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Introducing Yourself in Portuguese

Introducing yourself in Portuguese is easy as torta de morango (toh-tah jee moh-dahng-goh; strawberry pie). Here are a couple different ways to do it:

  • O meu nome é . . . (ooh meh-ooh noh-mee eh; My name is . . .)
  • Eu sou o/a . . . (eh-ooh soh ooh/ah; I'm . . .)

Use the o in front of your name if you're male and the a if you're female. Because o is the masculine way of saying the and a is the feminine the, saying Eu sou a Karen is like saying, "I'm the Karen." It sounds estranho (eh-stdahn-yoh; weird) in English. But that's the fun of learning another language — you get to be estranho and say coisas divertidas (koy-zahz jee-veh-chee-dahz; fun stuff).

To ask someone his or her name, say Cual é seu nome? (kwah-ooh eh seh-ooh noh-mee; What's your name?).

After someone asks you for your name, you can say E o seu? (ee ooh seh-ooh; And yours?).

Here are some common introductions:

  • Este é o meu amigo. (es-chee eh ooh meh-ooh ah-mee-goo; This is my friend. — male)
  • Esta é a minha amiga. (eh-stah eh ah ming-yah ah-mee-gah; This is my friend. — female)
  • Estes são os meus amigos. (es-cheez sah-ooh ooz meh-ooz ah-mee-gooz; These are my friends. — group of all men or men and women)
  • Estas são as minhas amigas. (eh-stahz sah-ooh ahz ming-yahz ah-mee-gahz; These are my friends. — group of all women)

First names, last names, and nicknames, Brazilian-style

First names are primeiros nomes (pdee-may-dohz noh-meez; names), and last names are sobrenomes (soh-bdee nah-meez; surnames. Literally: over-names).

So when someone says Qual é seu nome? she's after your first name. If she says Qual é seu nome completo? (kwah-ooh eh seh-ooh nah-mee kohm-pleh-too; What's your full name? Literally: What's your complete name?), then she's after both your primerio nome and sobrenome.

Most Brazilians just have one plain old first and last name. But a few use two last names — one from their dad and one from their mom. The longer the name, the more likely the person is from a familia rica (fah-mee-lee-ah hee-kah; rich family) that enjoys preserving tradicão (tdah-dee-sah-ooh; tradition).

If the name does include two last names, the mom's last name goes before the dad's last name.

Sometimes names come with a de (jee; of — before a masculine name) or da (dah; of — before a feminine name): Vinicius de Moraes (vee-nee-see-oohz jee moh-dah-eez; one of the composers of the famous song "Girl From Ipanema").

Do you know what the Brazilian version of Smith is? The most common last name in Brazil is da Silva (dah see-ooh-vah). In fact, there are way more da Silvas in Brazil than there are Smiths in English-speaking countries.

Brazilians have an obsession with nicknames. Brazilians also prefer to stick to first names in general. Some Bralilians may not even know many of their friends' last names after a while of knowing them!

Dividing the world between formal and informal

You can sort of divide the world into people you call Mr. or Mrs. and people you call by their first names.

Brazilians use the terms Senhor (seen-yoh; Mr.) and Senhora (seen-yoh-dah; Mrs.) pretty much just like you use Mr. and Mrs. in English.

Brazilians always use o/a (the) before saying Mr. or Mrs. It's like saying "the Mr. Oliveira." Weird, right? Another strange difference is that in Brazil, it's common to use Senhor and Senhora for young people — even teenagers. There's no term like Miss for younger women. And it's also normal for people to say Senhor David or Senhora Luciana — using the first name instead of the last name.

Imagine you're talking to the concierge of your hotel. He treats you with respect because it's his job to serve you. He asks you the following questions if you're a man:

  • O senhor mora aqui? (ooh seen-yoh moh-dah ah-kee; Do you live here?)
  • O senhor está cansado? (ooh seen-yoh eh-stah kahn-sah-doo; Are you tired?)
  • O senhor é brasileiro? (ooh seen-yoh eh bdah-zee-lay-doh; Are you Brazilian?)
  • O senhor gosta do restaurante? (ooh seen-yoh goh-stah doo heh-stah-oo-dahn-chee; Do you like the restaurant?)

And he asks you these questions if you're a woman:

  • A senhora gosta de dançar? (ah seen-yoh-dah goh-stah jee dahn-sah; Do you like to dance?)
  • A senhora é americana? (ah seen-yoh-dah eh ah-meh-dee-kah-nah; Are you American?)
  • A senhora vai para praia? (ah seen-yoh-dah vah-ee pah-dah pdah-ee-ah; Are you going to the beach?)
  • A senhora está de férias? (ah seen-yoh-dah eh-stah jee feh-dee-ahz; Are you on vacation?)

Now imagine that the speaker who asked you all these questions is just another fellow traveler — a Brazilian one. All the o senhor's and the a senhora's become você (voh-seh; you — informal). Você is what you call people when you don't need to be formal.

If you vacation to Brazil, most people you come into contact with will be people in the tourism industry, who will be calling you o Senhor or a Senhora. For practical purposes, the only time you should really try to lembrar (lehm-bdah; remember) to use o Senhor or o Senhora is if you meet um idoso (oong ee-doh-soh; an elderly person). It's nice to show respect.

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