22 common Brazilian Portuguese words and phrases for travel

June 22, 2017


After over a year and much blood, sweat and tears, or more realistically, sun, sand and samba, enough Brazilian Portuguese has seeped into my veins that I can actually help out newly arriving gringos with some words and phrases.

Brazilian Portuguese is the same language as Portuguese and when written formally they are largely the same. But we use language first and foremost to talk, and Brazilians have their own words, phrases and slang unique to them, just like with Australian English, British English and American English.


So forget using Google translator before you get off the plane in Rio de Janeiro, right here are the Portuguese words and phrases Brazilians actually use that will help you have an incredible Brazilian holiday.


Oi / Ola:

 

“Hi” / “Hello”

 

 

These are the greetings of Brazil. "Oi" is more common and casual and Brazilians often say it a little drawn out like "oiii", not the quick, bogan "Oi!" Aussies say, or more realistically, shout.

 

Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite:

 

“Good morning” / “Good afternoon” / “Good night/evening”

 

 

While these seem really formal in English, they’re actually quite common in Brazil especially with people you don’t know. One of the things I love is how in my building when I get in the lift with someone they’ll often use one of these, it feels kind of old fashioned and nice. Also, Brazilians use "boa noite" as a greeting as well as for goodbyes, while in English we'd never greet someone with "goodnight", we'd use "good evening" instead.

 

Tudo bem? / Tudo bom?:

 

“How are you”

 

 

It literally means “everything well (bem)/good (bom)?” or as we’d more normally say in English “all well/good?”. Usually answered with exactly the same words, “tudo bem/bom”, affirming the question. “Is everything good?”, “yes, everything is good” is the way you can think about it, just made short and sweet. You can also simply answer with “tudo” for "everything". A closer literal expression to "how are you" is "como voce está?" but in Brazilian Portuguese it is far less common to say this.

 

Por Favor

 

"Please"

 

 

Just like it's said in Spanish, don't forget this one as you'll be needing it the day you arrive. 

 

Obrigado / Obrigada:

 

“Thank you”

 

 

Males say thanks with an O on the end and females say it with an A on the end. Portuguese uses masculine and feminine forms with its nouns and at certain other times depending if you're talking about a male or a female or if a male or female is using the word themselves like here. As an English speaker this part of Portuguese, and Latin languages generally, takes a long time to get used to but you'll get the hang of it.

 

Sim / Não:

 

"Yes" / "No"

 

 

Not much to say here except that they're pronounced "sin" and "now". M's on the end of words are pronounced as an N, so remember that for "tudo bem/bom" as well.

 

Me ajude:

 

"Help me"

 

 

It is Brazil so there's a chance you might need to use this in some hairy situation, but you can also use it if you just need assistance like when asking for directions.

 

Eu sou / Eu estou:

 

“I am”

 

 

Then afterwards add on your name or your country, so for me I would say “Eu sou Ian, eu sou Australiano”. Unlike in English, Portuguese has two different forms of the verb “to be”, they are “ser” and “estar”. The former is for permanent things like your name, nationality, skin and hair colour and personality traits, while estar is for temporary or situational use like “I am hungry”. And in this case "ser" has become "sou" with the personal conjugation when you talk about yourself. "Conjugation, WTF is that?" I hear you ask. Well, verbs change depending on who you are talking about - "I", "you/he/she", "they" and "we" - so not only do you have the infinitive verb, you have an additional four versions (conjugations) to mentally process depending on the situation.

 

E ai:

 

“What’s up?”

 

 

Just like in English this is really an expression between friends or with the dude in the pizza shop. Pair it with “Oi” and say “Oi, e ai?” to your new Brazilian friends. Pronounced "ee eye-ee".

 

Cara:

 

“Dude” / “Man”

 

 

And then you can add this too and sound like a pro. If you look in a translator you’ll see it also means "face", but “rosto” is more commonly used for that in Brazilian Portuguese.

 

Legal:

 

“Cool”

 

 

It’s as versatile as it is in English and in Brazil there are many things which are very "legal", not least of all the people. Pronounced "le" like in lens, and "gal" like "she's a nice gal".

 

Voce é linda/lindo:

 

“You are beautiful/handsome”

 

 

This is the most respectful way you can tell someone they’re attractive in Portuguese. They’re not "sexy" or "hot" (but there are words for those, of course, it's Brazil *cough* "gostosa" *cough*), they’re "beautiful" or "handsome" depending on if you’re talking about a guy or a girl. Just think of the difference in English if you just meet a girl and call her "beautiful" verses "sexy", you're gonna get a completely different reaction. "Gatinha/o", meaning kitten, or "fofinha/o", meaning little cutie, are nice words that couples use for each other.

 

Eu quero / Eu gostaria de:

 

“I want” / “I would like”

 

 

It’s amazing how far you can get with these few words as a traveller. Most of the time you’re wanting to eat or drink something or get somewhere and if you can get a rough word on the end then you should be understood without even having a perfect sentence. Pronounce the start of "quero" with a "K" sound not a "Q" like in Spanish.

 

Vamos:

 

"We go" / “Let’s go” / “Let’s do it” 

 

 

This can be used alone as an expression of excitement and enthusiasm to do something with someone else or some others, “vamos!” (remember conjugations, well this is what "go" becomes when used for yourself and other people together, that being "we"). More literally it can be used to simply state we both/all should go, like if you’re pissed at your Brazilian girlfriend taking ages to get ready then you can say as nice as you can to her, “vamos”.

 

Desculpa:

 

“Sorry”

 

 

An apology goes a long long way anywhere in the world. Don't say “sorry” like so many English-speakers do on holiday, practice this in your head because "sorry" is one of those few words used instinctively where you don’t usually get time to think before you use it. So if you bump into a Brazilian, just smile and say "desculpa".

 

Com licença:

 

"Excuse me"

 

 

This is for when you need someone's attention politely. While in English we often say "sorry" as an alternative, "sorry, could I please get past you", here "desculpa" is not so much used for that. Com is pronounced as "con" if you remember the rule for M at the end of a word.

 

Amigo / Amiga:

 

“Friend”

 

 

It should’t be hard making friends in Brazil so you should be using this a lot. Males are your "amigos", females are your "amigas".

 

Agua / Suco / Cerveja / Vinho / Café / Chá:

 

“Water” / “Juice” / “Beer” / "Wine" / “Coffee” / "Tea"

 

 

At varying times of the day you’ll probably be needing all of these especially in summer in ridiculously hot Rio.

 

Tchau:

 

“Bye”

 

 

Just like in Italian, more or less. If you're finishing a text message you could add "beijos" for kisses and "abraços" for hugs, Brazilians like to do this where in English we'd use "xo".

 

Porra:

 

“Fuck”

 

 

Well it’s one of the most useful and diverse words in the English language and this is as close as you’ll get to it in Brazilian Portuguese when exclaimed in a bad situation like "damn!". You can also use "caralho" for those times like our favourite meth cook Bryan Cranston is having here. However, Portuguese has no true equivalent for "fuck", as they have a different word for its verb form *cough* "foder" *cough*. Pronounced “pohha”.

 

Eu te amo:

 

“I love you”

 

 

No “te” doesn’t mean love, Brazilian Portuguese has a totally bizarre word order and where in English you'd put "you" after a verb, here they put it before. So “amo” is actually "love" in the personal conjugation, translated literally to English it is “I you love”. But don’t worry to them it sounds like “I love you”.

 

Piquenique

 

"Picnic"

 

 

Well this word isn't that useful but it cracks me up and illustrates one of the cutest things about Portuguese, that being when they adopt a foreign word they usually just add an "ee" sound on the end when they say it. As a result a laptop is a "notebook(ee)", the internet is the "internet(ee)" and "Facebook(ee)". Piquenique sounds like how you'd say the word picnic to a little child in English, but here it's totally serious, and therefore, hilarious.

 

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I'm Ian Walker, an Australian freelance journalist and travel writer who ditched his job as a full-time newspaper reporter to move to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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