Brazilian Portuguese For Dummies
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If you want to speak with your Brazilian neighbor, friend, or business associate, knowing the basics of Portuguese can help. Find out how to recite the Portuguese alphabet, how to ask simple questions and carry on a conversation, and how to show enthusiasm for what you're experiencing.

The following helps with speaking formally, conjugating verbs, and pronouncing some of the trickier words in the Portuguese language.

Reciting the Portuguese ABCs

When you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, reciting the alphabet is probably one of the first things you need to know. The following table can help you get a handle on how to pronounce letters in Portuguese. (Stressed syllables are in italic print.)

a (ah) h (ah-gah) o (awe) v (veh)
b (beh) i (ee) p (peh) w (dah-boo yoo)
c (seh) j (zhoh-tah) q (keh) x (sheez)
d (deh) k (kah) r (eh-hee) y (eep-see-loh)
e (eh) l (eh-lee) s (eh-see) z (zeh)
f (eh-fee) m (eh-mee) t (teh)
g (zheh) n (eh-nee) u (ooh)

Asking key questions in Portuguese

Even if you’re not a news reporter, you need to know how to say who, what, when, where, why, and how in Portuguese. And if you’re a tourist in Brazil, knowing how to say “how much” can come in very handy. Many basic questions can be asked using just one word in Portuguese:

  • Quem? (kang?) (Who?)
  • Quando? (kwahn-doo?) (When?)
  • Onde? (ohn-jee?) (Where?)
  • Por quê? (poh keh?) (Why?)
  • Como? (koh-moo?) (How?)
  • O que? (ooh kee?) (What?)
  • Qual? (kwah-ooh?) (Which?)
  • Quanto? (kwahn-too?) (How much?)

Counting in Portuguese

Counting from 1 to 10 is a basic skill in any language. Here are the Brazilian Portuguese words for all the numbers you can show on two hands:

  • um (oong) (one)
  • dois (doh-eez) (two)
  • três (trehz) (three)
  • quatro (kwah-troo) (four)
  • cinco (sing-koh) (five)
  •  seis (say-eez) (six)
  • sete (seh-chee) (seven)
  • oito (oh-ee-toh) (eight)
  • nove (noh-vee) (nine)
  • dez (dez) (ten)

Greeting others in Portuguese

Brazilian people are known as a friendly and talkative bunch. Knowing how to greet them goes a long way toward helping you make friends. Here are some “hello” and “goodbye” basics:

  • Tudo bem? (too-doh bang?) (How are you?)
  • Como vai? (koh-moh vah-ee?) (How are things?)
  • Tchau! (chah-ooh!) (Bye!)
  • Até logo! (ah-teh loh-goo!) (See you later!)
  • Até amanhã! (ah-teh ah-mang-yah!) (See you tomorrow!)

Using Portuguese exclamations just like a native speaker

To show excitement or appreciation for something, exclamations come in handy. Exclamations in Brazilian Portuguese are similar to those in English. The following list translates some common expressions of enthusiasm:

  • Legal! (lay-gow!) (Cool!)
  • Ótimo! (oh-chee-moh!) (Great!)
  • Que bonito! (kee boo-nee-too!) (How beautiful!)
  • Adoro! (ah-doh-roo!) (I love it!)
  • Que gostoso! (kee goh-stoh-zoo!) (How delicious!)

Making friends using Portuguese

Knowing the right questions to ask in Portuguese goes a long way toward helping you make friends in Brazil and beginning a conversation with a Brazilian business associate or neighbor. Here are some common questions you can use when meeting someone new:

  • Qual é seu nome? (kwah-ooh eh seh-ooh noh-mee?) (What’s your name?)
  • De onde você é? (jee ohn-jee voh-seh eh?) (Where are you from?)
  • Fala inglês? (fah-lah eeng-glehz?) (Do you speak English?)
  • Qual é o seu email? (kwah-ooh eh ooh seh-ooh ee-may-oh?) (What’s your email address?)
  • O que você gosta de fazer? (ooh kee voh-seh goh-stah jee fah-zeh?) (What do you like to do?)

Tricky Portuguese pronunciations

Some common words in Portuguese are tricky to pronounce for non-native speakers. This list contains a few of them and their correct pronunciations so you can say them like a native.

  • amigo (ah-mee-goo) (friend)
  • Brasil (brah-zee-ooh) (Brazil)
  • Carnaval (kah-nah-vah-ooh) (Carnival)
  • festa (feh-stah) (party)
  • João (zhoo-ah-ooh) (a man‘s name)
  • música (moo-zee-kah) (music)
  • praia (prah-ee-ah) (beach)
  • Rio de Janeiro (hee-ooh dee zhah-nay-roo) (the Brazilian city of Rio)
  • Roberta (hoh-beh-tah) (a woman‘s name)
  • samba (sahm-bah) (a type of Brazilian dance)

Formal titles in Portuguese

If you’re talking to an authority figure or you want to show respect to an elder, be sure to use the formal title when addressing that person in Portuguese:

  • o senhor (ooh seen-yoh) (Sir; Literally, the gentleman)
  • a senhora (ah seen-yoh-rah) (Ma’am; Literally, the lady)

Conjugating regular Portuguese verbs in present tense

The vast majority of regular verbs in Portuguese end in -ar, -er, and -ir.

Here’s an -ar verb: falar (fah-lah) (to speak). For the present tense of the verb, just take off the ending and add -o, -a, -amos, or –am to conjugate it:

  • Eu falo. (eh-ooh fah-loo.) (I speak.)
  • Você fala. (voh-seh fah-lah.) (You [singular] speak.)
  • Ele/ela fala. (eh-lee/eh-lah fah-lah.) (He/she speaks.)
  • Nós falamos. (nohz fah-lah-mooz.) (We speak.)
  • Eles falam. (eh-leez fah-lah-ooh.) (They speak.)
  • Vocês falam. (voh-sehz fah-lah-ooh.) (You [plural] speak.)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Karen Jacobson-Sive is fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. She worked as a journalist in Brazil for many years before re-locating to New York where she taught language classes. She is the author of the previous editions of Portuguese For Dummies.

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