A guide to some of the most common Portuguese phrases

Portuguese is spoken by over 250 million people across Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Macau, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, East Timour and São Tomé. Closely related to Galician and Spanish, it is one of the most romantic languages on earth and can be great fun to learn.

The differences between European Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese and the variations spoke throughout Africa and Asia, tend to be relatively minor. For example, European speakers speak faster and drop some of their vowels, whereas Brazilians speak at a slower pace with much more open vowels. However, learn one and you will be able to get by just fine in the other countries.


As with learning any language, the place to start is at the beginning and that is almost always with greetings:

Hello is 'olá' (pronounced 'oh-la') or a more informal greeting might be 'oi', similar to 'hi'. Saying goodbye is similar to the Spanish. A formal goodbye is 'adeus' (pronounced ah-deuz). For people you are more familiar with, say 'tchau' (pronounced ch-ow).

The following are a series of other useful greetings phrases which are essential to spending time in Portugal:

Good morning - Bom dia (pronounced boh-mm dih-ah). Although this phrase means 'good day' it is almost always used in the morning.

Good afternoon - Boa tarde (pronounced boh-ah Tahr-d).

How are you? - Como está? - (pronounced coh-mooh esh-tah).

Please - Por favor (pronounced pooh-r fah-voh-r).

I don't speak Portuguese - Não falo português (pronounced nah-oom fah-looh pooh-r-tooh-guês).

Thank you - If you are male it is 'obrigado' (pronounced oh-bree-gah-dooh). If you are female it is 'obrigada' (pronounced oh-bree-gah-dah).

You're welcome - De nada (pronounced dee nah-dah).

I'm sorry - Desculpe (pronounced desh-cool-pah).

Other useful questions and phrases

We don't realise until we are absorbed in another language just how many questions we need answering in any given day. Below are a few of the basic questions that you might need to know:

Do you speak English? - Fala inglês? (pronounced fah-lah inn-glesh).

What time is it? - Que horas são? (pronounced queh o-rah-sh sah-oomm).

How much? - Quanto custa? (pronounced kwan-toh coos-tah?).

Can you help me, please? - Pode ajudar-me, por favor? (pronounced pode ajudar-me, por favor?).

I'm lost - Estou perdido (pronounced esh-toe per-dee-doo).

Help me (used if you are in trouble) - Socorro! (pronounced soh-coh-hoh!).

Tips for picking up Portuguese

A general rule of thumb is that 'm' is pronounced 'n' in the vast majority of cases.

Of course, the best way to get familiar with any language is to immerse yourself in it. Even if you know that people are able to speak English, persevere with Portuguese - even if you miss large chunks of the conversation. Listening to Portuguese music is also a great way to get familiar with the language. Of course, you may not understand most of what is being said, but it is great technique for becoming familiar with pronunciation.

Finally, keep at it. Learning a new language is not easy, but with time and patience you will find that it all begins to fall into place.

Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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