock. (English equivalent of "it is..."). Unlike Spanish, the definite article (Span. la; Port. a) is not used.
one o'clock AM
uma hora da manhã (uma OH-ra dah man-yah)
two o'clock AM
duas horas da manhã (duash OH-ras dah man-yah)
meio-dia (mayo deeah/ jeeah (Rio))
one o'clock PM
uma hora da tarde (uma OH-ra dah tahrd (Port.)/ TAHR-day (Brazil))
two o'clock PM
duas horas da tarde (duash OH-ras dah tahrd (Port.)/ TAHR-day (Brazil))
half past three PM
três e meia da tarde (...)
meia-noite (may-a noyt (Port.)/ NOY-tay (Brazil)
_____ minuto(s) (mee-NU-toh)
_____ hora(s) (OH-ra)
_____ dia(s) (DEE-ah/ JEE-ah (Rio))
_____ semana(s) (seh-MAH-nah)
_____ mês(meses) (mayse)
_____ ano(s) (ahno)
hoje (ohzh (Port.)/ OHZH-gee (Brazil))
esta semana (esh-tah seh-MAH-nah)
a semana passada (ah s'MAH-nah pah-SAH-dah)
próxima semana (prah-ZEE-mah s'MAH-nah)
segunda-feira (seh-GOON-dah fey-rah)
terça-feira (TEHR-sah fey-rah)
quarta-feira (KWAR-tah fey-rah)
quinta-feira (KEEN-tah fey-rah)
sexta-feira (SESH-tah fey-rah)
Writing Time and Date
21 September 2005 (UK)/September 21, 2005 (USA)21 de setembro de 2005, "vinte-um de setembro de dois mil cinco"
Time is written with "h" as in French: 8h30; or with a colon or period. The 24-hour clock is often used.
Most adjectives change the final o to a in the feminine and add s (pronounced sh) to form the plural. If the adjective ends in "a", there is no separate masculine form.