Handy Brazilian Portuguese Phrases Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Handy Brazilian Portuguese Phrases

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Portuguese is a language spoken by 215 million people in eight independent countries1. In this number, Brazil takes the lion's share with its 170 million inhabitants2. For that reason, most people speaking Portuguese are speaking Brazilian Portuguese. The Portuguese spoken in Brazil is, of course, a little different from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Additionally, the Portuguese spoken in São Paulo is slightly different from the Portuguese spoken on the Copacabana, which is different from Portuguese spoken in the north or south of Brazil.

Brazil is a very popular tourism destination according to the Tourism Ministry of Brazil. Of course, they might be wrong, but in any case, perhaps knowing a few phrases in Portuguese, specifically in Brazilian Portuguese, could be of use. The pronunciation provided in this entry will be based on the pronunciation common in São Paulo, which is, quite debatably, the most neutral pronunciation of Brazilian Portuguese.

Pronunciation Guide and Other Stuff

The pronunciation guide is summarized in this table:
alike in bath
ãnasal 'a' - very difficult for non-native speakers.
sslike in 'centre'
klike in 'cat'
djlike the 'j' in 'jeans'
elike in 'end'
élike the 'a' in 'share'
êlike the 'a' in 'make'
glike in 'gift' never like in 'gist'
jlike the 's' in 'pleasure'
ilike in 'keep' or in 'sit' never like in 'thigh'
nhkind of like the 'ng' in 'sing'
olike in 'home' never like in 'do'
óopen 'o' like the 'a' in 'call'
ra rolling 'r' like in Scottish pronunciation
rra guttural 'ch' like in 'Bach'
zlike in 'hazard'
ulike in 'tool' neverl like in 'unicorn'
vsounding 'v' like in 'viper'

Adjectives agree with nouns: In Portuguese, the adjectives agree in case, gender and number with the nouns (this is called 'concordância nominal' in Portuguese). For example: 'The cats are yellow' becomes 'Os gatos são amarelos' whereas in the singular 'The cat is yellow' becomes 'O gato é amarelo'. 'The girl is tall' becomes 'A garota é alta' whereas 'The boy is tall' becomes 'O garoto é alto'. Depending on the gender of the speaker, forms can change too. Thus 'I am tired' becomes 'Eu estou cansado' or 'Eu estou cansada' depending on the gender of the speaker. The phrase 'Thank you', for example is literally translated 'thankful' (from 'I am thankful' with the omitted 'I am'). Thus, 'thank you' in Portuguese is 'obrigado' or 'obrigada' depending on the speaker's gender.

Key Phrases

English SentencePortuguese Sentencepronunciation
Yes, pleaseSim, por favorSSi˜, pur fa-VOR
No, thank youNão, obrigado/obrigadaNÃo, o-bri-GA-du/o-bri-GA-da
Sorry! Desculpe! diss-KUL-pe
You're welcome De nada Di NA-da
Speak slowly, please!Fale devagar, por favor!FA-le di-va-GAR, pur fa-VOR!
I don't understand (it/you/him/her) Eu não entendo (isto/voc´/ele/ela)Eu NÃo in-TEN-du (ISS-tu/vo-SSÊ/Ê-li/Ê-la)
Excuse me, but I don't completely understand Portuguese. Would you mind switching to another language? English perhaps?Me desculpe, mas não entendo Português completamente. Você se incomodaria em mudar o idioma? Talvez Inglês?Me dess-KUL-pi, MAs NÃo in-TEN-du por-tu-GÊS kom-plé-ta-MÊN-ti. Vo-SSÊ se in-ko-mo-da-RI-a ê˜ mu-DAR u i-di-O-ma? tau-VEZ ing-LÊSS?

Meeting People

English Sentence:Portuguese Sentence:pronunciation
Hello/goodbye Olá/Tchau o-LA/like Italian 'Ciao'
How are you? Como vai? KO-mu VAi?
Fine, thank you Bem, obrigado/obrigada Bê˜, o-bri-GA-du/o-bri-GA-da
See you later Até logo a-TÉ ló-gu
Hey there, people, I'm (Bobby Brown). They say I am the cutest boy in town, my car is fast, my teeth are shiny...3Aí galera, eu sou (Roberto Marrom). Dizem que sou o garoto mais bonito da cidade. Meu carro é rápido, meus dentes brilham... AÊ ga-LÉ-ra, eu SSÓu (rro-BEr-tu ma-RRO˜). DI-zê˜ ke SSOu u ga-RO-tu MAiss bu-NI-tu da SSI-da-dji. MEu KA-rro é RRA-pi-du, MEus DEN-tis BRI-liam...

Asking Questions

English SentencePortuguese Sentencepronunciation
Do you speak English? Você fala Inglês?vo-SSÊ FA-la ing-LÊSS?
What is this called? (indicating an object)Como se chama isto?KO-mo ssi SHÃ-ma ISS-tu?
What's your name? Como você se chama?KO-mo vo-SSÊ si SHÃ-ma?
Where are you from? De onde você vem? OR: De onde você é?4Di O˜-di vo-SSÊ Vʘ OR: Di O˜-di vo-SSÊ É?
How much does this cost?Quanto custa isso? ku-ã-tu KUSS-ta ISS-u?
Are you sure this thing is safe?Você tem certeza que esta coisa é segura? vo-SSE tê˜ sser-TE-za ke ES-ta KOi-za é sse-GU-ra?
If you could choose one superpower, would you choose being invisible or being able to fly?Se você pudesse escolher um superpoder, você escolheria ser invisível, ou poder voar? Sse vo-SSE pu-DÉ-sse es-ko-LiER u˜ ssu-per-po-DEr, vo-SSÊ is-ko-lie-RI-a sser i˜-vi-ZI-veu, Ou po-DER vu-AR?

Statements About Yourself:

English SentencePortuguese Sentencepronunciation
My name is... I am called... Meu nome é... Eu me chamo...5MEu NO-mi É... Eu mi SHã-mu...
I'm English (Welsh/Scottish/Irish/American) Eu sou Inglês (Galês/Escocês/Irlandês/Americano) Eu SSOu ing-LÊSS (ga-LÊSS/is-ko-SSÊSS/ir-lã-DÊSS/a-me-ri-K&Acedil-no)
I don't speak English/Portuguese Eu n&acedilo falo Inglês/Português Eu N&Acedilo FA-lu ing-LÊSS/por-tu-GÊSS
I live in... Eu moro em... Eu MÓ-ru ê˜...
I'm a little pea, I love the sky and the trees. I'm a teeny tiny little ant...I am nothing...And I'm a pacifist...6Eu sou uma pequena ervilha, eu amo o céu e as árvores. Eu sou uma minúscula formiga nanica... Eu não sou nada... E eu sou uma pacifista..."Eu SSOu U-ma pe-KE-na er-VI-lia, eu Á-mu u SSÉu i as AR-vo-ress. Eu SSou U-ma mi-NUSS-ku-la for-MI-ga na-NI-ka... Eu N&Acedilo ssou NA-da... E eu SSou U-ma pa-ssi-FISS-ta...


English SentencePortuguese Sentencepronunciation
Can you help me, please?Você poderia me ajudar, por favor?vo-SSÊ po-de-RI-a mi a-ju-DAR, pur fa-VOR?
I'm lost.Eu estou perdido/perdidaEu iss-TÔ per-DI-du/per-DI-da
Call an ambulance! (the police!)Chame uma ambulância! (a polícia)SHã-mi U-ma ã-bu-Lã-ssia! (a po-LI-ssia)
Watch out! Attention!Cuidado! Atenç&aco!KUi-da-du! a-ten-SSão!
The buttler came in holding the frying pan... and - oh heavens - and then he... and then I...and then She was there screaming... Oh heavens!... All that pudding all over her dress... It was horrible!O mordomo entrou segurando a frigideira...e - Oh cÉus - e então ele... e daí eu... e depois ela estava lá gritando... Oh cÉus!... Todo aquele pudim esparramado sobre o vestido novo dela... Foi horrível!O mor-DO-mu en-TROu se-gu-Rã˜-du a fri-ji-dê˜-ra ... i - Ó SSÉuss - i en-TãO E-le... i da-I eu... e de-POiss É-la es-TA-va LA gri-Tã˜-du... Ó SSÉuss... TO-du a-Kê-li pu-DI˜ iss-pa-rra-MA-du sso-bri u vis-TI-du NO-vo DÉ-la... FOi o-RRI-vêu!

Assorted Phrases

English PhrasePortuguese Phrasepronunciation
Sir/Madam Senhor/Senhora sse-NHÔr/sse-NHÓ-ra
Two beers, please!Duas cervejas, por favor! DU-as sser-VE-jas, pur fa-VOR!
Excuse me! (walking in a crowd)Com licença!Ko˜ li-SSE˜-ssa!
Pardon me, sir, but you are standing on my ingrown toenail.Perdoe-me, senhor, mas o senhor está pisando na minha unha encravada.per-DOe mi, sse-NHÔr, maz u sse-NHÔr is-TA pi-Sãn-du na MI-nha U-nha in-kra-VA-da.

For Those Who Want to Know a Bit More

One key feature of Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation is that the non-accented syllables are subjected to something called 'vocalic reduction'7. That is, the vowel in those syllables are not pronounced as they are written. Their duration is usually shorter and they are muted. Also, an 'oh' might mutate into an 'oo' and an 'eh' to an 'ee'. This refers primarily to words ending with consonants. Except for 's' (the 'plural' consonant) they are almost not pronounced.

Another thing about the famous 's': In São Paulo the 's' is pronounced as an ordinary 's' like in 'sit' whereas in Rio it's pronounced 'sh' like in 'shift'. The Rio pronunciation ('sh') is the most wide-spread in music and in movies, so it is probably the most well-known worldwide. However, not all 's' are pronounced 'sh': As a consequence it is easy to debunk foreigners trying to imitate a Brazilian accent if they're not sure about the 'sh' pronunciation. The safe side is to adhere to the Sao Paulo pronunciation.

1At the time of writing, the eight independent countries with Portuguese as their official language are: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe Islands, Guinea-Bissau and East Timor2According to the census of 2000.3Not a nice way to introduce yourself, but a famous phrase from Frank Zappa's 'Bobby Brown Goes Down'.4The difference is faint, but the first sentence can also be understood as 'where did you come from?'5'I am called...' is the more common variant.6From the 'Red Hot Chili Peppers' song 'Pea'.7The post-tonic syllable - that is, the syllable immediately after the accentuated syllable - is particularly affected by this.

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