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Tips for Brazilian Portuguese Beginners

Real, everyday language is dynamic and everchanging, and Brazilian Portuguese is no exception. If you are about to get started with your Portuguese studies, take a look at these tips before you spend too much time on stuff you will never hear from Brazilians.

Have you just started your Brazilian Portuguese studies? Once you start talking to Brazilians you will quickly realize that, like many other languages, spoken (and often, written) Portuguese is not always a perfect reflexion of what you have 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 common example is the Imperative tense for você. Consider the command Talk to Carla. The correct way to say it in Portuguese is Fale com a Carla, with fale being the singular imperative form of falar. What you will likely hear from a Brazilian is Fala com a Carla, where Fala is the third person (singular) of the Simple Present of falar.

So here are three other common occurrences in colloquial language that you may want to get familiar with right from the start. Be ready! You will hear them all the time.

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

A gente is always followed by a singular verb form (same as used for você/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]

Extra tip: In Portuguese, the usual way to answer a yes/no type question affirmatively is not with sim (yes), but with the verb. Take a look:

Você preparou o relatório? Preparei. [Did you prepare the report? (liter.) I prepared]

Notice that you do not need anything but the verb in the answer. When the yes/no question is directed to vocês (you, plural), you will answer it affirmatively with the nós verb form. This is one situation in colloquial language where using the nós form is quite common:

Vocês 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 (há = 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 até banda na festa. [There was even a band at the party]

Here are a couple of common expressions:

Não tem jeito [There is no way / it is impossible]

Não tem jeito de fazer esse computador funcionar. [There is no way to make this computer work]

Tem como...? [Is there a way to.../ Is it possible...?]

Tem como vocês chegarem mais cedo? [Is it possible for you to arrive earlier?]

Extra tip: as with the expression dar para, the verb following tem como is conjugated in the Personal Infinitive tense.

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

Estar (and its conjugations) – most of the time the first syllable, es, is simply dropped.

Você(s) – it is common to drop vo in você(s), especially in questions.

Onde você está (cê tá)? Estou () em casa.

[Where are you? I am home]

Vocês estão (cês tão) saindo agora? Não, a gente não está () com pressa.

[Are you leaving now? NoComputer Technology Articles, we are 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 full words in writing.

Vocês conhecem essa praia? [Do you know this beach?]

Onde vocês estão indo? [Where are you going?]

Você está com frio? [Are you cold?]

A gente está com fome. [We are hungry]

Eu vou estar em casa às oito. [I am going to be home at eight]

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Ana Luiza Bergamini is the creator and author of Practical Portuguese, a portal for foreigners who want to learn current, colloquial Brazilian Portuguese. Ana Luiza is a native Brazilian and has been teaching Portuguese for three years.

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