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© 2014 Shashank Rao
Aprende o Português!
By Shashank Rao
© 2014 Shashank Rao
Secção 1: Intro to Portuguese
Portuguese is a Romance language spoken primarily in Brazil and Portugual, as well as several
countries in Africa. Portuguese bears many similarities to Spanish, and many people who
Spanish often learn Portuguese with relative ease. In learning Portuguese, you will be able to
converse primarily with the people of two culturally diverse nations.
If you don’t already know, there are two forms of spoken Portuguese that are widely taught in
schools that teach Portuguese: European and Brazilian. Contrary to popular opinion, the two
variants are not as mutually intelligible as one might expect. Over the centuries, the two variants
have drifted apart considerably, to such an extent that they are only intelligible on a very basic
level. This guide will address only these two variants, as what is called Continental Portuguese,
the standard spoken in countries in Africa, is largely reminiscent of European Portuguese in
grammar, but is pronounced more like Brazilian Portuguese. Now that we have the history out of
the way, let’s get started on pronunciation!
j = French j sound
lh = Same as Italian gli
nh = Spanish ñ
ç = s sound
s = s sound at the beginning of words, z sound between vowels, and sometimes sh sound at the
end of words
sc = Relatively rare, and if it’s before a weak vowel, it is pronounced as the s sound, but if it’s
before a strong vowel, it’s pronounced as the sk sound.
ch = sh sound
g = French j sound before weak vowels
h = silent
x = sh sound before o and consonants, the x sound before most other vowels, and the s sound
before i sometimes; Brazilian Portuguese speakers often pronounce it as s most of the time
m = nasalized at the end of words (Note: the ending -am is pronounced a bit like the ow sound)
r = Terminal r’s are silent in Brazil and in Portugal, they are slightly or completely voiced,
depending on the region. Initial r’s are sounded from the throat, like the r in merçi in French.
rr = A sound made from the throat, rather like the French r sound in merçi (In Portugal it is
pronounced this way, but in Brazil, it is pronounced as a voiced h sound)
z = S sound at the end of words, and the English z sound at the beginning of syllables
t = Ch sound before weak vowels (in Brazil)
d = English j sound before weak vowels (in Brazil); Hard th sound between vowels sometimes
n = Nasalized at the end of syllables
© 2014 Shashank Rao
Foreign vowels and rules for vowels:
e - The uh sound when unstressed and non-final, the ay sound when stressed, and the ee sound
when stressed and final (In Portugal, non-stressed is always the uh sound)
o - The o sound when stressed, and the u sound when unstressed
ou - Drawn out, open o sound
oi - The oy sound
õe - Nasalized oi sound
au/ao - The ow sound
ai - Strong i sound (English pronoun I); Note: not a diphthong when before a terminal z, before
nh anywhere in the word, and before l, m, r, or n at the end of a syllable
ãe - Nasalized ai sound
ei - Ay sound in Brazil, and strong i sound in Portugal (Stressed e’s are sometimes pronounced
this way in Portugal)
eu - Eh-oo sound
ue/ui - When before the g or the q sound, ignore the u (So, (g/q)ue sounds as (g/k)eh)
á/à - Puts stress on the vowel (The grave accent only goes on à); Portuguese tends to only mark
stress with an accent if it is necessary to maintain a certain pronunciation, as the stress in most
Portuguese words falls on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable.
ã - Nasalizes vowel
â - Lengthens and closes vowel (say the vowel with a more closed mouth shape)
In European Portuguese, terminal and unstressed a’s and o’s tend to get swallowed up or dropped
off of the word. Sometimes, this is the case with terminal s’s. E’s at the end of syllables, and
especially at the ends of words, can also get dropped off. So, a word like sabe might sound like
sab, floresta like floresht, and so on. European Portuguese also tends to use the sh sound more
often, particularly at the ends of words. A word like sabes might sound like sabsh. Also,
nasalized vowels such as ão are not as pronounced.
Both countries teach children in school of the other country’s way of saying things, though not
extensively. European Portuguese is often described as being more old-fashioned. It actually
bears more resemblance to Spanish than Brazilian Portuguese does. Other variants, such as those
in Africa, have also undergone similar changes. However, this text’s primary concerns are the
Brazilian and European versions. It will be noted now, and at appropriate points in this text, that
European Portuguese is easier to learn in theory than Brazilian Portuguese, if you already know
Spanish. However, Brazilian Portuguese is often said to be easier in practice, because the
Brazilian accent enunciates every sound, whereas the European accent is said to be spoken with a
closed mouth, and can be a little unclear to the untrained ear. It’s up to you which to learn.
Due to the fact there are two Academies of Portuguese, institutions that govern all the fine
aspects and technical rules of Portuguese, one in Brazil and one in Portugal, there are often
disagreements on the way certain things are spelled, said, or formed. The Portuguese Academy
© 2014 Shashank Rao
often preserves older spellings (even if they’re not pronounced) and forms, whereas the Brazilian
Academy prefers more simplified spellings and rules, and Brazilian Portuguese has incorporated
significant contributions from Italian, Spanish, and indigenous languages.
For example, words that include infixes, suffixes, or prefixes of the forms -pt- or -ct-, are the
most disagreed upon. The Portuguese Academy maintains the inclusion of the p and c, whereas
the Brazilian Academy does not. Words such as óptimo in Portugal, are spelled as ótimo in
Brazil. In many words in which the European spelling is like this, the p and c are not
pronounced. Also, in many Brazilian spellings that have circumflex to indicate stress, the
European spelling uses an acute accent. Despite the differences between Portugal and Brazil, the
two Academies work together to narrow down spelling differences between the two countries.
Note: From here, the area of usage for certain words will be marked by (Eu. = European
Portuguese, and Br. = Brazilian Portuguese). Also, a class on Memrise is available for reviewing
vocabulary via flashcards here: http://www.memrise.com/course/369814/aprende-oportugues-vocabulary-review/.
Vocabulary: Basic Phrases
Oi/Olá - Hello (Br./Eu.)
Tchau - Hi (Br. only)
*Eu sou o/a… - I am… (Men use o and Women use a)
O meu nome é… - My name is…
Como você se chama?/Como chamas-te? - What do you call yourself (variant of the above
Como está (você)?/Como estás (tu)? - How are you? (Br./Eu.)
Estou bem. - I’m fine.
(Muito) Obrigado(a). - Thank you (very much). (Men use obrigado and women use obrigada)
Tudo bem? - (Is) everything well/alright? (More common than como está(s) in Portugal)
Tudo (bem). - Affirmative reply to the previous expression.
Mais ou menos. - “More or less.” (Used to indicate being mildly, “under the weather.”)
Prazer (a conhecê-lo). - (A) pleasure./Pleased to meet you.
Muito prazer (a conhecê-lo). - “Much” pleasure./Very pleased to meet you.
Bom dia/tarde/noite. - Good day/afternoon/(evening/night). (Can also be used to say goodbye.)
Tchau/Adeus. - Goodbye. (Br./Eu.)
Até logo/mais. - See you later.
Até amanhã. - See you another day. (amanhã actually means tomorrow, but this phrase can be
used in reference to a point a few days from the present)
Até já. - See you soon.
Até a próxima. - See you next time.
Sim - Yes
Não - No
(Se) faz favor/por favor - please
© 2014 Shashank Rao
Bem-vindo/Boa-vinda - Welcome (male/female) Plurals: Bens-vindos/Boas-vindas (male or
Não há de quê. - You’re welcome.
De onde (você é/tu és)? - Where are you from? (Br./Eu.)
Eu sou de… - I’m from…
Não é? - Isn’t it?/Right? (Often tacked on at the end of sentences as a sort of emphasis, kind of
like no? in English, or na? in some languages. A response to this is often is simply É. This
expression is sometimes shortened to né, especially in informal spoken Brazilian Portuguese.)
(As) congratulações/felicitações! - Congratulations!
É engano. - It’s a mistake. (Used to tell someone they have the wrong number)
É o/a próprio(a). - Speaking. (Said on the phone to indicate the person called is speaking)
Perdão! - Excuse me!
Tá ligado? - Are you connected? (Basically asks for confirmation to whether the other person is
connected, through any electronic medium, but mostly telephone)
*In Portuguese, speakers sometimes use the definite article o and a before someone’s name in
indirect address, to imply some familiarity with that person. You would never use the definite
article before someone’s name in direct address. This is also the case with attaching the definite
article to place names, although an exception is Brazil, with which you must always use the
definite article. For names that are famous, such as Shakespeare or Cervantes, of whom there are
few, if any others, by those names, one does not put o or a before the name.
o futebol - football/soccer
o basquete - basketball
o beisebol - baseball
o futebol americano - American football
a natação - swimming
Vocabulary: Food and Drink
a pizza - pizza
a massa - pasta
o sanduíche - sandwich
a carne - meat
o ovo - egg
a sopa - soup
a fruta - fruit (the food)
o fruto - fruit (figuratively)
a uva - grape
a banana - banana
a maçã - apple
© 2014 Shashank Rao
o repolho - cabbage
a couve - kale/cole
a cenoura - carrot
o suco/sumo - juice (Br./Eu.) - Note: The o in sumo is open, so it sounds as o)
a água - water
o refrigerante - soda (colloquially referred to as o refri)
o vinho - wine
a cerveja - beer (general term)
o chope/o imperial - draft beer
a vodca - vodka
falar - to talk/speak
correr - to run
*andar/caminhar - to walk
nadar - to swim
escrever - to write
brincar - to play (general; intransitive)
jogar - to play (games or sports)
tocar - to play (music)
comer - to eat
beber/tomar - to drink
cheirar - to smell
atender - to serve (as in to help or work for)
servir - to serve (as in to function or act as or to distribute food)
pescar - to fish
esquiar - to ski
dançar - to dance
cantar - to sing
*Andar means, “to go (about),” having a more general meaning, but is also often used to mean,
“to walk.” Andar is more common in Brazil and Portugal than caminhar, which only means, “to
walk,” and is used primarily in fixed phrases and specific situations.
Vocabulary: Question Words
quem - who
que/o quê - what (second variant is an interjection)
*qual - which (pl. quais)
quando - when
quanto(a) - how much
como - how (can also be used to mean since, in the sense of, “Since you’re busy…”)
© 2014 Shashank Rao
onde - where
**por quê/por que - why/because
*When using this word to find a specific answer, such as asking for someone’s address or a price,
you use qual instead of que. Ex. Qual (é) o preço? It is not incorrect to leave out the verb for to
be from such questions.
**These two versions of the word are used in the following ways:
You’re going home? Why? (This, “why,” is por quê.)
Why are you going home? (This one is por que; Here, it refers to for what or by what cause.)
As in Spanish and Italian, it is important to note that if the subject is included in a question, it
comes after the conjugated verb, though many speakers omit it altogether.
The first thing you need to know about verbs is that there is a base form that you’ll find in the
dictionary, called the infinitive, which doesn’t mean very much on its own. The infinitive
translates as, “to…” + (action). The verb, “to eat,” is in the infinitive form, as is its counterpart in
Verbs in Portuguese inflect based on person, mood, and number. There are pronouns according to
which verbs are conjugated, which vary slightly based on whether you’re speaking Brazilian or
European Portuguese. The Portuguese pronouns are listed in the table below, according to person
(1st, 2nd, 3rd).
eu - I
nós/a gente - we
tu - you (informal)
vós - you all (informal)
ele/ela/você* - he/she/you (formal)
eles/elas/vocês* - they (m./f.)/you all (formal)
*Você and vocês are often abbreviated as Vc. and Vcs.
The first thing about pronouns that you need to know, is that in Brazilian Portuguese, there is no
tu-vous distinction, so você is the only pronoun used to mean you. There is no difference
between you informally and you formally. However, this distinction remains in European
In both Brazilian and European Portuguese, the pronoun vós is not used in colloquial speech;
only in holy texts, historical fiction, by priests, and also in the northern dialects of Portugal.
Instead, most Portuguese speakers use vocês.
© 2014 Shashank Rao
About nós and a gente: these two words are both used to mean, “we,” but in slightly different
situations. Nós is more formal in Brazil, but the primary difference is the nós is inclusive, where
as a gente, which technically means the people, is exclusive. This means if you’re talking to
someone else, the former means, “we (including you),” and the latter, “we (excluding you)”.
This applies only if you use both pronouns in speech. Also, you never use a gente to mean,
“we,” in written Portuguese, outside of dialogue, that is. A gente is considered more Brazilian,
though it is used in Portugal as well, to a lesser extent. This is usually a matter of choice.
Finally, eles and elas are exactly like ellos and ellas in Spanish; masculine and feminine forms of
the word they. If the they in question includes men and women, then you use eles. This is the
default rule in Portuguese, when referring to groups; if it’s mixed, then use the masculine form.
Now, let’s move on to the verbs. There are three classes of verbs in Portuguese, which are
organized by their endings: -ar, -er, and -ir.
The Present Indicative
The present indicative is a tense used to express actions in the present that are general, habitual,
and/or factual in nature. It can occasionally imply the immediate future, and the progressive,
which we’ll get to later on.
-ar Verbs - falar - to talk/speak
-er Verbs - correr - to run
-ir Verbs - partir - to leave
© 2014 Shashank Rao
Portuguese, like many Romance languages, is a pro-drop language, which means you can drop
the pronoun from the sentence if it is implicit due to context. This is usually the case, each
conjugation is unique to a single pronoun or a few pronouns.
Pluralizing Nouns and Definite and Indefinite Articles
Like other Romance languages, Portuguese nouns are gendered. Therefore, the articles, the
words for the and a/an are gendered as well. The Portuguese definite articles (words for the) are
o (masculine) and a (feminine). The indefinite articles (words for a/an) are um and uma. The
plural definite articles are os and as, whereas the plural indefinite articles are uns and umas.
Pluralizing nouns in Portuguese can be a tricky task, as there are nouns with different endings,
which cause them to decline differently. We’ll divide the nouns into different categories.
Ending in a Vowel
This category includes most nouns in the language. To pluralize this kind of noun, simply add -s
to the end. This rule goes for nouns that end in diphthongs as well, except for those ending in
o ovo -> os ovos
a uva -> as uvas
Ending in -m or -n
These nouns pluralize by changing -m or -n to -ns, which applies to both kinds, and regardless of
o homem -> os homens
o germen -> os germens
Ending in -r or -z
Nouns that end this way pluralize by adding -es to the end of the word.
a mulher -> as mulheres
o rapaz -> os rapazes
Ending in -s
Now, this category is different from the previous ones, because the ending changes based on
where the stress is in the word. Where the stress is depends on where the most emphasis goes in
the word, by syllable. For example, in the word power, the stress is on the first syllable. In
Portuguese, the stress typically falls on the second-to-last syllable.