Slangs and Expressions from Maranhão

By Pedro Souza
October 3, 2017

Known for the beauty of its idyllic beaches and sand dunes, Maranhão is definitely a state worth visiting. For you to get acquainted with the local language, we have compiled some “Maranhense” slangs and expressions.

Brocado: “A Maranhense” doesn’t get hungry, he gets “brocado”.
Maguaça: A “maguaça” ia a person that is extremely drunk or a mistake made by a drunk person.
Piqueno/piquena: A modified version of the word “pequeno/pequena” (little), this is how people call young boys/girls in Maranhão.
Caguetar: To snitch on someone.
Pois é (so it is): An expression used when agreeing with what someone is saying.
Meu chapa (my “chapa”): An informal and affectionate way way of referring to a friend.
Marrapá!: An expressions of surprise.
Encabuloso: Something different, or changed.
Ralado (scraped): Something that is not worth it or that is boring or low quality is “ralado”.
Mangar: To “mangar” someone is to make fun of that person.
Esparroso: Something that attracts attention is “esparroso”.
Zilado: Things are not fast in Maranhão, they are “ziladas”.
Lascado: When someone is in deep trouble that person is “lascado”.
Fuá: In Maranhão people don’t make a mess, they make a “fuá”.
Aziar: To ruin something.
Galudo: An arrogant or cocky person.
Se amostrar: To show off.
Cabuloso: Something bizarre or shocking.
Arrilado: To be “arrilado” is to be anguished.
Bagaceira: Maranhenses don’t go to the party, they go to the “bagaceira”.
Arremedar: To copy something or someone.
Mucura: A “mucura” is something ugly.
Escangalhar: To “escangalhar” something is to break it. Fulero: Something of bad quality.
Ferro (Iron): Something you enjoy or admire.
Canhenga: A stingy person.
Na roça (In the fields): As strange as it sounds, to be “in the fields” means to be jobless in Maranhão.
Gazear: To skip or to miss something.
Azuretado: A person that is confused or daydreaming.
Quebrar a cabeça (to break the head): When you have to think intensively to solve a problem, you have to break your head over it.
Ser o bicho cacau (to be the cacao animal): To be the “bicho cacau” is to be the best.
Lacolá: A place that is very far away is “lacolá”.
Enfarento: Someone who is easy to make fun of.
Fuxicar: In Maranhão people don’t gossip, they “fuxicam”.
Marmoço: A positive affirmation one might hear after asking a question.
Pucardiquê: This word is a shortened way of saying “por causa de que” (because of what?). It is a way of asking “why”.
Gaiato: A funny person.
Dicumê: A shortened version of “de comer” (for eating), this is a local expression for “food”.
Paia: Something boring or not worth it.
Se acomodar (to accommodate oneself): To get quiet.
Bater beira (to hit an edge): To “hit an edge” in Maranhão is to take a walk with no destination.
Na pedra (in the rock): When you are in need of something, you are “in the rock”.

Slangs and Expressions From the State of Paraná

By Pedro Souza
September 4, 2017

In the south of Brazil lies Paraná, a state famous for its araucaria forests and for the Iguaçu Falls, which is one of the most dazzling sights in Brazil. These and other wonders await you if you ever decide to explore Paraná. If you do, it might be a good idea to get acquainted with the local language. With this in mind, we have made a compilation of slangs and expressions from Paraná.

Piá: The paranaense way of referring to a little boy.
Piá de prédio (Building’s piá): Someone that rarely spends any time outdoors.
Gambiarra: Something that is improvised or not well made.
Curitiboca: A person that complains about everything.
Jururu: A quiet person.
Gasosa (Gassy): This is how people from Paraná refer to soft drinks.
Jojoca: An expression for the hiccups.
Ciar: To be jealous of.
Mundeado: Someone that is well travelled.
Pinchar: To throw.
Pança: A common slang in some other states as well, a “pança” is a belly.
Avacalhar: To demoralize or to make a mess out of something.
Baita: Something very large.
Bedelhar: To intrude into someone else’s business.
Desgarrado: To be desgarrado is to be lost.
Esquentado (Heated): A person with a short temper.
Garrar: To start something.
Aí que a porca torce o rabo (This is where the pig twists its tail): A moment when someone has to face some hardship or difficulty.
Ficar na moita (To be in the bush): To be in the bush is to await silently for something.
Enjerizado: In a bad mood.
Entojado: Cocky or arrogant.
Massa (Mass): Something that is cool or fun.
Prosa: Someone that enjoys talking or/and talks a lot. In other states, “prosa” often means talk.
Volteada: A short walk or ride.
Zuar: To make fun of.
Apagar o pito (To put down the fire in the pipe): To calm down.
Procurar sarna para coçar (To look for an itch to scratch): To look for trouble.
Soltar a lingua (To let the tongue loose): When a person is unable to keep a secret, that person has let the tongue loose.
Barata tonta (Dizzy cockroach): A dumb or dim-witted person might get called a “barata tonta” in Paraná.
Mosca de cavalo (Horse fly): A horse fly is a bothersome person.
Por os pontos nos Is (To put the points in the I’s): To make things clear or to solve an issue. Boanoitou: An expression used to communicate that night has arrived.
Jaguará: An ordinary thing.
Descolar (To unglue): To “unglue” something means to acquire it. If you have a pack of cigarettes for example, a smoker with no cigarettes might ask you to “unglue” a cigarette for him.
Dinheirudo: A person who is fairly wealthy but often complains about money.
Destrocar (To un-trade): Weird as it sounds, “untrading” refers to the act of trading.
Galinha de porão (Basement’s chicken): A person that doesn’t spend much time outdoors and therefore, becomes really White.

Slangs and Expressions From the State of Goiás

By Pedro Souza
March 27, 2017

In the center of Brazil lies the state of Goiás. In Goiás one finds Brasília, the capital of Brazil, but the state is also home to wonders such as the state park of Chapada Diamantina. Going there, one will also be greeted with a local culture and a local way of speaking Portuguese. To get you acquainted with the Goiano Portuguese, we have made a compilation of local slangs and expressions below.

Acho paia (I find it “paia”): And expressions used when someone thinks something to be of bad taste.
Véi: The Goiano equivalent of “dude” or “man”.
Trem (Train): While the word “trem” means “train”, it can also mean “thing” in Goiás.
Prego (Nail): A person that is annoying or bad at something.
Encabulado: In most of Brazil, it means “ashamed”. In Goiás to be “encabulado” is to be impressed.
Dedar (To finger): To “dedar” someone is to snitch on that person.
Dar trela (To give trela): To give “trela” is to have a laughing attack.
Madurar: When the sun rises, the day has “madurado”.
Fuça: This word can either mean an animal’s nose or a person’s face.
Posar (To pose): In Goiás, to pose means to sleep.
Esbaforido: Tired, exhausted.
Agoniado: When you are in agony, you are “agoniado”
Segue toda a vida (Go ahead your whole life): When giving directions, Goianos will say that when telling someone that they have to walk for a long time in a straight line.
Caçar (To hunt): Goianos don’t search for something, they hunt it.
Mala (Bag): In the rest of Brazil, a “mala” is an annoying person. In Goiás, a “mala” is a cunning person.
Custoso (Costly): This slang can either mean a stubborn person or something that takes a lot of effort to accomplish.
Ta cedo moço! (It is early man!): An expression used when saying goodbye, regardless of how early (or late) it actually is.
Veiáco: A veiáco is someone who is quick-witted.
Clarear um caso (To clear a case): To solve a problem.
Comer na gaveta (To eat inside the drawer): When a person is being stingy, that person is “eating inside the drawer”.
Dormir no macio (To sleep somewhere soft): In Goiás, a person that lives an easy life is “sleeping somewhere soft”.
Matando o bicho (Killing the animal): When someone in Goiás says he is “killing the animal”, it means he is drinking an alcoholic beverage.
Esticar a corda (To extend the rope): If a person is asking too much from someone, that person is “extending the rope”.
Montar no gavião (To ride the hawk): To be disappointed or ashamed.
Picar a mula (To sting the mule): To run away.
Leréia: When someone is trying to deceive you, that person is talking “leréia”.
Espandongar: To “espandongar” is to ruin something or to create chaos or disorder.
Trelente: Someone who talks too much or who has no discretion.
Dar rata (To give a rat): To do something stupid.
Lascou!: When things goe wrong, a Goiano might exclaim “lascou”!
Esturdia: These days.
Estar com a orelha em pé (To have the ear up): When someone “has the ear up”, that person is suspicious or alert.
Sair da brasa para a labareda (To go from the embers to the flame): To go from a bad situation to an ever worse one.

Slangs and Expressions from Rio Grande do Sul

By Pedro Souza
January 30th, 2017

It can be said that Brazil is many countries in one. As you go from state to state, the local people and culture change drastically, and so does the language. Below, we have made a compilation of slangs and expressions you will hear if you go to the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Acolherar (to spoon): To get together.
Bochinche: An expression for a disorder, conflict or fight.
Chê!: A meaningless exclamation often said at the end of a sentence for emphasis. You will be hearing this one a lot.
Bah!: Another common expression, this one is used to demonstrate surprise or indignation.
Charlar: Gaúchos don’t have a conversation, they “charlam”.
Com o pé no estribo (With feet on the stirrup): A Gaúcho is not ready to leave; he has his feet on the stirrup.
De vereda: When something is about to come up, it is “de vereda”.
Despacito: To do something “despacito” is to do it slowly, with no hurry.
Guapo: In Spanish, a guapo is someone who is good looking. For the Gaúchos, a guapo is a brave person.
Espichar a canela (To extend your shin): In Rio Grande do Sul, to extend your shin means to die.
Bater as botas (To hit the boots): Another southern expression for dying. This one is used more often than “espichar a canela”, and is frequently used in other states as well.
Guri/Guria: For the Gaúchos, a small boy is called a “guri” and a small girl a “guria”.
Macanudo: A powerful or rich person.
Maleva: An evil or perverse person.
Matear: To “matear” means to drink chimarrão, yerba mate based drink that is one of the staples of Gaúcho culture.
Azucrinar: To bother someone.
Arapuca: An arapuca is a trap for birds, but it can also mean a dishonest trick or cheat.
Bóia: A southern term for food.
Chambão: A stupid or gullible person.
Cupincha: Gaúchos don’t have friends, they have “cupinchas”.
Calavera: A calavera is a dishonest person or a bum.
Dobrar o cotovelo (To bend the elbow): To take a cup to one’s mouth, to drink.
Embretado: When you find yourself in a tight situation, you are “embretado”.
Estar com o diabo no corpo (To have the devil in one’s body): When a person is furious or troublesome, that person has the devil in the body.
Facada (A knife stab): For Gaúchos, a “facada” is when a person asks for money without the intention or condition to pay it back.
Fazer a viagem do corvo (To make the crow’s trip): When someone makes a trip and takes too long to return, that person has made the crow’s trip.
Faceiro: In Rio Grande do Sul, an elegant person is a “faceiro”.
Tem um cachorro na cancha (There’s a dog in the field): When something is disrupting the execution of a plan, gauchos will say there is a dog in the field.
Jururu: To be “jururu” is to be sad, depressed, beaten.
Trovar: To “trovar” someone is to flirt with that person.
Vivente (living): A “vivente” is an individual, a person or simply any living creature.

8 Tips For Beginners Learning Brazilian Portuguese

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
November 13, 2015

So you are thinking about spending some time in Brazil but you feel the language to be a problem. In fact, Brazilian Portuguese is not the easiest language to learn, and things get even trickier when dealing with spoken Portuguese, which is full of slangs and expressions that sounds a lot different from written Portuguese. With that being said, some dedication and time will get you through these obstacles. Below, we have compiled 8 tips for bginners learning Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Get yourself a English-to-Brazilian-Portuguese dictionary: If you are serious about learning Brazilian Portuguese, this one is a must have. When trying to read in Portuguese, you will be coming across many unfamiliar words and expressions. With a dictionary, you will not only be able to understand and learn these expressions but also learn how to pronounce then, which is something you will need in the future.

2. Read something in Portuguese as often as you can: Reading is one of the most important activities for you to build your vocabulary and become familiar with the language. There are plenty things to read, from books, blogs, news websites and much more. A suggestion is to read the news in Portuguese at least a few times a week. Some of the most popular news websites in Brazil are <a href="">Estado</a>, <a href="">Folha</a> and <a href="">Uol</a>.

3. Keep a language notebook: One practice which can be really helpful for beginners is keeping a language notebook. In this notebook, you should write new words and expressions that you have learned. Studies have already shown that writing down things help to consolidate them in your memory, even if you never read what you wrote down again. And if you need to check what you have learned, you will have it written down.

4. Watch movies and series in Portuguese: Brazilian Portuguese sounds a lot different when spoken. One way of getting familiar with it is by watching movies and series in Portuguese. Brazilian cinema has a wide array of excellent movies, and are a great choice if you want to get familiar with Brazilian culture while you learn the language.

5. Seek out someone who you can speak Portuguese to: This tip is essential if you want to train your conversation skills. The best thing you can do is find someone who you can speak Portuguese to in real life, or at least through skype. If this isnt possible, you can find many places where you can interact with Brazilians on the internet. One option is debating in forums and facebook groups in Portuguese. You can also look for a Brazilian pen-pal with whom you can hone your skills. For those that enjoy computer games, a good option is to play a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) in Portuguese. Many games such as Ragnarok Online, The Duel and World of Warcraft have a Brazilian Portuguese version, where you can find plenty of people to talk.

6. Listen to Brazilian music: Brazil not only has its own musical styles but it also has many vibrant music scenes. Delving into Brazilian music is a great opportunity to improve your vocabulary while you enjoy yourself and expand your musical repertoire.

7. Learn the jargon of your topics of interest: Once you start to understand the basics of Brazilian Portuguese, try learning the jargon of your fields of interest, or you might find yourself in trouble when trying to talk about these topics.

8. Be consistent: Last but not least, be consistent with your learning. Try to work on your skills constantly, and do not go for long without practicing, and review the things you have learned by using them as often as you can.

Sao Paulo Slang and Expressions

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

When trying to speak Brazilian Portuguese, the language that is used on a day-to-day basis is riddled with slangs and expressions. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, these expressions change a lot from region to region. Below, we have listed some slangs and expressions that will help you to understand the people of So Paulo, Paulistas.

Meu/mano: Both of these expressions are frequently used by young people, and they are the paulista equivalent of "dude", "bro" or "man".

Ta ligado?: This expression literally means "are you on?". This is asked after making a statement, and it is the same as asking in English "You know what I mean?"

Na moral: To do something "na moral" is to do it in a way that is not arrogant or disrespectful. But when you ask "Na moral?", this slang has a completely different meaning. In this case, it is the same as asking "really?"

Sinistro!: As one can easily guess, this translated literally to "sinister". People say that as a reaction to something that is bizarre, cool or freaky.

Mina: A shortened version of "menina" (girl), this is the paulista equivalent of "chick".

Firmeza: This word means "firmeness", but when used as a slang it is the same as saying "all right". It is also used as a greeting, with one person asking "firmeza?", and the other person answering "firmeza!".

Fica Frio: When telling someone to relax, this is what paulistanos say. Literally, this expression means "stay cool".

Pode crer: When people from So Paulo agree with what someone just said, they often reply "pode crer", which literally means "you can believe).

Tipo: This word is pops up a lot when paulistanos speak. It means "type", but they also use it in a way similar to a comma, without altering the meaning of the sentence at all.

Farol: The paulista word for "traffic light".

Lombada: This is how paulistas call a speed bump.

Mo cara!: A way of saying "a long time"

Se pa: A slang with no possible translation that means "maybe".

U: This expression has no real meaning or translation, but it is used a lot by people from So Paulo. It is usually said when questioning something unusual.

Top: Taken from english, paulistas call something "top" when it is really good.

Suave: One of the most common slangs used by young paulistas, this expression has a few uses. It can be used as a greeting the same way as firmeza, but it can also mean that something or someone is easy or relaxed.

Tenso: Meaning "tense", this expression is used to describe something or some situation that is difficult or bad. If someone tells a story about getting robbed for example, someone else might reply "tenso!". Another person might use the word to describe a difficult videogame level.

16 Funny Brazilian Expressions

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
July 21, 2015

Brazilian Portuguese is a curious language, being a mix of traditional Portuguese and the indigenous languages of Brazil. In the hands of Brazilians, it can take some creative turns, as expressions emerge from the daily use of language. Below, we have compiled 16 of those expressions, some unique to Brazil.

1. Abotoar o palet (To button up the blazer):Despite what it sounds like, this expression has nothing to do with clothing. It is a euphemism for dying.
2. Jogar verde para colher maduro (Throwing the green fruit to pick it ripe): This is another expression you won’t hear anywhere else. It means hinting that you know something which you suspect is true in an attempt to make another person admit it.
3. Encher a linguia (To fill the sausage): You know when you have to write an essay, and after you said everything you had to say you start writing anything just to get to the minimum number of words required? In Brazil this is known as filling the sausage.
4. De cavalo dado no se olha os dentes (You don’t look at the teeth of a horse someone gave you): If you haven’t guessed what this expressions refers to, it is about gratitude. Brazilians say that when others complain about a received gift, or they will say it when they have received a bad gift, implying that it wouldn’t be proper to complain.
5. Baixa a bola (Lower the ball): If someone is acting too cocky or arrogant, he might be told to lower the ball. In English, the equivalent expression might be "slow your roll".
6. Viajar na maionese (To travel in the mayonnaise): This is probably one of the funniest expressions Brazilians use. To say someone is travelling in the mayonnaise means that the person referred to is talking nonsense.
7. Puxar o saco (To pull the sack): Brazilians are not bootlickers or ass kissers, but they can be sack pullers.
8. Catar coquinho (To pick "coquinhos"): Coquinhos are small orange fruits that resemble cononuts. But when someone tells you to go pick coquinhos, that person is basically telling you to get lost.
9. Tempestade em copo d’agua (A storm inside a glass of water): When someone is blowing an issue out of proportion, you tell that person to stop making a storm inside a glass of water.
10. Cara de pau (Stick face): People in Brazil are not shameless. They simply have stick faces.
11. Que brisa (What a breeze): Because in Brazil things are not "trippy", they are a breeze.
12. Pisar na bola (To step on the ball): When someone messes up something, Brazilians call it "stepping on the ball"
13. Onde o Judas perdeu as botas (Where Judas lost his boots): This curious expression is used to refer to a remote place.
14. Engolir sapo (Swallowing the frog): Sometimes in life, you have to swallow your pride and and hear some things that you don’t want to hear. In Brazil, this is called swallowing the frog.
15. Fogo no rabo (Fire in the tail): When a Brazilian is really restless, he has fire in his tail.
16. Mais perdido que cego em tiroteio (More lost than a blind man in a gunfight): When someone is really lost and clueless, Brazilians will say he is more lost than a blind man in a gunfight.

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6 Common Mistakes Foreigners Make Trying to Speak Portuguese in Brazil

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
June 17, 2015

When travelling to foreign countries, it is always worth making an effort to learn and speak a few words of the native language. When doing so, it is impossible to avoid making mistakes, which are part of the learning process. That being said, there is nothing stopping you from preparing in advance for the pitfalls ahead. Listed below are 5 common mistakes made by foreigners when speaking Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Mixing up gender articles: In English, articles are gender-neutral. The Portuguese language however, has not only male and female articles but also nouns. A "pedra" (rock) for example is a female noun, while an "armrio" (closet), is a male noun. Because of that, "the rock" translates to "a pedra", while "the closet" in Portuguese is "o armrio". It is recommended for foreigners to learn the gender of the most common nouns.

2. Saying thanks in the wrong way: Saying thanks is one of the first things people learn when studying a foreign language. Because Portuguese is not a gender-neutral language, foreigners get it wrong all the time. The word for thanking someone in Portuguese is "obrigado", which roughly translated as "obliged". A female person would say "obrigada", which is the feminine version of the word.

3. Using the wrong gender for third person possessives: Like articles, the gender of possessives is defined by what is being possessed, not by who possesses it. The word "my" for example, as in "my wallet", has a feminine (minha) and a masculine (meu) version. So the correct of saying "my house" is "minha casa", since "house" is a feminine noun, while "my book" would translate to "meu livro", as "book" is a masculine noun.

4. Using Spanish expressions: Whether from Spanish speaking countries or not, many tourists who visit Brazil have a background in Spanish. This background can be very helpful when trying to understand Brazilian Portuguese, since both languages are quite close. That being said, foreigners with a background in Spanish tend to let it spill into their attempts at speaking Portuguese, with Spanish words such as "quiero" (want) and "muy" (much) being frequently used.

5. Speaking too formally: The Portuguese that Brazilians speak in their daily lives is really different from written Portuguese or from the Portuguese one learns taking classes. Foreigners tend to be too formal when attempting to communicate with Brazilians, which makes it harder for them to understand. One should also be aware that grasping casual Portuguese is harder than it sounds, since it varies a lot from region to region.

6. Talking in a robotic way: Brazilian Portuguese has a smooth and uninterrupted rhythm. The way most foreigners speak Portuguese isnt only strange and robotic in the eyes of native speakers, but also makes it harder for them to understand what is being said. A wave is a good analogy for the rhythm that Brazilians apply to their sentences. When speaking Portuguese, you should speak your sentences in a tone that increases and decreases. Do not forget to transition smoothly from word to word, in an uninterrupted way.

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Useful Expressions and Language Knowledge for Brazil – Part 1

By Jon Lemmens
April 22, 2014

The first couple months after I moved to Brazil I could barely understand people when they spoke to me. A conversation would typically involve me explaining that I couldn&rsquot;t speak Portuguese very well and then attempting to ask my question or state my request. I did manage to get a haircut and buy bread by pointing and saying a couple of keywords.

I have now been in Brazil for a little over four months and still have trouble understanding people when they speak quickly or when I listen to someone address a crowd of people. However, if I speak to a person one-on-one and I understand the context of the topic, I can hold a lengthy conversation, which I did last weekend.

I will provide you with some common expressions, words, and actions that you should be aware of.

Remember that expressions and mannerisms will differ in different parts and different cities of Brazil so my experiences are only a partial representation of Brazil.

General Points about Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese is distinctly different from European (Portugal) or African Portuguese. Some people compare the language difference to be similar to the difference between England’s English (Portugal Portuguese) and the United States’ English (Brazilian Portuguese).

Depending on the city or region you visit in Brazil, you will encounter distinctly different accents and thereby affect your ability to understand Portuguese.

Brazil’s language has a number of rules that affect how you hear and understand the language.
Brazilian Portuguese uses articles to differentiate between male/masculine and female/feminine subjects, objects or nouns.

Example 1 – O João (John) may sound like Oi John” and A Lisa may sound like a Brazilian is calling you “Alisa.” The “O” indicates a masculine subject and the “A” designates a feminine subject.

Example 2 – Na cidade (In a city) or no pas (In a country)

Em (in) is neutral
Em (in) + o = No (masculine)
Em (in) + a = Na (feminine)
De (of) is neutral
De (of) + o = Do (masculine)
De (of) + a = Da (feminine)

Example 3 – A Caro = the expense. O cara = The guy.

Example 4 – Brasiliero/Brasiliera or Americano/Americana

Example 5 – Obrigado (said by a man) / Obrigada (said by a woman)

Commonly Used Pronouns

Eu = I = Sounds like “you” or “yew.”
Voc = You (singular) = Sounds like “vou say.”
El / Ela = Him / Her (singular) = “El” sounds like the letter “L” and “Ela” sounds like “ey la.”
Nós = Us = Sounds like “Noy shh.”
Vocs/Eles/Elas are the plural forms of the previously mentioned pronouns.
The Alphabet

The Brazilian alphabet appears similar to the English alphabet with some distinct differences.

The phonetic translations below are how I hear the translations and interpret them into English and not the official interpretations.

“C” – The letter C can have a “ka” when the C stands alone or “sh” sound when written as CH.
Example – Cachaa (sugar cane brandy) sounds like “ka sha sa.”

“H” – The letter H is called an “ag.” The H is silent at the beginning of the word.
Example – História (a history or story) sounds like “is toe ree-ah.”

“R” – The letter pronunciation sounds like “eh he” (erre). When you have two “Rs” the sound will sound like an H.

Example 1 – “Correr” (to run) sounds like “ko haare.”

Example 2 – “Cachorro” (a dog) sounds like “ka show hoe.”

“” – The has an “S” sound.

Example 3 – Praa (a town square or plaza) sounds like “pra sah.”

Sounds In Portuguese

“O” – is a nasal sound that appears in the middle of the word and can be difficult to pronounce. I try to pronounce the similar to the word “OWN” but with the OW sitting over the letter N OW/Nnn. The sound should be made with your mouth in a smile and with your lips closed.
Example – Avião (An airplane) sounds similar to “A vee ow nnh”

“ES” – is the plural of “O” and sounds like “oynes.”

Example – Avies (airplanes) sounds likes “A vee oynes.”

Republished with kind permission from

Jon relocated from Los Angeles to São Paulo. He currently teaches English and has a background in Information Technology and Project Management.

Portuguese Tip: Sounds Part 3 – Vowels

By Teacher Claudia
August 31, 2007

Dear reader, please read out loud the following words: vovó and vov. If you pronounced them correctly, there was a sound difference in their endings, as the first word means grandmother and the second grandfather. That means pronunciation alters content. I can sincerely say that all of my foreign students have a hard time learning vowels in Brazilian Portuguese. Breathe, dear reader, and remember we have two ears and just one mouth. If we listen carefully, we shall speak well.

Activity 1 – Text
Read the poem Sobre a ambião”, by Guilherme de Almeida, out loud, please.

Deus o fez.
Mas ele, em vez
de se conformar,
quis ser sol, quis ser mar,
e ser cu… ser tudo, enfim!
Mas nada pde! E foi assim
que se ps a chorar de furor…
Mas ah! Foi sobre a sua própria dor
que as lgrimas tristes rolaram. E o pó
molhado, ficou sendo lodo. E lodo só!”

from dust
God made him.
But he, instead of
accepting himself,
wanted to be sun, be sea,
and be sky. be all, at last!
But nothing could he (be)! And that was how
he began crying with rage.
But hey! It was upon his own pain
that sad tears rolled. And the dust
wet, mud became. And mud alone!)

Activity 2 – Form
In Brazilian Portuguese, vowels can be oral, nasal, and semi-vowels.

  • Oral are the vowels that pass through the mouth, divided in open and closed:
    Open: a, , ó (similar sounds in English: a as in armor, e as in meadow, o as in saw);
    Closed: i, , , u (similar sounds in English: i as in indian, e as in entry, o as in old, u as in do);
  • Nasal vowels pass through the nose:
    Am, em, im, om, um, an, en, in, on, un, ,
    Brazilian Portuguese is a very nasal language, and although there are words in English with the first ten syllables shown above, it’s really different;
  • Finally, the semi-vowels are the letters e, i, o and u.
    Pão, seu, me and pai are all examples of semi-vowels, sounds that either change or “lose” strength.

    Just for the record, the letter A is the only “true” vowel in Brazilian Portuguese, as it can never be a semi-vowel.

    Activity 3 – Pronunciation in context
    We will take a look at Activity 1, trying to find examples for all cases, ok?
  • The underlined parts are all open vowels: só, pó, mas, sol, mar, nada;
  • The italicized parts are closed vowels: Deus, fez, ele, vez, ser, pde, ps, dor;
  • The parts in bold print are nasal vowels: com(formar), enfim, (as)sim, sen(do);
  • At last, the following parts are semi-vowels: o, de, se, e, que, (so)bre, (tris)tes, (molha)do, (lo)do.

    Activity 4 – Practice
    Now, to finish our lesson, read out loud the song “Palavras De Um Futuro Bom”, by Jota Quest. Just like the poem of Activity 1, there’s a game with words, their position and meaning:

    Anda, enquanto o dia acorda a gente ama.
    T pronto pra te ouvir aqui na cama.
    Te espero, vamos rir de todo mundo
    Nesse quarto tão profundo.

    Para, repara tente ver a sua cara.
    Contemple esse momento coisa rara:
    Uma emoão assim só se compara
    A tudo que nós j passamos juntos.

    Preciso tanto aproveitar voc,
    Olhar teus olhos, beijar tua boca.
    Ouvir palavras de um futuro bom.

    Preciso tanto aproveitar voc,
    Olhar teus olhos, beijar tua boca.
    Dizer palavras de um futuro bom.

    Para, repara tente ver a sua cara.
    Contemple esse momento coisa rara:
    Uma emoão assim só se compara
    Nesse quarto em um segundo.

    Preciso tanto aproveitar voc,
    Beijar teus olhos, olhar tua boca.
    Dizer palavras de um futuro bom.

    See you next class!
    Teacher Cludia

    Teacher Claudia is available for private classes in São Paulo. She can be contacted at

    To read previous articles by Teacher Claudia click below:

    Portuguese Tip: On God – Expressions with “Deus”
    Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 2
    Brazil: Third World Chaos
    Brazil&rsquot;s Catholic Parties in June
    Portuguese Tip: Sounds Part 2 – De & Di
    Portuguese Tip: Diminutives
    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Final Part
    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs in Portuguese – Exceptions
    Portuguese Tip: Regularity of Verbs
    Brazil: A Day in São Paulo
    Why Not? (Or on Brazilian Indians)
    Portuguese Tip: Infinitives and Gerunds Part 1
    Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Ningum X Nenhum
    Brazil: Portuguese Tip – Tudo vs. Todo
    Brazil&rsquot;s Independence Day
    Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Denials
    Brazil: Portuguese Tips – Não and Nem
    Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
    Portuguese Tip: If Clauses Part 1
    Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts Part 2
    Portuguese Tip: The X Doubts
    Brazil: To Tell or Not to Tell
    Brazil: Ipiranga Museum
    Portuguese Tip: Odd words
    Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
    A Brazilian Holiday: October 12th
    Portuguese Tip: Sounds
    Portuguese Tip: Verb Tenses
    Portuguese Tip: The Mystery of Seu, Sua
    Portuguese Tip: Interjections and Expressions
    Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 2
    A Brazilian custom: Kissing the Cheek
    Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Past
    Portuguese Tips: Plurals – Part 1
    Portuguese Tips: Regular Verbs – Simple Present
    Portuguese Tips
    Portuguese Tips: Adverbs in Portuguese
    Portuguese Tips: Comparative and Superlative
    Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes