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How to Say Common Words and Phrases in Portuguese

Three Parts:Learning Basic GreetingsLearning Conversation BasicsExpanding Your Vocabulary

Portuguese (Português, Língua Portuguesa) is a Romance language closely related to Spanish and the official language of over 250 million people in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and more. With the rapidly-growing Brazilian economy rising in world importance, it's never been a wiser investment to start learning Portuguese, especially if you plan on traveling or doing business in South America or Africa.[1] The simplest Portuguese words and phrases are easy for non-speakers to learn, so what are you waiting for? Vamos!

Part 1
Learning Basic Greetings

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    Learn to say "Hi!" The perfect place to start greeting Portuguese is with greetings — learn these and you'll be able to say hello and goodbye to the Portuguese speakers you meet. Below are some of the most common words used for greetings:
    • Hello: Olá (oh-la)
    • Hi or Hey: Oi (oy) — informal
    • Goodbye: Adeus (ah-deuzh)
    • Bye: Tchau (cha-oh) — informal
    • Note that some of these words are marked with the label "informal." In Portuguese, it can be considered rude to use informal language with people you don't know, people who are older than you, and people in positions of authority. These aren't curse words — just words that aren't very dignified. A good rule of thumb is: don't use informal words with people you aren't close buddies with.[2]
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    Learn to greet people at different times of the day. Just like English, there are many different ways to greet people in Portuguese. These greetings allow you to remark on the time of day when you say hello:[3]
    • Good morning: Bom dia (Boh-n dih-ahor Boh-n djih-ah in Brazil) — actually means "good day," but it´s used mostly before noon or before the noon meal.
    • Good afternoon: Boa tarde (Boh-ah tahr-jia) — used after noon or after the midday meal until twilight.
    • Good evening or good night: Boa noite (Boh-ah no-ee-tay) — used from twilight until the morning.
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    Learn to ask people how they are. Portuguese is no different than most other languages — after you say hello to someone, it's common to ask how they're doing. Use these easy phrases to ask about the people you meet:[4]
    • How are you?: Como está? (Coh-moh esh-tah? or Coh-moh es-tah? in Brazil)
    • How's it going?: Como vai? ("Coh-moh vye?" (rhymes with "eye")) — informal
    • What's up? (Only in Brazil): E aí? (E-aye (pronounced as one syllable)) — informal
    • Is all well?: Tudo bem? ("Too-doo beng?") — informal
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    Learn to introduce yourself. Once you ask someone how they're doing, odds are that, at the very least, they'll ask the same to you. Use these responses to tell people who you are and how you're doing:[5]
    • Well / very well: Bem / muito bem (Baing / moo-ee-toh baing)
    • Bad / very bad: Mal / muito mal (Mao / moo-ee-toh mao)
    • More or less / so-so: Mais ou menos (Ma-eece oh meh-nos)
    • My name is...: Me chamo [your name] (Mee sham-oh)
    • Nice to meet you: Prazer em conhecê-lo/a (Prazh-air eh con-yo-see-lo/la)
    • Note that conhecê-lo/a can end with either an o or an a. In these cases, when you're talking to a man, use o, and when you're talking to a woman, use a. We'll see this several more times in this article.

Part 2
Learning Conversation Basics

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    Learn to talk about language. As a newcomer to the Portuguese language, you'll probably find yourself struggling to communicate from time to time. Don't worry — no one learns a new language overnight. Use these handy phrases to explain your situation:
    • I don't speak Portuguese - Não falo Português - (Nah-oom fah-looh poor-too-gess)
    • I speak English: Falo Inglês (Fah-looh inn-glesh)
    • Do you speak English?: Fala inglês? (Fah-lah inn-gless) — formal
    • Do you speak English?: Você fala inglês? (Voh-say fah-lah inn-gless) — informal
    • I don't understand: Não percebo (Nah-oo pehr-say-boo)
    • Could you repeat that?: Pode repetir? (Poh-day reh-peh-teer)
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    Learn social courtesies. Learning how to be polite in Portuguese is very important — you certainly don't want to tarnish your native country's reputation by accidentally being rude. Use these words and sayings to make sure you stay in the good graces of the people you talk to:
    • Please: Por favor (Pooh-r fah-voh-r)
    • Thank you: Obrigado/a (Oh-bree-gah-dooh/dah) — use the male form if you are male and the female form if you are female.
    • You're welcome: De nada (Dee nah-dah) — informal
    • You're welcome: Não tem de quê (Nah-oomm tah-eehm the queh) — formal
    • I'm sorry: Desculpe (Desh-cool-pah)
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    Learn to ask about other people (and respond.) Knowing how to ask a few basic questions about the Portuguese-speakers you meet will go a long way towards making you new friends. Use these questions and responses to have a very basic conversation:
    • What is your name?: Como o/a senhor/a se chama? (coh-moh sen-your/-ah se shahm-ah)— formal. Note that, in this case, the male form of senhor has no "o" ending.
    • What's your name?: Qual é o seu nome? (Coh eh-oh seh-oh no-mee) — informal
    • My name is...: Me chamo [your name] (Mee sham-oh)
    • Where are you from?: De onde o/a senhor/a é? (Djee own-djah oh/ah sen-your/ah eh)
    • Where are you from?: De onde você é? (Djee own-djah voh-say eh)— informal
    • I'm from...: Eu sou de [your hometown] (Ee-oh so-oo djee)
    • What's happening / what's going on?: O que aconteceu? (Oo key ah-cone-teh-see-oo)
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    Learn to ask for help. Not every adventure goes as planned. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to ask for help from a Portugeuese-speaking person, you'll be glad to know these life-savers:
    • What time is it?: Que horas são? (Queh o-rah-sh sah-oomm)
    • I'm lost: Estou perdido (Esh-toe per-dee-doo / Es-toe per-djee-doo(in Brazil))
    • Can you help me, please?: Pode ajudar-me, por favor? (Po-deh azhu-dar-meh, por-fah-vor?)
    • Help me!: Socorro! (Soh-coh-hoh!) — used if you are in danger

Part 3
Expanding Your Vocabulary

  1. Image titled Say Common Words and Phrases in Portuguese Step 06
    Learn to ask general questions. Questions are an important part of everyday communication — they allow us to get information about the world around us. Learning the following question words will help you learn the details of every situation you find yourself in:[6]
    • Who?: Quem? (Cang?)
    • What?: O que? (Ooh kee?)
    • When?: Quando? (Quan-doo?)
    • Where?: Onde? (Own-djee?)
    • Which?: Qual? (Quah-ooh?)
    • Why?: Porquê? (Poohr-queh)
    • Because: Porque (Poohr-queh)
    • How much?: Quanto? (Kwan-toh)
    • How much does this cost?: Quanto custa? (Kwan-toh coos-tah?)
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    Learn the names for specific types of people. Use the words below to describe the various people in your own life and others':
    • Father: Pai (pa-ee)
    • Mother: Mãe (ma-ee) — formal
    • Mom/Mum: Mamãe (muh-ma-ee) — informal
    • Man: Homem (O-men)
    • Woman: Mulher (Mooh-lyehr)
    • Friend: Amigo/a (Ah-mee-goh/gah)
    • Girlfriend: Namorada (Nah-mooh-rah-dah)
    • Boyfriend: Namorado (Nah-mooh-rah-dooh)
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    Learn formal titles. In Portuguese, it's custom to call older people or people in positions of authority by their formal titles as a show of respect. While these formalities are usually dropped once two people become close friends, this can take some time, so as a rule of thumb, don't call people by their first names until invited.[7]
    • Mister: Senhor (Sen-your) — this can also be used as a formal "you"
    • Misses: Senhora (Sen-your-ah) — this can be used as a formal "you" for women
    • Miss: Senhorita (Sen-your-ee-tah) — used for young women (usually unmarried)
    • Lady / madam / ma'am: Dona (Do-nah) — a formal title for women
    • Doctor: Dotour/a (Doo-tohr/-ah) — used for people with degrees beyond a bachelor's; not necessarily medical doctors.
    • Professor: Professor/a (pro-fess-or/-ah) — used for people with a PhD; not necessarily college educators.
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    Learn the names for common animals. Knowing animal names in Portuguese can be surprisingly useful, especially if you make a trip to the rainforests of Brazil or Angola. Below, you can find the words for some common animals you may see:
    • Dog: Cão (Cah-oohm)
    • Dog (only in Brazil): Cachorro (Cah-sho-hoo)
    • Cat: Gato (Gah-tooh)
    • Bird: Pássaro (Pah-sah-row)
    • Fish: Peixe (Pay-shay)
    • Monkey: Macaco (Mah-cah-coh)
    • Lizard: Lagarto (Lah-gar-toh)
    • Bug: Percevejo (Pair-sair-ve-zhoh)
    • Spider: Aranha (Ah-rah-nyah)
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    Learn the parts of your body. Knowing how to describe the different parts of your body is a must if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being hurt or injured in a foreign country. Use these words to talk about your body:[8]
    • Head: Cabeça (Cah-beh-sah)
    • Arm: Braço (Brah-so)
    • Leg: Perna (Pair-nah)
    • Hand: Mão (Mah-oohm")
    • Foot: Pé (Peh)
    • Finger - Dedo - Deh-dooh
    • Toe - Dedo (same as finger) — can also say "Dedo do pé" (Deh-dooh dooh peh), literally "finger of the foot."
    • Eyes: Olhos (Ole-yus)
    • Mouth: Boca (Boh-cah)
    • Nose: Nariz (Nah-reese)
    • Ears: Orelhas (Oh-rel-yase)
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    Learn to describe problems with your body. As noted above, being sick or injured in a foreign country is not very fun. Make your problems easier by learning these words for talking about how you aren't feeling well:
    • I am hurt: Estou magoado (Ees-toh mah-goo-ah-doo)
    • My [body part] is broken: Meu [body part] está quebrado (May-oh brah-so es-tah kay-brah-doh)
    • I am bleeding: Eu estou sangrando (Eh-oh ees-toh san-grand-oh)
    • I feel bad: Me sinto mal (Mee seen-toh ma-oo)
    • I feel sick: Sinto-me doente (Seen-toh-may doo-en-tee)
    • I have a fever: Estou com febre (Ees-toh cohn feb-ray)
    • I have a cough: Estou com tosse (Ees-toh cohn tohs-ay)
    • I can't breathe: Eu não posso respirar (Eh-oh nah-oo po-so ray-spee-rar)
    • Doctor!: Médico! (Meh-jee-coh)
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    Learn slang! Now that you've learned a good collection of Portuguese words and phrases, broaden your horizons by practicing some practical slang. Portuguese speakers in the real world don't use the sort of plain, dry language you'd find in a textbook. Each Portuguese-speaking country and region has its own slang words, colloquialisms, and sayings that speakers use to spice up their language. Below are just a few of the most common slang words (all of these are very informal.)[9]
    • Cool! (Only in Europe and Africa): Fixe (Feesh)
    • Cool! (Only in Brazil): Legal (Lay-gah-oo)
    • Wow!: Nossa (Nos-ah)
    • Gosh!: Puxa / Puxa vida (Poo-sha / Poo-sha vee-dah)
    • Shut up!: Cale-se! / Cala a boca! (Cah-lee say / cah la boh-ca)
    • What's up?: Beleza? (Beh-leh-zah)
    • Girl/boy buddy or mate: Parceira/o (Par-say-rah)
    • Hot or attractive girl/boy: Gatinha/o (Gah-cheen-yah/yoh)
    • Money, cash: Grana (Gran-ah)
    • Foreigner: Gringo (Green-go)


  • Don't give up if you're having difficulty — learning even basic words in a new language takes time. If at first you don't succeed, practice, practice, practice!
  • The "m" in Portuguese sounds a little like an English "n" the majority of the time.
  • Similarly, the "nh" combination in Portuguese sounds like the English "ny" sound (as in "Inuit")
  • Try listening to Portuguese music to immerse yourself in your new language. For Brazilian-style Portuguese, try the music from São Paulo and Brasília, which have the most "standard" and widely-used Brazilian accent.
  • "L" at the end of a word sounds like long "u" or "oo"

Article Info

Categories: Portuguese