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10 Words That Will Make You Sound Fluent in Brazilian Portuguese

By Edited Jan 18, 2015 2 1
Learn Brazilian Portuguese
Credit: mjpyro

Brazilian Portuguese is a little bit different than Portuguese spoken in other countries because of lots of slang and modified expressions or terms and accents that are unique to Brazil. And even within Brazil, there are various dialects and phrases that are unique to that specific region.

For instance, dinheiro (money) in the southern parts of Brazil is pronounced as “gin-yay-row”, with a hard g sound at the beginning.

However, in the northeastern part of the country, dinheiro is pronounced as “den-yah-row” with a hard d sound at the beginning. These are subtle but important differences and there are many found within the language. And if you throw in slang terms and shortened forms of expressions, you can be left feeling lost very fast. After all, that is not the way they taught you to say it on your CD lessons or in the Portuguese book you read, right?

So if you are planning on traveling to Brazil, there are some terms you should learn if you want to sound more Brazilian. Since you landed here, I am assuming you have some background in Brazilian Portuguese or have at least been exposed to a Portuguese dictionary.

Some of these suggestions are transition types words used in normal conversation and you may or may not find them in a Portuguese dictionary. We have the same types of conventions that we use in English also, you just probably never think of them in that way.

Sometimes it is hard to translate Brazilian Portuguese to English, but here are ten words or expressions you should know so that you sound less like a gringo using the Brazilian language on your next vacation to South America.   

Translate Portuguese to English

Ta (tah)

Ta, ta, ta. I hear it in my sleep sometimes. What they are actually say is the verb está, they just shorten it to “ta”.  Think of this as a way of someone listening to someone else talk, and during the conversation, one person affirms that they hear and understand what is being said. For instance, in English, speakers might say as the equivalent, “yeah… ok…. Right”.  In Brazilian Portuguese, that is what they are doing when they repeatedly say “ta”… “ta”. It is a little annoying at first, but then you find yourself doing it….. ta?

Ah é (ah eh)

You are literally saying “ah, it is” since é is the conjugated form of the verb “to be” (ser). So think of it in english as saying “Really?” It is also another one of those conversation fillers like “ta”. So if you tell a Brazilian you are going to Brazil, they might reply “Ah é”.

Né? (neh)

Né is actually the combined form of the words  “não é” which literally means “is it not?”, but really is like saying “right?”.  So think of this as something someone would say in the middle or at the end of a sentence. For example, someone could say “você está indo fazer compras amanhã, né?  (You are going shopping tomorrow, right?)  So instead of saying não é separately, just combine it to a né to sound like a local.

Learn Brazilian Portuguese
Credit: mjpyro

Então (eh-tah-ooh)

This is one of my favorites. This translates to “then” or “so”.  It is often used in a sort of sarcastic way when you are trying to change the subject.  Or when there is a lull in the conversation, one person might say, “Então”, basically saying, “ok, what is next”.  Guys, if you are standing around talking to a girl trying to get the nerve to ask her out and the conversation slows to a crawl, you might hear “Então”. That can be a good or bad thing. She could be trying to make her escape she could be gently prodding you along to do something, so stop being a putz.

Pra (pdah)

Pra is actually a shortened version or “para”. Imagine that. Shortening a four letter word to a three letter word.  Para means “on order to” or “for”. Actually, it has several different meanings depending on the context.  The first time I ever really took notice of it was when a woman was trying to tell me how to ask a bus driver if it was going to a certain area. She said say “vai pra Botofogo?” (are you going to Botofogo?” I have remembered that one since. It is the little things like these that separate you  from the tourist types in Brazil.

Tô (toh)

This the shortened version of “estou” which mean “ I am”. So someone could say “Tô com fome”, which literally means “I am with hunger.” Yes, they say they are “with” hunger, or fear, or anything like that instead of saying they are hungry.

Meio (may-o)

This means “sort of” so use it the same way you would in English. For instance, you could say “Eu sou meio fome”, which means” I am sort of hungry”. If you use this term, you will impress your Brazilian friends.

Travel to Brazil
Credit: mjpyro

Ou seja (ooh-seh-shah)

This is the way that Brazilians say “in other words” and is often used as a pause in a conversation or to say something in another way, just like in English. For instance,

Sabe? (sah-bee)

Sabe is the conjugated form of the verb saber, which means “to know”.  “Você sabe?”  therefore means, “you know?.  Because of the conjugation, Brazilians know what you mean if you just say “Sabe?”. So you will hear if repeatedly  in a conversation and it can be a little annoying. Think of it like someone in the USA that constantly repeats “you know what I mean?” or “you know what I am saying?”  Very annoying in English, and very annoying in Portuguese too.

Se (say)

This is a shortened form of Você which simply means “you”. However, it can be confusing at first if you are reading it because “se” also means “if”, so context is key. For instance, if you read a sentence such as “Se vai para a loja?”, they are saying “are you going to the store?”  Translating that using “if” instead would technically make sense also (“if you go to the store”), but the context of the conversation is important and with time, you will learn to read it correctly.



Feb 27, 2014 11:44am
Nice article. I love these little cultural language terms. It really does go a long way toward sounding more natural than if you just studied the language from a book.
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