Brazil: Portuguese Tips – The Present Subjunctive

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
Hello again – this time we’ll take a quick look at the context in which the Present Subjunctive is used. The Subjunctive Mood includes Present, Imperfect and Future and is, generally speaking, used when the situation concerned is just a possibility at the moment it is being communicated.

The Indicative Mood, on the other hand, expresses real or sure facts, decisions and opinions: Eu fui ao dentista [I went to the dentist – Past Simple]; Ela não gosta de tomate [She doesn’t like tomatoes – Present Simple]; Quando eu era criana eu jogava tnis [When I was a child I used to play tennis – Imperfect].

To see how the Subjunctive would work, take Present Subjunctive: as the name indicates, it is used when there is present expression of hope, uncertainty, desire, emotion, wish or a demand. Right now, a person hopes for something to happen, doubts someone will do something, enjoys someone’s actions and so on.

So the part where you say I hope…” (Eu espero que…) is in the Present Simple (Indicative). Present Subjunctive comes in when you describe what it is you hope for: “…she’ll arrive on time” (…ela chegue a tempo).

…ela chegue a tempo” is called a subordinate clause. Think of a subordinate clause as a sentence that contains both subject (ela) and verb (chegue), and yet can’t stand alone as a sentence because it doesn’t provide a complete thought. Present Subjunctive will almost always appear in a subordinate clause, like in the examples below:

Tip: notice that you’ll always use que to connect the two clauses, except when you start your sentence with ‘talvez‘ (perhaps): Talvez a festa seja ótima. Talvez ela chegue na hora. Talvez a gente faa a tarefa.

Rita Koeser, from New Jersey, kindly allowed me to share her great question on using Present Subjunctive for emotion:
The other day I wanted to say this to a friend who was helping me with something… “Fico feliz que voce (quer) me ajudar” (I am happy that you want to help me.)

I thought I should use “queira“, the subjunctive, instead of “quer“, Present Simple, because of the emotion but my Portuguese teacher said to use the regular present “quer” like I did […] I’m confused about when to use it and when not.

Answer: Strictly speaking, you’d have to use the subjunctive as the books say, since you’re expressing a present emotion about someone’s actions.

In informal spoken language, however, the subjunctive is not always used when we start the sentence with “ficar feliz/triste que“, “estar feliz/triste que“, “achar legal que“…… Brazilians sometimes ‘get around’ the subjunctive by using indicative tenses like the Simple Present.

You might hear this in a conversation: Ele est triste que os primos dele não vm [He’s sad that his cousins aren’t coming ]–> vm = Simple Present. This is the correct way to say it: Ele est triste que os primos dele não venham –> venham = Present Subjunctive.

So… I guess it’s up to you!

Practice the Present Subjunctive by yourself:

Think of something and express how believable you think it is.

Com 30 reais, voc pode fazer uma boa refeião em São Paulo.
[With 30 reais, you can have a good meal in São Paulo]

With the subjunctive:

Não acredito que, com 30 reais, eu possa fazer uma boa refeião em São Paulo. (I can’t believe that…)
possvel que com 30 reais eu possa fazer uma boa refeião em São Paulo. (It’s possible that…)

Express your feelings about something:

O estdio do Pacaemb fica lotado quando tem jogo.
(The Pacaembu stadium gets packed when there’s a game)

With the subjunctive:

Eu acho ótimo que o estdio fique lotado quando tem jogo. (I think it’s great that…)
uma droga que o estdio fique lotado quando tem jogo. (It sucks that…)

Think of a situation where you get to determine what happens:

Eu quero que a minha mesa seja preta. (I want my desk to be black)
Eu exijo que tenha janela na minha sala. (I demand that there’s a window in my office)
Eu prefiro que vocs faam a reunião amanh. (I’d rather for you to do the meeting tomorrow)

Tip: ‘querer’, ‘duvidar’, ‘ possvel’, ‘ improvvel’, etc, are only a few of the verbs and expressions used in conjunction with verbs in the Present Subjuntive. Take a look at your Portuguese books for more.

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Previous articles by Ana Luiza:

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Esse vs. Isso
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – The Letter “R”
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – 3 tips for beginners
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Using Deixar in Your Conversation
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with ‘Dar’

CHOICE 1: You go with the boy.

Avenida Central WITH SURPRISING STRENGTH Joaquim guides the pushcart away from the docks, past the Candelria Church, and turns left onto Avenida Central. Looking like a Parisian boulevard, this thoroughfare boasts three- and four-story buildings with exuberant beaux arts and eclectic faades. Brazilwood trees adorn the avenue&rsquot;s median strip and the wide sidewalks are set in Portuguese mosaic. Men in bowler hats and ladies carrying parasols stroll past shop windows, eyeing the latest fashions from Europe. The city was a lot different when I was young,” says Joaquim, sounding older than his years. “But Mayor Passos changed everything. He tore down all the old buildings and put up these new ones.” “How old are you?” “I&rsquot;ll be 14 this year.” You do the math and realize that Joaquim, born after the end of Imperial rule and the abolition of slavery, embodies a new era for Brazil. In fact, he is a symbol of the Republic. And although his race and social condition are barriers to his dreams, his eyes are alive with hope. He is like the Brazilwood trees planted on Avenida Central – still in the bud of development. In front of the headquarters of the Jornal do Brasil newspaper, you see an oddity: a tall man, resembling a human sandwich, carries on either side of his body large billboards advertising the “National Fair” at a beach called Praia Vermelha. And another novelty sputters down the avenue in your direction. Imported from Europe and the United States of America, this newfangled contraption is called an “automobile” because it has an internal combustion engine and thus can move under its own power. You doubt it will catch on. The machine starts to shake and wheeze, then it lets out a loud POP! – coming to a stop with steam billowing from underneath its hood. “Get a horse!” yells a man from across the avenue. Soon you arrive at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, an opulent building with a huge central dome and a faade like Paris&rsquot;s Louvre Palace. Two neighboring buildings are in their final stages of construction: the Teatro Municipal, fashioned after the Paris Opera House, and the Biblioteca Nacional, which will hold, among other works, thousands of volumes brought by Dom Joo VI from Portugal&rsquot;s Biblioteca Real in 1808. Joaquim turns off the avenue and rolls your trunk down Rua do Passeio. A short while later you arrive at the Largo da Lapa. You hand Joaquim a few coins, have your trunk taken to your room, and return to the streets. Strolling, you come to a trolley stop offering several destinations – from the hills to the beach. Where do you go next? If you choose to see the hills, click here. If you prefer to go to the beach, click here.”

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Esse vs. Isso

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
For many students, the difference between variable and invariable demonstrative pronouns in Portuguese isn&rsquot;t very clear. Take esse (var.) and isso (inv.), for example. Some students wonder why they have to say &rsquot;Esse livro não meu&rsquot; [This book isn&rsquot;t mine] but can&rsquot;t say &rsquot;Isso livro não meu.&rsquot;

Note: for the sake of simplicity, I&rsquot;ll use only esse and isso in the examples, but the same explanation applies to the other demonstrative pronouns, este and aquele, and their invariable counterparts, isto and aquilo. Also, a tip: between esse and este, you&rsquot;ll hear the first one a lot more often in spoken language, even in sentences where grammar books indicate that este should be used.

All demonstrative pronouns serve to point or single out an object, a person, a situation or anything else; however, esse is followed by a noun – with which it should agree in gender and in number:
Essa caneta da Maria. –> &rsquot;caneta&rsquot; is a feminine noun in the singular, so &rsquot;esse&rsquot; becomes &rsquot;essa&rsquot;
[This pen is Maria&rsquot;s]
Voc leu esses artigos? –> &rsquot;artigos&rsquot; is a masculine noun in the plural, so we use &rsquot;esses&rsquot;
[Did you read these articles?]

Isso, on the other hand, stands on its own: it replaces the noun and is invariable.
Isso seu. –> isso could be anything: an object, many objects, money, etc.
[This is yours.]

When you use isso, you&rsquot;re referring to &rsquot;something&rsquot;, which may be the book sitting on the desk right in front of you, a situation that&rsquot;s going on right now, the view from the window, or anything else you might be talking about and leaving unnamed.

Look at these examples, and see how isso is always invariable regardless of the number or gender of the thing(s) it is representing.”

A gente precisa resolver isso. [We need to fix this (the problem we&rsquot;ve been discussing)]
O que isso? [What is this (the object in front of me that I don&rsquot;t know what to call)?]
Isso est uma baguna! [This (the situation I&rsquot;ve just encountered here) is a mess!]
Voc pode levar isso para casa. [You can take these (the books I just gave you) home]

Since you aren&rsquot;t naming the thing you&rsquot;re talking about when you say isso, if the other person doesn&rsquot;t get what you&rsquot;re referring to a conversation like this might follow:
(A) Isso seu? [Is this yours?]
(B) Isso, o qu? O livro? [(literally) This, what? The book?]
(A) Não, essa caneta. [No, this pen]

Of course, it&rsquot;s up to you when to use isso, or esse(s)/essa(s) + noun. Here&rsquot;s how the four examples above might be rephrased if you wanted to be more specific:
A gente precisa resolver esse problema. [We need to fix this problem]
O que essa coisa? [What is this thing?]
Essa situaão est uma baguna! [This situation is a mess!]
Voc pode levar esses livros para casa. [You can take these books home]

One more example:
Eu ainda estou escrevendo o meu livro. Isso o que eu tenho at agora.
[I&rsquot;m still writing my book. This (you point at the stack of paper on your desk) is what I have so far]

And if the speaker wants to be more specific:
Eu ainda estou escrevendo o meu livro. Esse captulo o que eu tenho at agora.
[I&rsquot;m still writing my book. This chapter is what I have so far]

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Previous articles by Ana Luiza:

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – The Letter “R”
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – 3 tips for beginners
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Using Deixar in Your Conversation
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with ‘Dar’

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – The Letter R””

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
Good pronunciation is always a very desirable skill for someone learning a new language, so here’s the first of a series of articles on this topic. Depending on your native language and background you may find Portuguese pronunciation a breeze… or not so much.

Basically, the r in Brazilian Portuguese can sound similar to the h in ‘house’, the tt in ‘butter’ (as pronounced by Americans), or the r that is typical of American pronunciation (for example, in ‘morning’.)

I’ve broken the explanation down into four items just to try to make things a bit clearer. In items A) through C) you’ll find examples of pronunciation that are fairly standard across the whole country, and in D) you’ll see a few regional differences.

So let’s take a look at the letter r and how it sounds depending on how and where it appears in a word.

A) When r is the first letter of the word or when you have rr, the sound is always like h in ‘house’. Take a look at the examples below.

r is the first letter rr
rato rat jarra jug the syllables in bold on house
revista magazine Ferreira a surname the left sound like the hammer
risada laugh sorriso smile ones in bold on the right heed
rosa rose derrota defeat horse
rua street arrumo (l) clean Hoover

More examples for you:
recado [message}, rota [route], Rita [person’s name], reza [prayer], Roma [Rome], roda [wheel], carro [car], terra [soil], barro, ferro [iron]

B) When r is between two vowels, it always sounds like the tt in ‘butter’. Look at these four short words.

Par [Brazilian state]
Bar [Brazilian indian community]
guri [boy]
tar [tarot]

Tip: all words in this example have two syllables, and the stress is on the second syllable: -r, -r, -ri and -r.

A few more examples:
touro [bull], Teresa [person’s name], caro [expensive], cro [choir], srio [serious], fora [outside], ouro [gold], pérola [pearl]

C) When you have a consonant followed by ra/re/ri/ro/ru: again, r sounds like the tt in ‘butter’. Take the word ‘Par’ of the previous item; now say it again minus the first a. Done? You’ve just pronounced the syllable -pra- in Portuguese (a consonant + ‘ra’.)

Par –> pra –> prato [plate], prazer [pleasure], prata [silver]

Practice again with the other words of the previous item:
Bar –> bre –> breve [soon]
guri –> gri –> grito [cry (noun)]
tar –> tro –> troco [change (noun)]

Here are more examples for you:
brinco [earring], branco [white], cravo [clove], cristal [crystal], Adriana [person’s name], vidro, quadro [glass, painting], frete, Alfredo [freight, person’s name], fraco [weak], magro [thin], presente [gift], prova [exam], quatro [four], livro [book]

D) When the r comes after a vowel and just “hangs” there by itself, as in falar and tarde (that is, there’s no vowel following it), it is pronounced differently depending on which part of Brazil you’re in. Not to worry: there’s nothing really new here – take a look…

In the city of São Paulo, it’s typically pronounced like in the two previous items: tt in ‘butter’
tarde [afternoon] butter

In Rio de Janeiro, for example, it’s pronounced as the h in ‘house’.
falar [to speak] house

In many cities in the interior of São Paulo, it’s pronounced somewhat like the r in English words (closer to American pronunciation):
verde [green] car

Depending on your native language you may find one of these options much easier than the others. The good news is, whichever one you choose you’re likely to be understood anywhere in Brazil.

That’s all for now – and if you’d like to suggest topics for future articles, please send mail to Thanks!

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Previous articles by Ana Luiza:

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – 3 tips for beginners
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Using Deixar in Your Conversation
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with &rsquot;Dar&rsquot;

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – 3 tips for beginners

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
Have you just started your Portuguese studies? Once you start talking to Brazilians you’ll quickly realize that, like many other languages, spoken (and often, written) Portuguese isn’t always a perfect reflexion of what you’ve been learning in books. You may come to see that in reality certain words and structures are used mostly in more formal” contexts: newspapers, some workplace situations, written communication, etc – one example of that being the Imperative tense for voc (see article Expressions with Dar.)

So here are three common occurrences in colloquial language that you may want to get familiar with right from the start, if only to understand it more clearly when people talk to you.

1. ‘a gente’ (informal) and ‘nós’: Both mean ‘we’ in Brazil. Many books briefly mention ‘a gente’, but you’ll hear it much more often than ‘nós.’

‘A gente’ is always followed by a singular verb form (same as used for ‘voc/ele’), whereas ‘nós’ demands its own unique conjugation. Try substituting ‘a gente’ on sentences with ‘nós’ while you’re studying so you get used to the sound of it:

Nós vamos viajar no fim de semana. / A gente vai viajar no fim de semana.
[We are going to travel on the weekend]
Nós sempre mandamos o relatório por e-mail. / A gente sempre manda o relatório por e-mail.
[We always send the report by e-mail]

Tip: In Portuguese, the usual way to answer a yes/no type question affirmatively isn’t with ‘sim’ (yes), but with the verb. Take a look:
Voc preparou o relatório? Preparei. [Did you prepare the report? (liter.) I prepared]
Notice that you don’t need anything but the verb in the answer. When the yes/no question is directed to ‘vocs’ (you, plural), you’ll answer it affirmatively with the ‘nós’ verb form. This is one situation in colloquial language where using the ‘nós’ form is quite common.
Vocs assistiram o filme? Assistimos. [Did you watch the movie? (liter.) We watched]

2. Ter (informal) and Haver: Although ‘haver’ is the official equivalent of there ‘to be’ (h = there is/are), the verb ‘ter’ is used almost 100% of the time in informal conversation. When used this way, ‘ter’ is impersonal and always on the 3rd person:

Tem um americano na minha escola. [There is an American in my school]
Teve at banda na festa. [There was even a band at the party]

Here are a couple of common expressions:

Não tem jeito [There’s no way / It’s impossible]
Não tem jeito de fazer esse computador funcionar. [There’s no way to make this computer work]

Tem como…? [Is there a way to…/ Is it possible…?]
Tem como vocs chegarem mais cedo? [Is it possible for you to arrive earlier?]

Tip: as with the expression ‘dar para’, the verb following ‘tem como’ is conjugated in the personal infinitive tense (see article Expressions with Dar.)

3. Estar and Voc(s): This tip is about ‘spoken abbreviations’ – take a look at what frequently happens with ‘estar’ and ‘voc(s)’ in spoken language:

Estar (and its conjugations) – most of the time the first syllable, ‘es’, is simply dropped.
Voc(s) – it’s common to drop ‘vo’ in ‘voc(s)’, especially in questions.

Onde voc est (c t)? Estou (tou/t) em casa.
[Where are you? I’m home]

Vocs estão (cs tão) saindo agora? Não, a gente não est (t) com pressa.
[Are you leaving now? No, we’re not in a hurry]

Try and practice saying the following sentences out loud with the ‘spoken abbreviations.’ And remember – this tip applies only to spoken language! Always use the whole words when writing.

Vocs conhecem essa praia? [Do you know this beach?]
Onde vocs estão indo? [Where are you going?]
Voc est com frio? [Are you cold?]
A gente est com fome. [We’re hungry]
Eu vou estar em casa s oito. [I’m going to be home at eight]

Readers comments:

My contribution on this week’s tips is on nr. 3: ‘spoken abbreviations’, mainly of the “voc” and its dropping of the “vo”.

We must say that Brazil is a very big country ant there are so different ways of saying someting, like we had almost a different language in south from the one spoken in north or northeast, for example. Although you are in São Paulo, I would like to give you an idea of how we speak in the south.

So, what I mean is that ‘voc’ and mainly its dropping of the ‘vo’ is not used in south Brazil.

We, gachos, use ‘tu’ (you) instead of voc for the second person singular and ‘voc’ only for the second person plural ( vocs, in this case) and we never abbreviate it.

So in your examples we would say:

-Onde tu ests (t)? Estou (t) em casa.

-Vocs estão saindo agora? Não, a gente não est(t) com pressa or, Não, não estamos com pressa.

The other examples:

– Vocs conhecem esta praia?
– Onde vocs estão(tão) indo?
– Tu ests(t) com frio? Also, ‘T com frio?’ (simply drop ‘tu’).

— Iara

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Previous articles by Ana Luiza:

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Using Deixar in Your Conversation
Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with ‘Dar’

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Using Deixar in Your Conversation

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
Today, let&rsquot;s take a look at deixar, a regular verb you may have heard many times before, and some ways you may use it in your conversations with Brazilians. While deixar may have different meanings depending on how it&rsquot;s used, the next couple of examples focus on the meaning &rsquot;to leave&rsquot;.

Many times, &rsquot;deixar&rsquot; is used just as in English – for example, if you say
&rsquot;O Presidente deixou Braslia na tera-feira&rsquot;
(The President left Braslia on Tuesday)

you&rsquot;ll be correct. You may sound as if you were reading from a newspaper though, since &rsquot;deixar um lugar&rsquot; (meaning &rsquot;to leave a place&rsquot;) is a bit formal. People are more likely to say &rsquot;sair de&rsquot; (literally, get out of) informally.
O presidente saiu de Braslia na tera-feira.

This one is easy too:
Eu trouxe o seu livro. Onde eu deixo?
(I brought your book. Where should I / do I leave it?)

Tip: If you accidentally left an object somewhere, &rsquot;esquecer&rsquot; (to forget) may also be used: Deixei / Esqueci meu livro em casa (I left my book at home).

Now take a look at these expressions, and notice how &rsquot;deixar&rsquot; is frequently associated with &rsquot;not worrying about something&rsquot;:

deixar (alguma coisa) pra l
Usually offered as advice, this is an informal way to tell someone not to worry, or &rsquot;to get over it&rsquot;.
– Estou chateada porque a Mrcia não veio.
(I&rsquot;m upset because Mrcia didn&rsquot;t come)
– Deixa isso pra l! Ela deve estar ocupada.
(Don&rsquot;t worry about that! She must be busy)

Tip: Notice that &rsquot;Deixa isso…&rsquot; is a command, which calls for the Imperative tense. In everyday language, very rarely will you hear the grammatically correct Imperative form (in this case, &rsquot;deixe&rsquot;) Informally, Brazilians usually use the Simple Present form for &rsquot;voc&rsquot; as the Imperative when talking to another person.

deixar (alguma coisa) com (algum)
That means you&rsquot;ll leave something – usually a task – to someone who will take care of it.
– Eu não sei consertar o computador.
(I don&rsquot;t know how to fix the computer)
– Deixa isso com o Marcos. Ele sabe.
(Leave that to Marcos. He knows (how to fix it))

deixa / deixa que…
&rsquot;Deixa&rsquot; is often used similarly to an interjection, and means &rsquot;there&rsquot;s no need to&rsquot; / &rsquot;don&rsquot;t worry&rsquot;:
– Vou passar no correio pra comprar selo.
(I&rsquot;ll stop by the post-office to buy stamps.)
– Deixa, eu estou indo no correio agora. Eu compro pra voc.
(There&rsquot;s no need to, I&rsquot;m going to the post-office now. I&rsquot;ll buy them for you)

You can also use &rsquot;deixa que&rsquot; and follow with the action you&rsquot;re going to take in the same sentence. Notice that the action after &rsquot;que&rsquot; is expressed in the Simple Present:
Deixa que eu compro. Eu vou no correio hoje tarde.

One last expression: &rsquot;Pode deixar&rsquot; – literally, &rsquot;you can leave (it to me)&rsquot; – is used to assure someone that you&rsquot;re getting something done.
– Eu preciso desse relatório na sexta-feira!
(I need this report by Friday!)
– Pode deixar. Sexta-feira ele est na sua mesa.
(You got it / Done. On Friday it&rsquot;ll be on your desk)

That&rsquot;s all for now. Try to practice these expressions and remember that the &rsquot;x&rsquot; in &rsquot;deixar&rsquot; is pronounced as &rsquot;sh&rsquot;!

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Previous articles by Ana Luiza:

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with &rsquot;Dar&rsquot;

Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness

By Mark Taylor
24th April, 2006

When I first arrived here I wasn’t expecting Brazilians to be rolling around in the mud, but equally I wasn’t prepared for just how seriously some Brazilians take cleanliness.

I’d never viewed myself as an excessively dirty person (I typically have one shower per day whether I need it or not) but my wife will often bully me into taking a second or third shower, and I know that I’m not alone in this. Of course Brazil is often a hot country so perhaps this is warranted to some extent, at least that’s my wife’s excuse!

Even so, Brazilians can often take great pride in their appearance, women in particular often getting their nails cleaned, tidied and painted regularly, or visiting the Chiropodist to have their toes and feet checked and cleaned. Another example of the approach to cleanliness is in clothing style. Although Brazilians do dress casually, they tend to lean more towards smart casual. A Goth or grunge styled Brazilian is a rare thing to witness, although I’ve noticed an increasing trend in teenagers following their US counterparts (and by default the rest of North America and Europe), no doubt at least partly due to the influx of US and to a lesser extent European TV programmes in Brazil.

Regular teeth cleaning is another common thing to see, with teeth typically being cleaned after every meal. It’s typical to walk into the gents around lunchtime in a shopping centre and see several guys bearing their pearly whites" at the mirror. In fact my teeth feel positively furry now after lunch, and I feel obliged to clean mine as well. Once I popped into a shopping centre toilet and was amused to see a policeman, replete with gun and truncheon, engaging in some oral hygiene.

Cleanliness in the home is often taken very seriously also, facilitated perhaps by cheaper hired help in relation to North America and Europe. It’s not uncommon to see the 50s style home with plastic covered chairs and sofas (although I’m sure we have the odd family member who still engages in this). This is aside from often seeing the concrete or tiled front of a house and backyard having every corner regularly and dutifully hosed down, to the point where a single fragment of dirt will be blasted from one end to the other. Curious to see in a country where water is often cited as a precious resource.

I’ve debated with my wife as to why Brazilians (typically middle and upper class) take cleanliness more seriously than say North Americans and Europeans. One reason I’ve seen written about before is that Brazilians are keen to differentiate between themselves and the lower class, say those living in the slums. One key difference is dressing smartly and looking ultra clean. Whether that’s really the case, or some other cultural nuance is hard to say for sure.

Do you find Brazilians take cleanliness seriously, or the opposite? If the former, any theories as to why they do? Do I just need to take more showers? Let me know at <a href=""></a> and I’ll add your comments to the article.

Readers Comments:

I have a couple other observations and a reason (about cleanliness).

1) Brazilians are very conscious about dirt from the ground outside the house (da rua). You don’t sit on the bed in street clothes because your pants have the dirt from the street and you will get it on the sheets.

2) Also, people wear flip-flops (what is that word in Portuguese?) around the house, but if they want to bring their feet up on the sofa, the flip-flops are automatically left on the ground. (I have trouble remembering to do this.)

3) A Brazilian-American friend of mine wrote a book based on her life in poor, rural, Goias state. In the farm communities, a nightly ritual was for the women to wash the feet of men before the men entered the bedroom at night.

I think Brazil has been poor and dirty for a long time. The home and especially the bedroom are sanctuaries of relative cleanliness in a very dirty world. So, there are rituals to maintain that state.

— Ethan

<i>You are correct in your observations: middle/upper-class Brazilians do indeed attach high importance to personal hygiene. Actually, so also do many poor people, at least when it comes to taking daily showers. Compared to South Asia, for example, one encounters much fewer people reeking of sweat!</i>

The reasons are the climate, but probably mostly cultural. Brazilians often joke about the famous Europeans, especially French, who until 100 years or even more recently used to bath only once a week or even less (*). Obviously, this was dictated as much by the absence of modern bathrooms and piped hot water, as well as the harsh winter, as by culture. Being a young country, Brazil luckily isnt weighed down by this history. Brazilians apparently consumes more deodorant and toiletteries per capita than anyone else – good for Unilever, Natura et all!.

(*) By the way, the Japanese (of whom there are many descendants here) are also famous for their hygiene – if youve read Shogun, youll remember their calling the Europeans who first landed there in the 16th century barbarians.

— Jacques

<i>My Brazilian wife has been teaching me just how serious Brazilians take personal hygiene. Some of the examples you cited, as well as in the comments hit very close to home. It can be exasperating at times. My wife was shocked that I washed my clothes in like colors. One should NEVER wash intimate clothes with other outer garments. It’s just not done.</i>

And yet while we were driving in So Paulo and having a conversation about this very thing, she stared out the car window and looked at the dirty streets, the graffiti filled walls, the bags and piles of garbage in the open fields. She remarked that if Brazilians were really proud of their country and themselves, then it wouldn’t just be personal hygiene they cared about. It’d be their surroundings as well.

Personally, I once saw a well dressed Brazilian gentleman inside an airport while waiting for his luggage spit on the floor. I had never seen that before (and thankfully never since) but it was something that I saw in various other forms whenever I have visited Brazil.

It’s an interesting dichotomy.

— Max

Recently read your article and the comments of other readers. It was the last one that I was glad to read. The filth in this city of So Paulo is utterly atrocious! I come from Canada and in each province there are by-laws with huge fines for littering. I have been to a couple of the city parks and noticed the lack of garbage cans. This is also evident in the streets of the city. In Canada as well as the states, this would never be the case! I witness daily, the lack of respect that Brazilians have for their city of So Paulo where people, young and old, throw litter of all sorts from their cars, walking down the street or from their windows. The rivers stink to high heavens with the trash that accumulates because people just dont give a damn and throw their trash where ever they feel. It is just a lack of respect as well as education.

— Linda

Your text was like therapy for me, as my girlfriend litters me with mental abuse regarding this subject. And to give her perspective "Americans are slobs."

Why are Brazilians clean freaks? Because it has always been so cheap to keep to things clean. For example, I have a Brazilian friend who told me that she has never made her bed in her life. The result of this is a necessity to maintain class status. As if to say that if the place isn’t spotless, then you are poor. And heaven forbid that somebody may think that you are not wealthy.

Where I come from we aren’t so worried about whether other people think we are rich or not.

– Jerel

As a Brazilian living in Europe for a quite long time, it’s funny to read this article, as we indeed care a lot about cleaning.

I could agree with many things said but the Brazilian cleanliness has nothing to do with "differentiate themselves between and the lower class", we learn on early age that it is acceptable to be poor but not dirty! As a volunteer worker I have been in very poor places, including "favela da Rocinha" and it’s amazing of besides the lack of infra-structure people keep their place spotless. I guess you all would agree that there is noway of somebody who live in "favela da Rocinha" wouldn’t look poor.

Once I moved to The Netherlands I was amazed to see my colleagues to go work with the same shirt they had the day before, still once you choose to live abroad the better way to deal with differences and try to understand the reason for it. Very nice website, well done Mark!

In another hand, Jerel makes me sick with his comments.

— Juliana

I have to agree with Juliana and disagree with Jerel. The ‘obsession’ with personal hygiene is about self-esteem, respect for others and practicality:

– self-esteem: why impose upon yourself the desperate circumstances of the marginais, when you have access to running water and a washing machine? Keeping clean and cheiroso is not an attempt to mock the homeless but is partially to do with respecting oneself.

– respect for others: anyone who has had to contend with the London Undergound in the summer will know that a shockingly high percentage of commuters do not wash before leaving home. The stench on the way home is beyond description…

– practicality: personal hygiene is essential in the tropics. My wife has commented that if the UK were a tropical country, the population would be decimated by plague/cholera/etc such is the disregard for personal hygiene.

On a lighter note, there is some amusing stuff around this topic. Has anyone seen (largely) female relatives dousing hands with the ubiquitous alcool before handling someone’s newborn (to avoid infection, natch), then smothering the poor creature in kisses? LOL!

I believe the dichotomy of filthy cities (So Paulo is mentioned) and spotless homes dovetails with the ‘private prosperity, public squalor’ creed inherited from colonial times. I would add that Brazilians consider the apartment block to be an extension of home: they cooperate closely with neighbours to ensure that common areas are dignas and that the block does fall into decadencia. This contrasts with the UK, where people are unconcerned with whatever happens outside their front door. I have a student who lives in a very snazzy new build in London. The corridor was becoming filthy because…it was being used, but not being cleaned! Being a brasileira, she found this intolerable (and bizarre: ‘this block is expensive!’) and harassed the managing agent into taking action.

— Bill Martin

It’s only natural that if only ‘gringoes’ try to find an answer the debate will easily tend towards speculation. So I’ll give my contribution.

Brazil has had an extremely rapid (still ongoing) urbanization. In rural (and here I mean really aside from modern facilities and ‘products’) places there isn’t something as ‘litter’. Aside from keeping your house clean and ordained there actually doesn’t exist the garbage disposal problem since there are no industrial products and everything is either recycled naturally or easily burnt. Also people may get in touch with tv even before they can actually buy anything, so many long to go to the cities. These people are not dumb, they just had a rearing in a completely different environment. That along with the lack of education, that makes unclean habits (from urban standards) pass towards the next generation, accounts for much of the problem (individualism and political corruption also play a major role).

— Srgio

Just found your website by googling, "Why are Brazilians neat freaks". Yes, my wife to be is a Brazilian, and yes, she is a clean freak. After a long days work, when I just want to go to bed, she wants to take a second or a third shower. If I try to negotiate out of it, she threatens to put a long body pillow between us in the bed.

She washes the dishes by hand before she puts them in the dishwasher, so I can’t tell if the dishes are dirty or clean when I try to empty the washer. She uses the clothes washer twice a day, whereas I just used it once a week (all clothes in the same load). She makes my English Bulldog take baths every two weeks, but I’m not allowed to use the bathtub, so I have to take him to a groomer. She bought me Brazilian shoes so I can wear them from the bed to the bathroom.

I love her, and I will try to change her, but so far she seems to have the upper hand and is succeeding more at changing me.

— Scott

Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Expressions with &rsquot;Dar&rsquot;

By Ana Luiza Bergamini
Let’s say someone asks you ‘D para voc chegar l s oito?’ (Can you get there at eight?) If you’re not yet familiar with the many ways to use the verb ‘dar’, you’ll probably be puzzled as to why the Portuguese equivalent of ‘to give’ is being used in this sentence. You’re bound to hear many ‘dar’ expressions while talking to Brazilians, so let’s take a look at a few popular ones:

‘Dar para’

‘Dar para’ is equivalent to ‘to be possible’. It’s an impersonal expression, in the sense that ‘dar’ isn’t preceded by a subject and is always conjugated in the 3rd person of the singular.

D para voc terminar tudo hoje? .
Is it possible for you to / Can you finish it all today?

Não, não d. Estou ocupada
No, it isn’t / I can’t. I’m busy.

Vai dar para ela fazer a apresentaão?
Will it be possible for her to give the presentation?

Yes, it will.

Deu para o Marcos preparar o arquivo?
Was it possible for Marcos to prepare the file?

Yes, it was.

Tip: The main verbs in these examples – terminar, fazer, preparar – following ‘dar para’ are conjugated in the personal infinitive tense, which, for singular forms, is the same as the infinitive of the verb. If instead of ‘voc’, ‘ela’ and ‘o Marcos’ we had, for example, ‘eles’, the correct conjugation would be ‘terminarem’, ‘fazerem’ and ‘prepararem’.

‘Dar um jeito’

This is a very common expression that means ‘to find a way’ / ‘to fix something or a situation’ / ‘to work things out’.

– Não se preocupe, a gente vai dar um jeito de chegar cedo na festa.
Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to get to the party early.

– A televisão est quebrada.
The television is broken.

Não est mais, eu j dei um jeito.
It’s not anymore, I’ve already fixed it.

Tip: Jeito is often substituted by the diminutive ‘jeitinho’, without changing the general meaning. Hence the expression ‘Jeitinho Brasileiro’, or the Brazilian way of resolving things.

‘Se dar bem com’

This is the most common way to say ‘to get along with’.

Eu me dou bem com a minha irm.
I get along with my sister.

O Paulo e o Fernando não se dão bem.
Paulo and Fernando don’t get along.

‘Dar uma olhada, uma ligada, uma passada…’

These expressions are formed by ‘dar uma’ + the main verb’s past participle with a at the end, instead of o.

olhar –> olhado –> dar uma olhada (take a look)

Voc pode dar uma olhada nesse relatório?
Can you take a look at this report?

ligar –> ligado –> dar uma ligada (give a call)

Preciso dar uma ligada pro Carlos.
I need to call Carlos.

passar –> passado –> dar uma passada (stop by)

Eu dei uma passada na escola dele hoje.
I stopped by his school today.

There are many others, such as ‘dar uma lida’ (browse), ‘dar uma deitada’ (take a nap), ‘dar uma limpada’ (tidy up) and ‘dar conta’ (manage, handle or notice).

Can you think of more expressions using ‘dar’? Send them to with the meaning and an example of how they are used and I will include at the end of the next lesson.

That’s all for now – try to learn and practice these expressions and you’ll be a few steps closer to communicating well in Brazil. One last tip: you’ll almost never hear a Brazilian say ‘para’ (pah-rah). We just say ‘pra’ or ‘pro’ (=para + o), so you may want to get used to it!

Ana Luiza Bergamini is a private Portuguese teacher in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

Brazil: Get Your Own Insider’s Look at Carnaval

By Kyle W. Hedlund

Did you know that it is possible to experience Rio`s Carnaval from the inside? Most of the samba schools allow the general public to purchasefantasias (costumes) and dance along with them in the parade. For upwards of around R$300 you can participate in one of the alas (sections) that contribute to each school`s enredo (theme).

This year Caprichosos de Pilares, a samba school from the carioca suburbs, will be the fourth group on Carnaval Sunday to parade down Marques de Sapuca, the avenue that runs through the Sambodromo. Their enredo covers the culture and tradition of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro`s neighboring state to the north. Chico Spinosa, the author of this creation, intends to present what he defines as the cultural antropofagism* of Espirito Santo, a place of diversity. *(Antropofagism?! Something along the lines of assimilating elements of artistic expression from other cultures.)

Caprichosos de Pilares` current production comes with no less than two innovations. The first has Indians from the Pau-Brasil tribe on thebateria (drum section) playing their traditional instrument, the casaca. According to organizers, this will be the first time Indians have participated in a Carnaval parade. The other new idea is the distribution of chocolates on the avenue during the passage of the 6th setor, which talks about Vila Velha, the city where the famous Garoto chocolate factory is located. In his synopsis Spinosa says, In Vila Velha I face the strength of chocolate.” Mmm.

I`ve already booked my place in the ala Vitória (Vitória is the capital city of Espirito Santo), which is part of the 6th setor and will present a costume alluding to chocolate from the Vila Velha factory. It is described as “making fun sweet” (i.e. I`ll be dressed like a large bon-bon). Ahead of the ala will be a carro alegórico (parade float) depicting a fantastic chocolate factory and all its machinery. Chocolate boxes will be distributed to drooling spectators along the way.

The president of the ala, Jnia Bizarelli, says that just a few costumes remain, but if you are interested in participating you could call 21 2242-9312 or 21 8742-5907 to reserve one. “We have high expectations for this year&rsquot;s parade,” she concludes. 

Site: – Fantasia 17

Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)

By Mark Taylor
Following All Saints Day (November 1st) the public holiday of Finados” (Day of the Dead) is celebrated here in Brazil on November 2nd.

The idea is to remember the life of loved ones, so many people will go to cemeteries and churches, and take flowers, light candles, and pray. Despite the morbid subject the celebration is intended to be a positive one, and the day is set aside specifically to celebrate the life of, and remember those who are deceased.

The origins of this celebration are a little lost in time, but it&rsquot;s a holiday that has been celebrated for thousands of years in Latin America and clearly stems from there. Most likely the origins are from cultures such as the Aztecs and Mayans who revered their ancestors, and wanted to honour their memory. It was a common practice to keep the skulls of ancestors as trophies, and then display them during rituals such as this and also those that symbolised birth. Hence skulls are a potent symbol still used in countries like Mexico.

The holiday is celebrated throughout Latin America, but is also celebrated in growing numbers in parts of the USA, principally those areas that have large Latin American immigrant populations.