How to learn key phrases in Portuguese

Written by maria kielmas Google
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How to learn key phrases in Portuguese
Portuguese adventurers sailed from Lisbon to discover the world and spread their language. (Getty Thinkstock)

Nine countries have Portuguese as an official language. These are Portugal, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Cap Verde, Sao Tome & Principe, Angola, Mozambique, Macau and East Timor. It is a significant minority language in Goa state and Daman and Diu districts in coastal India that were Portuguese colonies. Vocabulary and pronunciation differences are the sharpest between European and Brazilian Portuguese.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • English-Portuguese phrase book
  • English-Portuguese, Portuguese-English pocket dictionary

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  1. 1

    Learn basic greetings. “Good morning” is “bom dia” and is pronounced “bohm deeya.” “Good afternoon” is “boa tarde” and pronounced “boa tard.” The “e” feels as though it is swallowed when pronounced. “Good evening” is “boa noite” and pronounced “boa noyt.” with the “e” almost silent.

  2. 2

    Remember that Portuguese has two forms of address for the second person, “you,” as do other European languages except modern English. The polite form is “vos” that is pronounced “vosh,” while the informal form is “tu,” pronounced “too.” The polite form of “how are you” is “como esta” pronounced “komoo eshta.” The informal version of this is “ola”, pronounced “ohla”

  3. 3

    Learn expressions of polite behaviour when you need to approach someone to ask for help. “Excuse me” is “com licence” and pronounced “kom leesensah.” “Pardon” is “perdao” and pronounced “perdow.” “I’m sorry,” and also another way of saying “excuse me,” is “desculpe,” pronounced “deshkulp.” “Please” is “se faz favor” and pronounced “say fazh favor.” “Yes” is “sim” and pronounced “seem” while “no” is “nao” and pronounced “now.”

  4. 4

    Understand that Portuguese word endings depend on the gender of the noun and the speaker. “Thank you” is “obrigado,” pronounced “obreegadoo” when said by males and “obrigada,” pronounced ”obreegada” when said by women. The word for “son” is “filho” and pronounced “feelyo.” The word for “daughter” is “filha” and pronounced “feelya.”

  5. 5

    Say “Onde esta” for “where is.” This is pronounced “oond eshta” with the “e” somewhat silent. The plural is “onde estao, “ for “where are” is pronounced “oond eshtow.” When shopping, “how much does it cost?” is “como custa” and is pronounced “komoo kooshtah.”

  6. 6

    Memorise some simple numbers. “One,” “two,” “three,” “four” and “five” are “um” (or “uma” in the feminine form), “dos,” “tres,” “quatro” and “cinco.” They are pronounced “oom” (and “oomah” in the feminine form), “doysh,” “treysh,” “kwatroo,” and “seenkoo.”

  7. 7

    Ask for help when all fails by saying “fala ingles?” or “do you speak English?” that is pronounced “fahla ingleysh?” The phrase for “I don’t understand” is “nao entendo” and is pronounced “now entendoo.”

Tips and warnings

  • Learn some basic pronunciation rules. Portuguese pronunciation is different from that of other Latin languages like Spanish or Italian. Vowels in Portuguese are pronounced in a nasal, open and closed way, while consonants and some vowels at the ends of words seem to disappear, or sound “swallowed.” Learn one pronunciation rule at a time. In general the stress is on the penultimate syllable, such as “setenta”, pronounced as it is written and meaning “seventy.” But if the word ends with the letters i, l, r, and z, or the combinations im, um, ins and ums, you stress the last syllable. Leave further pronunciation practice until you feel more confident in the language and start to read.
  • Use the polite form of “you” to address everyone, with the exception of small children and animals. You can also address someone through the third person saying “senhor” or “senhora” for “sir” and “madam” and pronounced “senyor” and “senyorah”. Wait for your interlocutor to suggest that you may use the familiar form of "you." Never assume familiarity as it is not appreciated, even as a joke.
  • Avoid substituting Spanish words for Portuguese words you don't know or can't remember if you have learned Spanish earlier. Use the English word instead. Spanish and Portuguese native speakers understand each other, but foreign speakers may not appreciate the subtleties of pronunciation. The word for “I know” in Spanish is “conozco” and pronounced “konosko,” but this pronunciation means “with us” in Portuguese.

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