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Is Portuguese Hard to Learn?

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Learning a new language is one of the best decisions a person can make. It widens one’s horizons, opens professional and social doors, and it even has health benefits! But we also know it comes with its challenges, so choosing the right language to learn is an important step. One of the questions you might be asking yourself right now is: “Is Portuguese hard to learn?”

The answer is…it depends. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but bear with me! It will all make sense really soon. 

One factor that can affect whether Portuguese is hard for you or not is what languages you already know. Portuguese is one of the Romance languages, so if you know another Romance language, you have a huge advantage! 

Another important aspect is how motivated you are to learn the language. Just think about how much easier it is to spend hours doing an enjoyable activity versus something that feels like a chore. Lastly, each person responds differently to various learning strategies. If you use the right resources for you, learning Portuguese will be so easy. 

In the end, as long as you have some strategies in place and motivation driving you to succeed, we can say with all confidence that learning Portuguese won’t be too hard!  

Don’t believe us? Just take a look at how the U.S. Foreign Service classified Portuguese. They’ve labeled it as Category 1, meaning it’s one of the easiest languages to learn! 

In this article, we’ll examine what factors might make the Portuguese language hard to learn and how to overcome those challenges. After all, it does have a few particularities and some annoying exceptions. But—and you can sigh with relief now—we’ll also see what the easiest things about the language are. And once we’ve covered the basics, we’ll talk about the best way to approach your Portuguese-learning journey, from where to start to how you can accelerate the process. 

By the end of this guide, we’re sure you’ll be convinced that you can take on this amazing challenge and master Portuguese!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Portuguese Table of Contents
  1. The Real Deal: The Hardest Things About Portuguese
  2. A Reason to Celebrate: The Easiest Things in Learning Portuguese
  3. Getting Started with Portuguese
  4. Advice for the Road
  5. Why is PortuguesePod101 Great for Learning Portuguese?
  6. Get Down to Business with PortuguesePod101

1. The Real Deal: The Hardest Things About Portuguese

Let’s rip off the Band-Aid quickly. What are the hardest parts about learning Portuguese? After all, we can’t deny that there are some challenges along the way, especially when you first start the process of learning this beautiful language. 

But because the best part of language-learning is improving every day and seeing our capabilities constantly expanding, we’re also going to show you how to make those challenges manageable.

1 – Listening challenges: What are they saying? 

About 280 million people speak Portuguese, and in Brazil alone, there are 207 million native Portuguese-speakers. Just imagine the variety of accents, local differences, and expressions you can encounter! Brazilian Portuguese is full of colloquialism and has an always-expanding vocabulary that includes slang and even internet-born sayings. 

It’s no surprise, then, that when listening to Portuguese-speakers, you might become confused and overwhelmed. An accent can make a big difference, and if you’re used to one particular accent, you’ll need some time to adapt to other ways of speaking Portuguese. 

So yes, listening to native speakers can be hard. But on the other hand, it’s the only way to really learn how real-life Portuguese is spoken! Besides, listening also helps to improve your speaking abilities. 

There are a few tips you can follow to mitigate this difficulty. Even if you choose a particular Portuguese accent to learn, you should make the effort to listen to Portuguese-speakers from other regions from time to time. You can find YouTube videos, look for Brazilian movies and songs, or participate in a language exchange. If you hear any unfamiliar expressions, take note and look them up online. 

Lastly, if you’re interacting with a native speaker, don’t be afraid of asking them to speak slowly. Brazilians love to help foreigners speak Portuguese, and they’ll be happy to explain anything that might be confusing you!

And remember, some things can be challenging even for Brazilians, so don’t worry too much about it. 

For example, there are words that make sense to people from the North of Brazil, but might not mean anything to someone from the southeast or south of the country.

As long as you feel comfortable looking things up or asking questions, you’ll easily get over the difficulties!

2 – A fork, a knife: Word gender.

Oh, gender. This can be the source of many mistakes and confusion. But Portuguese-learners aren’t the only ones who have to suffer through this. French and Spanish, for example, also present this challenging aspect. 

Basically, nouns in Portuguese have a grammatical gender, and this will affect the articles used with said nouns. For example:

  • A casa (“The house”) – feminine word
  • O carro (“The car”) – masculine word
  • Uma cadeira (“A chair”) – feminine word
  • Um avião (“An airplane”) – masculine word

Luckily, there’s a rule you can follow to know whether a word is feminine or masculine. Unfortunately, there are always exceptions. Obviously, you can’t memorize all of the feminine and masculine words in Portuguese. But as long as you try to follow the rule and are open to learning whenever you come across an exception, you’ll do very well.

So what is this rule we keep mentioning? Look for the letter at the end of the noun. If the word ends in -a, chances are it’s a feminine word. If it ends in -o, it’s likely a masculine word. 

  • O gato (“The cat,” masculine)
  • A gata (“The cat,” feminine)
  • Um livro (“A book”) – masculine word
  • Uma escova (“A brush”) – feminine word

Similarly, if the word ends in -or, it’s probably masculine; -ora endings indicate feminine words:

  • O cantor (“The singer,” masculine)
  • A cantora (“The singer,” feminine)
  • O escultor (“The sculptor”)
  • A escultora (“The sculptress”)

Take a look at this list of the 50 most common nouns in Portuguese for more examples.

3 – All those sounds: Pronunciation.

Portuguese pronunciation is hard for English-speakers—and even for Spanish-speakers—to get the hang of. This is because Portuguese has some difficult sounds, like the infamous nasal sounds, which are present in common words like:

  • Não (“No”)
  • Mãe (“Mother”)
  • Manhã (“Morning”)

As you can see, the tilde (~) indicates the nasal sound.

Some other complicated sounds are the -lh and –nh combinations. They sound a bit different from anything in the English language, but not so different that you can’t approximate them using familiar sounds. For example:

SoundAppears inSounds similar to
LhAlho (“Garlic”)
Ilha (“Island”)
Mulher (“Woman”)
Lh in “silhouette”
NhCaminho (“Way,” “Path”)
Minha (“Mine,” “My”)
Dinheiro (“Money”)
Gn in “lasagna”

This guide has even more details about Portuguese pronunciation and how to master it. It’s a great resource to begin with. Follow it up with lots of listening, and record yourself speaking in Portuguese; listening to yourself can really help you identify particular aspects you need to work on!

4 – Not quite sure: The subjunctive mode.

The subjunctive mode in Portuguese is used to convey doubt or uncertainty. It’s yet another one of those cases where even Brazilians make mistakes.

What you need to know about the subjunctive mode is that it indicates something that’s not entirely real. It might be an assumption about something, a hope, or a dream. There are three subjunctive tenses: present, past, and future. The verbs will be conjugated according to the tense being used. We won’t really dive into the subjunctive mode in this article, but we will give you a few tips. 

First and foremost, take your time with it! It’s not one of the first things you should learn. Although it’s useful for communicating in cases of uncertainty, it’s not the most common grammatical aspect of Portuguese. 

Secondly, learn the rules of the subjunctive mode—but instead of focusing too much on the theory, try to create your own sentences using it. If you have a native or advanced speaker to help you along the way, all the better! 

And lastly, don’t worry if you make mistakes. As we said, the subjunctive mode can be intimidating even for Brazilians, and they’ll understand your struggles!

Yes, There are Some Challenges. But with a Bit of Help, you Can Conquer Them!

2. A Reason to Celebrate: The Easiest Things in Learning Portuguese

Rejoice! We’re done with the hardest parts of Portuguese, and now we can look at the easiest aspects of this language. You’ll see that, compared to other languages, Portuguese has some advantages!

1 – The fundamentals are easy.

There are some core structures you have to learn, but once you get the hang of those, you can begin communicating in most situations. 

Portuguese word order is straightforward, and in fact, similar to that of English: Subject Verb Object. This makes Portuguese much easier to grasp than languages with different word order patterns! So, you’ll encounter sentences like:

  • Pedro dorme muito. (“Pedro sleeps a lot.”)
  • Nós perdemos nossos livros. (“We lost our books.”)

See how you can translate word-for-word? The sentence structure is straightforward most of the time, and similar to English. 

The truth is, if you learn the structure for affirmative and negative statements and questions, you already know enough to start conversations in Portuguese!

2 – A big happy family: Romance languages.

Portuguese is one of the Romance languages (yay!). This is great, because if you already know how to speak Spanish, French, Italian, or even Romanian, you have a huge advantage. The shared roots of these languages will give you a head-start in your vocabulary and grammar knowledge! 

It’s true that the similarities can, in some cases, generate confusion. But the advantages far surpass the disadvantages in this regard. 

And even if you don’t speak any Romance languages, it still makes things easier for you. Considering how many people speak Romance languages, you’ve probably been in contact with at least one such language through the internet, movies, TV shows, and more. For example, chances are that you’ve heard more Spanish or French in your lifetime than Korean or Russian. 

3 – No need to invert, Baby.

Step aside, English and French. We don’t need your complicated inversions to ask simple questions! In Portuguese, you don’t have to worry about inverting the subject and verb to ask questions like:

  • Você foi à festa? (“Did you go to the party?”)

In fact, all you have to do is use the same affirmative statement structure and add a question mark at the end.

We can also make direct questions by using question words. These are fairly straightforward too, requiring only a question word at the beginning of the sentence. For example:

  • Quando você vai viajar? (“When will you travel?”)

Super-simple!

4 – The Brazilian charm.

Lastly, we need to mention it: Most Brazilians are very supportive of foreigners learning their language. Strangers will be more than happy to help you, give you some tips to improve, and encourage you. 

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to talk with native Portuguese-speakers on a daily basis, it’s still very easy to find a Brazilian online to chat! Data from 2019 shows that Brazil is the country with the fourth-largest number of Internet users! In other words, you’ll have an easy time finding someone willing to speak in Portuguese with you online. 

This also means that there’s an abundance of resources for you to practice your listening and reading skills. Brazilians produce much content in the form of YouTube videos, podcasts, articles, and social media accounts for you to follow.

Português é Fácil! (Portuguese Is Easy!)

3. Getting Started with Portuguese

Now that we’ve shown you how hard Portuguese is to learn (and why it’s easier than you think!), we hope you’re excited to begin! To guarantee your success, we’ve put together the four main things you should focus on in the beginning. 

1 – Build your vocabulary.

One of the reasons why starting a new language can be so frustrating is the lack of vocabulary. There are so many things we want to say and express! But even if we know the sentence structure, we can feel stuck if we don’t have the words to fill in the blanks.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to begin by learning the most common and helpful words—those you’ll use pretty much every day. Generally, these include verbs, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns, as well as some adverbs. 

Jotting down important words in a notebook or a digital flashcard deck is very useful! Take a look at some vocabulary lists and start becoming familiar with the Portuguese vocabulary.

2 – Conquer the pronunciation.

Remember when we mentioned that pronunciation can be a difficult aspect for Portuguese-learners? Although this is true, it only applies to a small fraction of Portuguese pronunciation. Most of the sounds in Portuguese are actually familiar to English-speakers! 

Thankfully, words in Portuguese are spelled the way they’re pronounced. There’s a silent letter here and there, but they’re not very common! Therefore, as soon as you recognize how the syllables are pronounced, you can read Portuguese sentences out loud—even before you know what they mean!

As for the challenging parts of Portuguese pronunciation, the sooner you get familiar with them, the better. Start listening to how native speakers pronounce nasal sounds, and begin slowly practicing them yourself. 

3 – Listen to native speakers.

Continuing the thread of the previous point, it’s never too early to start listening to Portuguese-speakers. Become familiar with the rhythm and intonation of the language, the different sounds, and the common sentences. You can do this by listening to music, finding amazing movies and TV shows, listening to podcasts during your commute, finding a buddy to practice with… Resources abound! 

Why is this important? Well, not only will it offer you new and useful vocabulary, but it will also show you how Portuguese is spoken in real life. In some cases, you might learn the grammatically correct version of a sentence, but find out that native speakers use a different structure. You can only learn about these nuances through lots of listening! 

It’s also an opportunity to find out about the different accents in Brazil, and in other Portuguese-speaking countries! 

4 – Speak often.

Listening is great, and definitely super-helpful! But don’t stop there. Make an effort to speak Portuguese right from the beginning. 

Yes, we know it might be intimidating, especially when you don’t have a solid vocabulary yet. But trust us, it’s okay. Put whatever you know into practice. You can speak and record yourself or, better yet, talk to native speakers. In the early stages, it’s especially helpful to have a tutor (like the one you’ll get with our MyTeacher feature) to help you overcome shyness or fear, and give you helpful feedback. 

Remember, learning a new language is all about being able to communicate. Why would you learn Portuguese and not use it to talk to someone? At the same time, it’s totally acceptable to make mistakes when you’re learning, as the main goal is to get the message across and improve along the way!

Engage in Portuguese Conversations at Every Opportunity.

4. Advice for the Road

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make it easier for you to learn Portuguese. 

1 – Feedback is your friend.

Humans don’t really like being corrected all that much. As such, it’s only natural that we try to avoid making mistakes. If you’re a perfectionist, you might feel this even more strongly. 

However, you have to remember that it’s impossible to learn without making mistakes. And if there’s someone who can point out those mistakes for you, it will really accelerate your learning process! 

Whenever possible, try to frame feedback and corrections as a tool, an ally that allows you to increase the pace of your learning. With time, you’ll become more appreciative of them, and you’ll soon be glad for every opportunity to improve!

2 – Make it fun.

Tell us if you’ve ever had this experience:

You decide to focus on learning something: an instrument, a new drawing technique, a recipe, a complex math challenge… You start working on it and when you finally look at the clock, hours have gone by! “Where did the time go?” you think to yourself. 

This is what happens when you’re in a state of flow, enjoying the process so much that you’re completely involved in it. Those moments of flow normally happen when we’re doing something we like, something challenging but engaging.  

You can apply this concept to your Portuguese-learning, as well! Start by thinking about why you want to learn Portuguese. Whatever your reason is, make it part of your language-learning journey. Here are some examples.

  • Let’s say you want to learn Portuguese because you like the culture of a Portuguese-speaking country. As part of your listening practice, discover a new song every day and listen to it a couple of times.
  • Do you have friends or family from that country? Write a short message talking about your day or asking for news about their life in Portuguese, and send it their way!
  • Maybe you plan to live in a Portuguese-speaking country at some point. Take some time to watch a video about living there, learn about their celebrations and holidays, or visit the official websites for different cities. 

By adding something that makes your heart flutter a little, the process will be much more fun. You can also include some Brazilian jokes, comedy sketches, funny expressions, and hilarious podcasts in your routine, if you’re looking to add some laughs and humor to your learning!

3 – Persistence and consistency are key.

Those two words might be the most important of them all if you’re just starting to learn Portuguese. 

You will have ups and downs. At some points, you might lose your motivation, be short on time, or just want to give up. It’s totally understandable, and we all go through it. 

However, to master any new skill, constant practice is essential. Even if there are days when you only practice one new word, keep going! Your motivation will eventually return, and you’ll be so happy you didn’t give up.

Remember: A little effort every day will take you a long way!

Do You Dream of Visiting a Portuguese-speaking Country?

5. Why is PortuguesePod101 Great for Learning Portuguese?

By now, we hope you’re ready to embark on the exciting, challenging, and fun journey of learning this language. It’s not always going to be easy, but you’re going to love it. If you want an easy way to learn the Portuguese language, PortuguesePod101 might be exactly the ally you need!

1 – Freebies

Regardless of your current Portuguese knowledge, you can benefit from the free content available on PortuguesePod101.com. Every day, you can get a Daily Dose of Portuguese sent straight to your email inbox! As we mentioned before, consistency is an essential part of your language-learning journey, and daily contact with it is very helpful. 

Our vocabulary lists are also a great tool, as they help you practice your pronunciation and listening skills. Learn key phrases and the most common words in Portuguese, all for free.

2 – Tailor-made lessons

With PortuguesePod101, you can find lessons that suit your specific needs and current abilities. Advance your learning journey with pathways and lessons that fit your preferences. Are you looking to accelerate your reading & writing skills? There’s a pathway for you. Perhaps you prefer using only video resources? You can filter your lessons and find exactly the type of activity that works best for you. 

Most importantly, we offer lessons that include different skills, so you can approach Portuguese learning in a holistic way!

Whether you’re a beginner or are looking to get back into the groove of learning Portuguese, you can find useful resources on PortuguesePod101.com.

3 – Mobile app 

Do you like to learn on the go? You can find PortuguesePod101’s app in the major app stores, like Google Play and the App Store, and on Kindle Fire. 

This will allow you to take notes, track your progress, and continue learning from anywhere! Even if you need to be offline, you can still access your lessons thanks to the Download Manager integrated into the app.

4 – MyTeacher service

If you’re ready to take your Portuguese to the next level, you might want to consider the premium personal coaching offered through MyTeacher. This service connects you to a private Portuguese tutor who will help you advance more quickly. By offering personalized feedback, exercises that fit your current abilities, and opportunities to improve where you need to, MyTeacher is guaranteed to give you a push.

Put your listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills into practice with a native Portuguese tutor with this exclusive service!

Ready to Speak Portuguese and Have a Great Time?

6. Get Down to Business with PortuguesePod101

Hopefully, this guide has shown you how easy learning Portuguese can be, even though there are a few challenges along the way. Being motivated and consistent, and most importantly, having fun, are sure to make the process more enjoyable and manageable for you! 

Learning Portuguese is an amazing decision, and we hope to help you do it. If you feel you’ve learned something new after reading this guide, tell us in the comments! Do you feel ready to start or get back to learning Portuguese now? Did we miss some important aspect you wish we had covered? We want to hear from you. 

Be sure to check the free Portuguese resources available on PortuguesePod101.com. There are plenty of vocabulary lists to train your ears! Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.

If you want to take your learning experience further, members of PortuguesePod101.com get access to the largest language lesson library in the world, with thousands of real lessons by real teachers offered through MyTeacher. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn from anywhere, feel motivated, and be ready to speak Portuguese with confidence.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Portuguese

The Top 10 Common Mistakes in Portuguese to Avoid

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Most people would agree that Portuguese is a complicated language. Add to this the sheer number of people speaking the language around the world, and making mistakes in Portuguese is actually pretty common! Even native speakers confuse certain grammar rules or use the wrong word when trying to show off their vocabulary. As you move along in your Portuguese-learning journey, you’re bound to make some errors yourself…and that’s part of the process! 

Mistakes are actually an important part of improving your language skills, and they also provide an amazing opportunity to engage with native speakers and get feedback. Besides, the entire process of understanding why something is wrong and working to address it is a valuable skill you can use in other domains of your life! So see the mistakes for what they are: a completely normal and essential part of learning Portuguese. 

This article will help you understand what some of the most common mistakes are and how to correct them. From pronunciation tips to grammar rules and vocabulary mishaps, we’ll cover every mistake in Portuguese you need to know and how to fix or avoid them! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Portuguese Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. In the Real World
  6. The King of All Mistakes
  7. Learn More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

Stressed Woman Holding Her Head with Her Hand

Worried about Portuguese mistakes? Don’t sweat it!

1. Pronunciation Mistakes

Most sounds in Portuguese are familiar to English-speakers. That’s great news! But a few peculiar Portuguese sounds can be challenging to master, and therefore, pronunciation mistakes are quite common for foreigners. However, this kind of error in Portuguese is fairly easy to spot, so you should have no problems as you work to improve your pronunciation skills and get over these common mistakes. 

1 – Nasal Sounds

Nasal sounds are all about…you guessed it, the nose. More specifically, the air released through the nose. If it sounds odd, just think about what happens when you hum: you naturally force the release of air through the nose, as you make the sound. That’s exactly what should happen when you pronounce a nasal sound, only now, your mouth should be open.

In Portuguese, you’ll encounter nasal sounds in certain situations:

  • When the ~ (til) is used: Ã and Õ
       For example: maçã (“apple”), pão (“bread”), leões (“lions”)
  • When a vowel is followed by an M or N.
       For example: mentira (“lie”), cantar (“to sing”), atum (“tuna”)

The best way to get the hang of nasal sounds is to do a lot of listening and speaking practice. 

2 – Open and Closed Vowels

A single vowel can have both open and closed sounds in Portuguese. Sometimes, the accent mark used will clearly indicate how to pronounce it, although that’s not always the case.

VowelExamplePronounce as in the word
APapa (“Pope”)“Father”
EMel (“Honey”)Chapéu (“Hat”)“Get”
Closed EVocê (“You”)Mesmo (“Same”)“Way”
IIlha (“Island”)“Penny
OPorta (“Door”)Órbita (“Orbit”)“Got”
Closed OFolha (“Leaf”)Robô (“Robot”)“Most”
ULuz (“Light”)“Flu

When you see the acute accent (´), like in the word chapéu (“hat”), expect to encounter an open vowel sound. On the other hand, the circumflex accent (^), like the one in você (“you”), indicates a closed vowel sound. In this case, the vowel should be pronounced with the lips slightly more closed. 

Another thing to keep in mind when you encounter accents is that they indicate which syllable should be stressed or emphasized when pronouncing it.

3 – Intonation

Intonation is particularly important in differentiating between questions and statements. In Portuguese, it’s possible to use the same sentence structure to do both things, changing only the intonation.

If your question uses any of the question words—such as quem (“who”), quando (“when”), onde (“where”), and others—it’s easier to identify a question. Of course, intonation is still an important aspect even in those cases. But it really bears weight when you don’t use question words at all.

Luckily, the intonation you have to adopt is the same as in English: raise your voice at the end of the sentence to make it sound like a question. If you’re curious to learn all the details and nuances of Brazilian Portuguese intonation and sound very scholarly next time you discuss the topic, here’s an entire academic study about it!

A Group of Friends Chatting with Drinks

Master Portuguese pronunciation and feel confident!

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

Another type of mistake Portuguese-learners and native speakers alike make relates to vocabulary. Sometimes, we’re just excited to use a new word and don’t really understand its nuanced meaning. Let’s see how to avoid some of the most common Portuguese vocabulary mistakes.

1 – False Friends

There are many Portuguese words that might look familiar to an English-speaker, and in some cases, those similar words have the same meaning. For example, família translates to “family,” universo means “universe,” and elefante is “elephant.”

Unfortunately, not every word that looks the same actually has the same meaning. That’s exactly the case with false friends. Those tricky words appear to be the same or very similar, but their meanings are different. Here are some common examples of false friends to keep in mind.

False friendsWhat you should say instead
Amassar = “to crush”Acumular = “to amass”
Entender = “to understand”Pretender = “to intend”
Pretender = “to intend”Fingir = “to pretend”
Assumir = “to take over”Presumir = “to assume”
Avisar = “to warn”Aconselhar = “to advise”
Advertir = “to warn”Anunciar = “to advertise”
Pular = “to jump”Puxar = “to pull”
Puxar = “to pull”Empurrar = “to push”
Suportar = “to withstand,” “to tolerate”Apoiar = “to support”
Assistir = “to watch”Ajudar = “to assist”
Enrolar = “to roll up”Inscrever = “to enroll”
Recordar = “to remember,” “to recall”Gravar = “to record”
Resumir = “to summarize”Continuar = “to resume”
Noticiar = “to inform,” “to report”Reparar, Perceber = “to notice”
Procurar = “to look for”Obter, Adquirir = “to procure”

False friends continuedWhat you should say instead
Balcão = “counter”Sacada = “balcony”
Taxa = “rate,” “fee”Imposto = “tax”
Recipiente = “container”Beneficiário = “recipient”
Atualmente = “currently”Na realidade = “actually”
Costume = “habit”Fantasia = “costume”
Educado = “polite”Instruído = “educated”
Estrangeiro = “foreigner”Estranho = “stranger”
Parentes = “relatives”Pais = “parents”
Novela = “soap opera” Romance = “novel” 
Êxito = “success”Saída = “exit”
Lanche = “snack”Almoço = “lunch”
Legenda = “subtitles”Lenda = “legend”
Injúria = “insult”Ferimento = “injury”
Livraria = “bookshop”Biblioteca = “library”
Esperto = “clever”Especialista = “expert”

2 – Similar Portuguese Words

One letter or one extra space can make all the difference in meaning. Some pairs of words are prone to causing a lot of confusion, especially when writing. Check them out:

Mas = “but”Mais = “more,” “plus”
Mal = “badly” – an adverb or nounMau = “bad,” “evil” – an adjective
Bem = “well” – antonym of mal Bom = “good” – antonym of mau
Agente = “agent”A gente = “us,” “we”

Besides the pairs listed above, there’s a group of similar words that gets people confused:

  • Por que = “why”
    Por que não vamos no cinema hoje? (“Why are we not going to the movie theater today?”)
  • Porque = “because”
    Porque seu pai está doente. (“Because your father is sick.”)
  • Por quê = “why” – at the end of the sentence or as a stand-alone sentence
    Você desistiu, por quê? (“You gave up, why?”)
    Por quê? (“Why?”)
  • Porquê = “the reason why”
    O porquê eu não sei. (“The reason why, I don’t know.”)

And as a bonus, if you want to really impress your Portuguese-speaking friends, you can explain to them the difference between these expressions that sound exactly the same:

  • Acerca de = “about”
  • Há cerca de = “about this long ago” (state how long right after)
  • A cerca de = “the fence of” (yes, as in a physical property limit)
A Man in a Suit Holding a Question Mark Sign in Front of His Face

False friends and similar-looking words can cause a lot of confusion.

3. Word Order Mistakes

Putting words in the right order is just as important as choosing the right words! 

As a quick recap, remember that Portuguese follows the Subject + Verb + Object structure. That said, let’s jump right into the most common word order mistakes.

1 – Adjectives

Most of the time, the adjective comes after the noun it refers to. For example:

  • Eu gosto de vinho tinto. (“I like red wine.”)
  • Ela não come comidas picantes. (“She doesn’t eat spicy food.”)

If you inverted the word order in those examples, the sentences wouldn’t make sense. However, because Portuguese is never completely straightforward, there are some exceptions! 

Sometimes, the adjective can come before the noun. Below are a couple of tips to help you know where the adjective should go.

  • When the adjective is adding an objective or direct attribute to the noun, place it afterwards:
    Ganhei um presente grande. (“I got a big gift.”) – a large gift
  • When the adjective is adding a more subjective, connotative, or even poetic attribute to the noun, it can be placed beforehand:
    Ganhei um grande presente. (“I got a great gift.”)

Unfortunately, this is not a rule that works every time. 

  • Seu livro antigo (“Your old book”)
  • Seu antigo livro (“Your old book”)

As you can see above, both sentences work and the meaning does not change. With time and practice, knowing the position of the adjective will become more natural to you. But in case you have any doubts, opt to place it after the substantive!

2 – Position of Reflexive Pronouns

When we use certain verbs in Portuguese, it’s necessary to use reflexive pronouns. Because many Portuguese reflexive verbs are not reflexive in English, this causes some confusion. Thus, the improper placement of reflexive pronouns is an error Portuguese-learners make often! 

In Brazil, you’ll usually hear people placing the reflexive pronoun before the verb. However, it’s also correct to place the pronoun after the verb, and this is very common in Portugal. Compare both forms below:

  • Eles se banharam. (“They bathed.”)
  • Eles banharam-se. (“They bathed.”)

We suggest that you learn and use the first form, as it’s simpler and will be widely understood. So, remember that the pronoun goes immediately before the verb.

  • Nós nos conhecemos na festa. (“We met each other at the party.”)
  • Eu não me arrumei. (“I didn’t get ready.”)
  • Eles se odiaram assim que se conheceram. (“They hated each other as soon as they met.”)

A Chef about to Cut a Yellow Cake

Um bolo amarelo (“A yellow cake”), not um amarelo bolo.

→ Discover more about the Top 5 Portuguese Mistakes to Avoid on PortuguesePod101.com!

4. Grammar Mistakes

Oh, grammar. Not the coolest kid on the block, we have to admit. But by understanding and avoiding these common mistakes, your Portuguese will improve by leaps and bounds!

1 – Gender Agreement

Nouns in Portuguese can be masculine or feminine, even when it doesn’t really make sense—who says a knife is female? Regardless, this is how Portuguese grammar works. Keeping this gender factor in mind, the article that comes before the noun has to agree with the gender.

As a rule of thumb, most words that end in -a are feminine, and most words that end in -o are masculine. Take a look: 

Feminine words
  • A mesa (“the table”)
  • A casa (“the house”)
  • A ideia (“the idea”)
  • Uma cama (“a bed”)
  • Uma escova (“a brush”)
  • Uma máquina (“a machine”)
Masculine words
  • O barco (“the boat”)
  • O pato (“the duck”)
  • O tronco (“the trunk”)
  • Um colchão (“a mattress”)
  • Um garfo (“a fork”)
  • Um livro (“a book”)

Of course, there are always exceptions in Portuguese. For example:

  • Dia (“day”) is masculine → O dia (“the day”)
  • Planeta (“planet”) is masculine → Um planeta (“a planet”)

If the words don’t end in -a or -o, it’s a matter of looking it up online and trying to remember as best as you can!

  • A colher (“the spoon”)
  • O mar (“the sea”)
  • A cruz (“the cross”)
  • O rapaz (“the guy,” “the boy”)

You might also come across words that have both genders or vary in gender depending on their meaning. 

  • Mascote (“mascot”) may have either gender → A mascote (feminine); o mascote (masculine)
  • Rádio (“radio”) changes gender → A rádio (“the radio station,” feminine word); o rádio (device used to listen to radio stations, masculine word)

It might look a bit complicated at first, but don’t give up! With time, it will become easier and easier to master the gender of words in Portuguese.

2 – To Be or Not to Be: Ser vs. Estar

Unlike in English, in Portuguese, we have two verbs that mean “to be”: ser and estar. At first, it may be quite confusing for you, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never make this mistake again!

Here’s the trick: Think of the difference between the two verbs in terms of permanence and impermanence.

You can be something permanently (or at least for a long time): a nationality or profession. In this case, use the verb ser.

  • Eu sou médico. (“I am a doctor.”)
  • Eu sou alta. (“I am tall.”)

Or you can be something for a short period of time (temporarily): you can be cold, you can be sunblind, or you can be in school. In this case, use the verb estar.

  • Você está bem? (“Are you alright?”)
  • Eu estou nervosa. (“I am nervous.”)

The verb estar is also commonly used as an auxiliary verb in continuous tenses, when you want to say that you “were doing” or “are doing” something.

  •  Eu estou saindo agora. (“I am leaving now.”)
  • Você estava contando uma história. (“You were telling a story.”)

3 – Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives

When making comparisons in Portuguese, there are some rules you should follow:

  • More than → mais [adjective] que
  • Less than, fewer than → menos [adjective] que 

However, some of the most common comparative adjectives are irregular. On the positive side, they’re not all that different from the irregular comparatives in English.

  • Bigger than → maior
  • Smaller than → menor
  • Better than → melhor que
  • Worse than → pior que

Now you know you should never say mais bom!

What about the superlatives? In some ways, handling these can be easier in Portuguese than in English. Instead of having different superlatives for each adjective, you can add one of the following expressions:

  • O mais [adjective] O mais alto (“The tallest” – male)
  • A mais [adjective] → A mais alta (“The tallest”- female)
  • O menos [adjective] → O menos engraçado (“The least funny” – male)
  • A menos [adjective] → A menos engraçada (“The least funny” – female)

The exceptions are the same adjectives mentioned before:

  • The biggest → o maior
  • The smallest → o menor
  • The best → o melhor
  • The worst → o pior 

Portuguese does have more superlatives than those listed above. However, they’re not frequently used in colloquial conversation, so for the scope of this article, we won’t discuss them.

A Girl Trying on Shoes at a Shoe Store

Preciso de um sapato maior. (“I need a bigger shoe.”)

5. In the Real World

When covering common Portuguese mistakes, we also have to address some of the real-life situations you might face. Like every other language, Portuguese is constantly evolving and changing. As you travel around Brazil and meet native speakers from different parts of the country, you might notice that spoken Portuguese has many “incorrect” formations. 

There’s a rich and complex discussion around this topic, with experts and researchers arguing that there’s no one right way to speak a language, and that there’s no one way that’s better than another. 

Why is this important? Well, you might be puzzled when hearing some grammatically incorrect phrases from native Portuguese-speakers, and it’s important to recognize when they’re acceptable.

To highlight this point, take the case of using tu and você. Both words translate to “you” and both are second person singular pronouns. However, when using você, verbs are conjugated in the third person singular. 

  • Você é alto. (“You are tall.”)
  • Tu és alto. (“You are tall.”)

The examples above are officially correct. But in some parts of Brazil, like the state of Rio Grande do Sul, tu is conjugated in the third person singular (like você). Although not dictionary-perfect, we can hardly say that they’re making a mistake. This is just an historical evolution in the spoken Portuguese of the region. 

Depending on where in Brazil you want to go or which form (and accent) of Portuguese you prefer learning, you might end up discovering interesting variations of the spoken language. 

6. The King of All Mistakes

We’ve covered all kinds of common Portuguese mistakes so far, from pronunciation to word order and grammar. 

But you know what? The biggest mistake of them all is being afraid of making mistakes. Many studies have already shown that making mistakes is essential in improving one’s learning. So when the fear of making mistakes stops you from trying, experimenting, saying the wrong thing, or using the wrong word order…you’re actually robbing yourself of another learning opportunity. 

Just think about it. When we make mistakes, our attention focuses on how to correct those errors. It also makes us want to understand why it was incorrect and focus our efforts on improving. On the other hand, when we’re right, there’s a sense of not having to be in our sharpest state of mind. 

This is true in many different areas of our lives, but this is especially true when it comes to learning a new language. After all, we need to use different mechanisms in our brain, such as recalling things from memory and associating words and sounds with images in our mind. This requires practice—lots and lots of practice. 

So if there’s one main takeaway from this article, let it be this: Go forth and make mistakes! Afterwards, try to understand those mistakes and work hard to overcome them…and then make other mistakes!

If this concept still makes you cringe a little, here are three handy tips to help you feel better and bounce back quicker when you make mistakes.

1. Welcome corrections. Whenever you get a chance to talk with other Portuguese-speakers, ask them to point out your mistakes. Since you’re asking for corrections, it will feel more comfortable. 

2. Try to use the correct form after identifying a mistake, to solidify the correct form in your mind.

3. Talk openly about errors. By talking about your most common difficulties and mistakes with peers, you’ll encourage them to adopt a positive mindset about mistakes and feel better about your own.

Young People Having a Celebration Party

Celebrate your mistakes! They’re an important part of your journey.

7. Learn More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

We really hope this article helped you identify some common Portuguese mistakes you might be making. But even more importantly, we hope it has changed the way you think about making mistakes! Be proud of your errors—and the improvement that follows as you continue on your language-learning journey. Come back to this article whenever you need some encouragement or want to refresh your memory.

What did you think about the mistakes we covered today? Do you think we forgot an important aspect? Tell us in the comments!

To take your skills to the next level, continue exploring PortuguesePod101.com! There are lots of free Portuguese resources and vocabulary lists to prepare you for any situation. Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.

If you want to take your learning experience further, members of PortuguesePod101.com get access to the largest language lesson library in the world, with thousands of real lessons by real teachers. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn from anywhere, feel motivated, and be ready to speak Portuguese with confidence. 

Happy learning!

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Brazilian Portuguese Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Brazilian Portuguese

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Portuguese! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Portuguese keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Portuguese Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Portuguese
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Portuguese
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Portuguese on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Portuguese Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. Portuguese Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing Portuguese

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Portuguese

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Portuguese language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Portuguese websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Portuguese teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Portuguese

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Portuguese. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Portuguese, so all text will appear in Portuguese. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Portuguese on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Portuguese language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Português (Brasil).” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as Portuguese (Brazil) with the note “language pack available”.
  3. Click on “Português (Brasil)” > “Opções” > “Baixar.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “Português (Brasil).” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Clock, Language, and Region.

2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”

3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Portuguese (Brazil).”

4. Expand the option of “Portuguese (Brazil)” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “Portuguese (Brazil).” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “Portuguese,” and add the “Brazilian” keyboard.

Adding a system language

5. Activating the Portuguese Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Portuguese will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Portuguese keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select “Portuguese (Brazil)” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “Português (Brasil)” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, these are a few good apps to consider:

6. Portuguese Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in Portuguese can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your Portuguese keyboard on mobile.

1. When Gboard keyboard is activated on your mobile phone, also activate the language “Português (Brasil)” (QWERTY). Then, to use the accented letters, press the selected vowel for more than one second and the accented options will be shown (for example, á, à, ã, ó, ô, etc). Select the desired accented letter. 

2. The same applies for the cedilla, diacritical mark (,) placed under the letter c; press “c” for more than one second and the accented option will be shown, “ç,” so you can select it.

7. How to Practice Typing Portuguese

As you probably know by now, learning Portuguese is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Portuguese typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a PortuguesePod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Portuguese keyboard to do this!

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Your Guide to Talking About Family in Portuguese

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Whether it’s a Christmas celebration, a birthday party, or a simple barbecue (churrasco!), there’s a family gathering just about every month in Brazil. Yes, those events where small cousins are running around, grandmother asks about your love life, and there’s more food than people can handle.

Learning how to talk about family in Portuguese is essential, even if you don’t attend one of these family gatherings in Brazil (which we recommend you do!). After all, this is a topic that always comes up in conversations. People will ask you about your family, or tell you stories about their own family involving multiple relatives.

In this article, we’ll go over the vocabulary you need to know to talk about all kinds of families, as well as family-related words in Portuguese. We’ll also see some examples of sentences and questions related to family in Portuguese. But first, let’s go over family values in Portuguese-speaking Brazil and more information on family structures. Ready?

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Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to Brazilian Families
  2. The Basics of the Nuclear Family
  3. The Relatives You See at Christmas
  4. The New Family: Couples
  5. Extending the New Family: In-laws
  6. Blended Families
  7. Showing Affection: Endearment Terms
  8. Learn More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

1. An Introduction to Brazilian Families

Family Words

Brazilians tend to have very tight-knit relationships with their families. Family definitely continues to be a strong institution in Brazil, and that’s why it’s always one of the first topics in a conversation. Overall, Brazilians are collectivistic, and it’s not uncommon to see several generations living in the same household or very close by.

Of course, we can’t forget that the local culture also lends a lot of importance to celebrations where the whole family comes together to enjoy each other’s company, great food, and music.

Although the family size in Brazil has diminished over the past several years, it’s still common to see numerous families with plenty of children, cousins, uncles, and aunts. This is especially true in smaller cities and rural areas; families in cosmopolitan regions tend to have fewer children.

Unlike in some other cultures, there aren’t different ways to refer to family members in Portuguese based on their age. What does happen a lot in Brazil is the use of a diminutive suffix at the end of words to indicate affection. You’ll see some examples further along. In addition to that, there are other endearment terms and nicknames that Brazilians use to refer to family members with extra fondness.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Portuguese is a language that tends to use the masculine form when dealing with plurals. This characteristic relates directly to Brazilian society, which is largely patriarchal. We’ll discuss the plurals a bit later in this article as well!

A Father, Grandfather, and Son Smiling for a Photo

Three generations: avô (“grandfather”), pai (“father”), and filho (“son”).

2. The Basics of the Nuclear Family

Let’s start with the basic vocabulary for talking about your immediate family in Portuguese. It might look like a lot of new words, but we’ll put it all in context with some example sentences!

We’ll start by answering the most important question: How do you say “family” in Portuguese?

Família “Family”
Parentes “Relatives”
Mãe “Mother”
Pai “Father”
Pais “Parents”
Irmã “Sister”
Irmão “Brother”
Irmãos “Siblings”
Filho “Son”
Filha “Daughter”
Filhos “Children”

As you can see in the vocabulary table above, when we’re talking about the plural for parents, children, or siblings, we use the masculine form:

  • Pai (“father” ) → Pais (“parents” )
  • Irmão (“brother” ) → Irmãos (“brothers” or “siblings” )
  • Filho (“son” )→ Filhos (“sons” or “children” )

However, if you already know that the siblings or children are all female, then you can use the feminine plural irmãs (“sisters”). If you don’t know, or if there are both male and female siblings, then use the masculine form irmãos (“brothers”). In fact, this plural rule applies to all plurals in Portuguese, so keep that in mind going forward!

Now that you already know the family terms in Portuguese for talking about siblings or children, how can you add more details? Take a look at the words and expressions below.

Mais novo / nova “Younger”
O mais novo/a mais nova, caçula “The youngest”
Mais velho / velha “Eldest”
O mais velho / a mais velha “The eldest”
Do meio “Middle” (child or sibling)
Filho único / filha única “Single child” (male) / (female)
Gêmeos / gêmeas “Twins”

Great, you’ve just learned a bunch of new vocabulary! You might be wondering how these new words look in a real-life sentence. We’ve got you covered:

  • Meu filho mais novo (“My youngest son” )
  • Ele é o caçula. (“He is the youngest.” )
  • Eu sou a irmã do meio. (“I am the middle daughter.” )
  • Ela é a filha mais velha. (“She is the oldest daughter.” )
  • Tenho dois irmãos mais velhos. (“I have two older siblings/brothers.” )
  • Eu vivo com meus pais. (“I live with my parents.” )
  • Ele não tem filhos. (“He doesn’t have children.” )
  • Os almoços de família são sempre cheios de parentes. (“The family lunches are always full of relatives.” )

When talking to a Portuguese speaker, the conversation about family could go a bit like this:

A: Como está a sua família? (“How’s your family?” )
B: Estão todos bem. E sua mãe? (“Everyone is doing well. How about your mother?l” )
A: Ela está melhor, obrigado. Você tem irmãos, não é? (“She is better, thank you. You have siblings, right?” )
B: Tenho sim! Um irmão mais novo e uma irmã mais velha. (“I do! A younger brother and an older sister.” )
A: Legal! Eu sou filho único. Meus pais nunca quiseram mais filhos. (“Cool! I am an only child. My parents never wanted more children.” )

A Large Family Lunch

3. The Relatives You See at Christmas

As we explained before, Brazilians tend to be very close to their relatives, and family gatherings or reunions are a big affair.

Avó “Grandmother”
Avô “Grandfather”
Avós “Grandparents”
Bisavó “Great-grandmother”
Bisavô “Great-grandfather”
Bisavós “Great-grandparents”
Neto “Grandson”
Neta “Granddaughter”
Netos/Netas “Grandchildren”
Tio “Uncle”
Tia “Aunt”
Tios “Uncles” or plural form of “uncles + aunts”
Tias “Aunts”

Note that the first plurals in the table above sound “feminine,” even though the plural favors males as explained previously. This is only a matter of making the word sound more pleasant.

/!\ Tio (“uncle” ) and tia (“aunt” ) are also used to informally refer to friends’ parents or other adults.

Primo “Cousin” (male)
Prima “Cousin” (female)
Primos “Cousins”
Sobrinho “Nephew”
Sobrinha “Niece”
Sobrinhos “Nephews” or plural form of “nephews + nieces”
Sobrinhas “Nieces”
Madrinha “Godmother”v
Padrinho “Godfather”
Padrinhos “Godparents”
Afilhado “Godson”
Afilhada “Goddaughter”

Check out some examples of dialogues including questions and answers using the new vocabulary.

A: Você tem padrinhos? (“Do you have godparents?” )
B: Sim! Minha madrinha é uma amiga da minha avó. Meu padrinho é meu tio, irmão mais velho do meu pai. (“Yes! My godmother is one of my grandmother’s friends. My godfather is my uncle, my father’s oldest brother.” )
A: Legal! Quantos tios você tem, só um? (“Cool! How many uncles do you have, only one?” )
B: Por parte de pai, só um. Por parte de mãe, tenho um tio e dua tias. (“From my father’s side, only one. From my mother’s side, I have one uncle and two aunts.” )

Another example dialogue:

A: Como foi a festa de aniversário do seu sobrinho? (“How was your nephew’s birthday party?” )
B: Foi muito boa! Todos meus primos estavam lá, então deu pra ver todo mundo! (“It was very good! All of my cousins were there, so I could see everyone!” )
A: E seus avós, eles foram? (“How about your grandparents, did they go?” )
B: Minha avó, sim. Mas meu avô ficou em casa cuidando da minha bisavó. (“My grandmother did. But my grandfather stayed home taking care of my great-grandmother.” )
A: Ah, entendi. (“Oh, I see.” )
B: Mas minha avó ficou feliz de ver todos os netos e netas. (“But my grandmother was happy to see all of her grandchildren.” )

A Grandmother Being Kissed By Her Grandchildren

Avó e netos (“Grandmother and grandchildren” )

Listen to the pronunciation for the must-know family terms on PortuguesePod101!

4. The New Family: Couples

Beyond the immediate family ties, you also have to learn how to talk about the new family members a married person acquires!

With the new words you’ll see below, you’ll be able to talk about love and passionate relationships. This way, if you need to DTR (define the relationship) in Portuguese, you’ll have nothing to fear!

Here’s how to talk about newly acquired members of the family in Portuguese, and how to define certain relationships.

Casal “Couple”
Esposo / Marido “Husband”
Esposa / Mulher “Wife”
Casados “Married”
Noivo “Fiancé” / “Groom”
Noiva “Fiancée” / “Bride”
Noivos “Engaged couple”
Namorado “Boyfriend”
Namorada “Girlfriend”
Namorados “Dating couple”
Parceiro “Partner” (male)
Parceira “Partner” (female)
Ex “Ex”
Divorciado “Divorced” (male)
Divorciada “Divorced” (female)
Amante “Lover”
Amantes “Lovers”
Viúvo “Widower”
Viúva “Widow”

Here’s a dialogue example filled with real-life phrases you might hear in Portuguese:

A: Finalmente vou conhecer a sua namorada? (“Will I finally meet your girlfriend?” )
B: Namorada, não. Mas a minha noiva sim! (“Girlfriend, no. But my fiancée, yes!” )
A: Não acredito! (“I don’t believe it!” )
B: Acredite! Tenho uma foto dela, olha. (“Believe it! I have a picture of her, look.” )
A: Ah, muito mais bonita do que sua ex-esposa. Fazem um casal lindo! (“Oh, she is much prettier than your ex-wife. You make a beautiful couple!” )

A Couple Arriving at the House of Someone Else

O casal chegou! (“The couple arrived!” )

→ If love is in the air, you might want to learn these love phrases with PortuguesePod101!

5. Extending the New Family: In-laws

Once the family expands, you’ll have to get used to many more family members! Nothing to worry about, though. In real life, the in-laws tend to be less scary than in the movies.

In Portuguese, it’s not as easy as simply adding “-in-law” to already familiar words. So take your time to practice and understand these different words for the extended family in Portuguese!

Sogro “Father-in-law”
Sogra “Mother-in-law”
Sogros “Parents-in-law” or plural for “father-in-law + mother-in-law”

Genro “Son-in-law”
Nora “Daughter-in-law”
Cunhado “Brother-in-law”
Cunhada “Sister-in-law”

For example:

  • Manda um beijo para a sua sogra. (“Send a kiss to your mother-in-law.” )
  • Quantos cunhados você tem? (“How many brothers-in-law do you have?” )
  • Meu genro é muito inteligente. (“My son-in-law is very smart.” )

5. Blended Families

Like in many other countries, the family structure is changing rapidly in Brazil. The term “blended family” refers to cases where one or both of the spouses have children from other relationships. That means more family relations and more words to discover!

Here’s a list of words you can use to describe these family ties in Portuguese:

Padrasto “Stepfather”
Madrasta “Stepmother”
Enteado “Stepson”
Enteada “Stepdaughter”
Enteados “Stepchildren”
Meia-irmã “Half-sister”
Meio-irmão “Half-brother”
Meio-irmãos “Half-siblings”
Irmã do outro casamento “Stepsister,” literally translating to “sister from another marriage”
Irmão do outro casamento “Stepbrother,” literally translating to “brother from another marriage”
Irmãos do outro casamento “Step-siblings”

As you can see, the terms for step-siblings are a mouthful. As a result, they’re not used very often, and it’s common to just use the words irmão (“brother”), irmã (“sister”), or irmãos (“siblings” ) to refer to step-siblings.

Here are some examples:

  • Eu gosto da minha madrasta. (“I like my stepmother.” )
  • Nossos meio-irmãos são mais novos. (“Our half-siblings are younger.” )
  • A sua enteada tem quantos anos? (“How old is your stepdaughter?” )

A Family Having Fun at the Beach

A família foi para a praia (“The family went to the beach” )

6. Showing Affection: Endearment Terms

As we said before, family relations are very important and central to Brazilian culture. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of endearment terms used to refer to some of the family members we covered in this article.

Why don’t we play a game, then? Take a look at the words below and try to guess what family member each term refers to. After you’re done, scroll down to get the answers!

Mamãe
Papai
Vovó
Vovô
Dinda
Dindo
Bisa
Biso
Titio
Titia

Hey, no cheating!

But if you’re done, here’s the translation for each word:

Mamãe “Mommy”
Papai “Dad”
Vovó “Grandma”
Vovô “Grandpa”
Dinda Endearment term for “godmother”
Dindo Endearment term for “godfather”
Bisa Endearment term for “great-grandmother”
Biso Endearment term for “great-grandfather”
Titio Endearment term for “uncle”
Titia “Auntie,” endearment term for “aunt”

In addition to the terms listed above, it’s very common to use the diminutive ending to convey affection. For the cases we’re discussing in this article, the endings are:

  • -inho for masculine words
  • -inha for feminine words

And here are some examples of endearment terms with the diminutive ending.

  • Mãe (“mother” ) → Mãezinha
  • Pai (“father” ) → Paizinho
  • Avó (“grandmother” ) → Vózinha
  • Avô (“grandfather” ) → Vôzinho
  • Vovó (“grandma” ) → Vovózinha
  • Vovô (“grandpa” ) → Vovôzinho
  • Prima (“cousin” female ) → Priminha
  • Primo (“cousin” male ) → Priminho
  • Tia (“aunt” ) → Tiazinha
  • Tio (“uncle” ) → Tiozinho
  • Neta (“granddaughter” ) → Netinha
  • Neto (“grandson” ) → Netinho

In some places in the north and/or the northeast of Brazil, you can also hear the following endearment terms:

  • Mainha (“mom”; exclusive to the Northeast)
  • Painho (“dad”; exclusive to the Northeast)
  • Mana / Maninha (“sis” / “sister” )
  • Mano / Maninho (“bro” / “brother” )
  • Maninha (“little sister” )
  • Maninho (“little brother” )

/!\ While in the north and northeast of Brazil, mano and mana are used to refer to blood relations, those words can also be used as slang throughout Brazil. Context will be your best friend when you encounter those words!

An Elderly Man with His Grandson

Avôzinho e netinho (“Grandfather and his little grandson” )

7. Learn More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

We hope this complete guide to talking about family in Portuguese was helpful to you! Now you’re ready to engage in conversation about family members and tell old family tales like a native Portuguese speaker. If you want to take it a step further, practice the pronunciation of the terms and words you learned today.

Were the examples we presented useful? Did we miss any important words you wanted to learn? Let us know in the comments! And remember that you can come back to this article whenever you need to and refresh your memory.

Now it’s time to continue on your language-learning journey! There are more free Portuguese resources and a variety of vocabulary lists available on PortuguesePod101.com. Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.

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