Brazilian Portuguese

For Brazilians of Portuguese descent, see Portuguese Brazilian.
Brazilian Portuguese
Português do Brasil
português brasileiro
Native speakers
204 million (2015)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog braz1246[2]

Brazilian Portuguese (português do Brasil [poʁtuˈɡez du bɾaˈziw] or português brasileiro [poʁtuˈɡez bɾaziˈlejɾu]) is a set of dialects of the Portuguese language used mostly in Brazil. It is spoken by virtually all of the 200 million inhabitants of Brazil[3] and spoken widely across the Brazilian diaspora, today consisting of about two million Brazilians who have emigrated to other countries.

This variety of the Portuguese language differs, particularly in phonology and prosody, from varieties and dialects spoken in most Portuguese-speaking majority countries, including native Portugal and African countries  the dialects of which, partly because of the more recent end of Portuguese colonialism in these regions, tend to have a closer connection to contemporary European Portuguese. Despite this, Brazilian and European Portuguese vary little in formal writing[4] (in many ways analogous to the differences encountered between American and British English).

In 1990, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which included representatives from all countries with Portuguese as the official language, reached an agreement on the reform of the Portuguese orthography to unify the two standards then in use by Brazil on one side and the remaining Lusophone countries on the other. This spelling reform went into effect in Brazil on 1 January 2009. In Portugal, the reform was signed into law by the President on 21 July 2008 allowing for a 6-year adaptation period, during which both orthographies co-existed. All of the CPLP countries have signed the reform. In Brazil, this reform will be in force as of January 2016. Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries have since begun using the new orthography.

Regional varieties of Brazilian Portuguese, while remaining mutually intelligible, may diverge from each other in matters such as vowel pronunciation and speech intonation.[5]


Portuguese legacy

The existence of Portuguese in Brazil is a legacy of the Portuguese colonization of the Americas. The first wave of Portuguese-speaking immigrants settled in Brazil in the 16th century, but the language was not widely used then. For a time Portuguese coexisted with Língua Geral—a lingua franca based on Amerindian languages that was used by the Jesuit missionaries—as well as with various African languages spoken by the millions of slaves brought into the country between the 16th and 19th centuries. By the end of the 18th century, Portuguese had affirmed itself as the national language. Some of the main contributions to that swift change were the expansion of colonization to the Brazilian interior, and the growing numbers of Portuguese settlers, who brought their language and became the most important ethnic group in Brazil.

Beginning in the early 18th century, Portugal's government made efforts to expand the use of Portuguese throughout the colony, particularly because its consolidation in Brazil would help guarantee to Portugal the lands in dispute with Spain (according to various treaties signed in the 18th century, those lands would be ceded to the people who effectively occupied them). Under the administration of the Marquis of Pombal (1750–1777), Brazilians started to favour the use of Portuguese, as the Marquis expelled the Jesuit missionares (who had taught Língua Geral) and prohibited the use of Nhengatu, or Lingua Franca.[6]

The failed colonization attempts by the French in Rio de Janeiro in the 16th century and the Dutch in the Northeast in the 17th century had negligible effects on Portuguese. The substantial waves of non-Portuguese-speaking immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (mostly from Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Japan and Lebanon) were linguistically integrated into the Portuguese-speaking majority within few generations, except for some areas of the three southernmost states (Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul)—in the case of Germans, Italians and Slavs—and in rural areas of the state of São Paulo (Italians and Japanese).

Nowadays the overwhelming majority of Brazilians speak Portuguese as their mother tongue, with the exception of small, insular communities of descendants of European (German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Italian) and Japanese immigrants – mostly in the South and Southeast – as well as villages and reservations inhabited by Amerindians, but either group constitutes a negligible portion of the country's total population. Even in those cases, these populations make use of Portuguese to communicate with outsiders and to understand television and radio broadcasts, for example.

Influences from other languages

The development of Brazilian Portuguese has been influenced by other languages with which it has come into contact: first the Amerindian languages of the original inhabitants, then the various African languages spoken by the slaves, and finally those of later European and Asian immigrants. Although the vocabulary is still predominantly Portuguese, the influence of other languages is evident in the Brazilian lexicon, which today includes, for example, hundreds of words of Tupi–Guarani origin referring to local flora and fauna; numerous Yoruba words related to foods, religious concepts, and musical expressions; and English terms from the fields of modern technology and commerce.

Words deriving from the Tupi language are particularly prevalent in place names (Itaquaquecetuba, Pindamonhangaba, Caruaru, Ipanema, Paraíba). The native languages also contributed the names of most of the plants and animals found in Brazil, such as arara ("macaw"), jacaré ("South American alligator"), tucano ("toucan"), mandioca ("cassava"), abacaxi ("pineapple"), and many more. However, many Tupi–Guarani toponyms did not derive directly from Amerindian expressions, but were in fact coined by European settlers and Jesuit missionaries, who used the Língua Geral extensively in the first centuries of colonization. Many of the Amerindian words entered the Brazilian Portuguese lexicon as early as in the 16th century, and some of them were eventually borrowed by European Portuguese and later even into other European languages.

African languages provided hundreds of words as well, especially in the domains of: food (e.g., quitute, quindim, acarajé, moqueca); religious concepts (mandinga, macumba, orixá ("orisha"), and axé); Afro-Brazilian music (samba, lundu, maxixe, berimbau); body-related parts and diseases (banguela "toothless", bunda "buttocks", capenga "lame", caxumba "mumps"); geographical features (cacimba "well", quilombo or mocambo "runaway slave settlement", senzala "slave quarters"); articles of clothing (miçanga "beads", abadá "capoeira or dance uniform", tanga "loincloth", "thong"); and household concepts, such as cafuné ("caress on the head"), curinga ("joker card"), caçula ("youngest child", also cadete and filho mais novo), and moleque ("brat, spoiled child"). Although the African slaves had various ethnic origins, by far most of the borrowings were contributed (1) by Bantu languages (above all, Kimbundu, from Angola, and Kikongo from Angola and the area that is now the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo),[7] and (2) by Niger-Congo languages, notably Yoruba/Nagô, from what is now Nigeria, and Jeje/Ewe language, from what is now Benin.

There are also many borrowings from other European languages: especially English and French, but also German and Italian. In addition there are a few loanwords from Japanese.

Brazilian Portuguese has borrowed copiously from English, especially words related to the following fields:

Also several calques such as arranha-céu, 'skyscraper' and cachorro-quente, 'hot-dog'.

French has contributed words for foods, furniture, and luxurious fabrics, as well as for various abstract concepts. Examples include hors-concours, chic, metrô (with the French inflection), batom, soutien, buquê, abajur, guichê, içar, chalé, cavanhaque from Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, calibre, habitué, clichê, jargão, manchete, jaqueta, boîte de nuit or boate, cofre, rouge, frufru, chuchu, purê, petit gâteau, pot-pourri, ménage, enfant gâté, enfant terrible, garçonnière, patati-patata, parvenu, détraqué, enquête, equipe, malha, fila, burocracia, birô, affair, grife, gafe, croquette, crocante, croquis, femme fatale, noir, marchand, paletó, gabinete, grã-fino, blasé, de bom tom, bon-vivant, guindaste, guiar, flanar, bonbonnière, calembour, jeu de mots, vis-à-vis, tête-à-tête, mecha, blusa, conhaque, mélange, bric-brac, broche, pâtisserie, peignoir, négliglé, robe de chambre, déshabillé, lingerie, corset, corselet, corpete, pantufas, salopette, cachecol, cachenez, cachepot, colete, colher, prato, costume, serviette, garde-nappe, avant-première, avant-garde, debut, crepe, frappé (including slang), canapé, paetê, tutu, mignon, pince-nez, grand prix, parlamento, patim, camuflagem, blindar (from German), guilhotina, à gogo, pastel, filé, silhueta, menu, maître d'hôtel, bistrô, chef, coq au vin, rôtisserie, maiô, bustiê, collant, fuseau, cigarette, crochê, tricô, tricot (pullover, sweater), calção, culotte, botina, bota, galocha, scarpin (ultimately Italian), sorvete, glacê, boutique, vitrine, manequim (Dutch borrowing), machê, tailleur, echarpe, fraque, laquê, gravata, chapéu, boné, edredom, gabardine, fondue, buffet, toalete, pantalon, calça Saint-Tropez, manicure, pedicure, balayage, limusine, caminhão, guidão, cabriolê, capilé, garfo, nicho, garçonete, chenille, chiffon, chemise, chamois, plissê, balonê, frisê, chaminé, guilhochê, château, bidê, redingote, chéri(e), flambado, bufante, pierrot, torniquete, molinete, canivete, guerra (Provençal), escamotear, escroque, flamboyant, maquilagem, visagismo, topete, coiffeur, tênis, cabine, concièrge, chauffeur, hangar, garagem, haras, calandragem, cabaré, coqueluche, coquine, coquette (cocotinha), galã, bas-fond (used as slang), mascote, estampa, sabotagem, RSVP, rendez-vous, chez..., à la carte, à la ..., forró, forrobodó from 19th century 'faux-bourdon'. Brazilian Portuguese tends to adopt French suffixes as in aterrissagem (Fr. atterrissage "landing" [aviation]), differently from European Portuguese (cf. Eur.Port. aterragem). Brazilian Portuguese (BP) also tends to adopt culture-bound concepts from French, but when it comes to technology, the major influence is from English, while European Portuguese (EP) tends to adopt technological terms from French. That is the difference between BP estação ('station') and EP gare ('train station'). BP. trem from English 'train' but ultimately from French and EP comboio from Fr. "convoi". An evident example of the dichotomy between English and French influences can be noted in the use of the expressions know-how, used in a technical context, and savoir-faire in a social context. Portugal uses the expression hora de ponta from French "l'heure de pointe" to refer to the 'rush hour' while Brazil has the usage of horário de pico, horário de pique (rush hours/period) and hora do rush. And both bilhar from French "billard" and Lusitanate sinuca are interchangeably used for 'snooker'.

Contributions from German and Italian include terms for foods, music, arts and architecture.

From German, besides strudel, pretzel, bratwurst, kuchen (also bolo cuca) sauerkraut (also spelled chucrute from French choucrout and pronounced [ʃuˈkɾutʃi]), wurstsalat, sauerbraten, Oktoberfest, biergarten, zelt, Osterbaum, Bauernfest, Schützenfest, hinterland, Kindergarten, bock, fassbier and chope from "Schoppen", there are also abstract terms from German such as Prost, zum wohl, doppelgänger (also sósia), über, brinde, kitsch, ersatz, blitz "police action" and possibly encrenca "difficult situation" (perhaps from Ger. ein Kranker 'a sick person'). Xumbergar, brega from marshal Friedrich Hermann Von Schönberg and xote (musical style and dance) from "schottisch". A significant number of beer brands in Brazil are named after German culture-bound concepts and placenames due the fact that the brewing process was brought by German immigrants.

Italian loan words and expressions, in addition to those that are related to food or music, include tchau ("ciao"), nonna, nonnino, imbróglio, bisonho, entrevero, panetone, colomba, casaca, colombina, arlequim, palhaço, è vero, cicerone, male male, terra roxa, capisce, mezzo, va bene, ecco, ecco fatto, ecco qui, caspita, schifoso, gelateria, cantina, canalha, cavolo, incavolarsi, pivete, engrouvinhado, engambelar, andiamo via, guardanapo, tiramisu, talharim, macarrão, tarantela, grappa, stratoria, terms of endearment amore, bambino/a, ragazzo/a, caro/a mio/a, tesoro and bello/a; babo, mamma, baderna from Marietta Baderna, bagatela, carcamano, torcicolo, gazeta, tostão, casanova, noccia, noja, manjar ("mangiare"), che me ne frega, Io ti voglio tanto bene, ti voglio bene assai. Also the usage of the reflexive me especially in São Paulo and the South as an example of Italianism. Due to the large Italian immigrant population, parts of the Southern and Southeastern states exhibit some Italian influence on prosody, including patterns of intonation and stress.

Fewer words have been borrowed from Japanese. The latter borrowings are also mostly related to food and drinks or culture-bound concepts, such as quimono, from Japanese kimono, karaokê, yakisoba, temakeria, sushi bar, mangá, biombo, from byó bu sukurín, folding screen; ken game jó ken pô, jankenpon ('rock-paper-scissors') is played with the Japanese words being said before the start, saquê, sashimi, tenpurá (which has Portuguese etymology), hashi, wasabi, johrei (religious philosophy), nikkei ('Japanese descendants', even used by banks targeting public), gaijin ('non-Japanese'), issei ('Japanese immigrant'), the different descending generations nissei, sansei, yonsei, gossei, rokussei and shichissei; racial terms ainoko ('Eurasian'), hafu; work related terms and social economical terms, as well as historical and ethnic might be used in some spheres: koseki (research about the family history), dekassegui ('dekasegi'), arubaito, kaizen, seiketsu, karoshi (death by work excess), burakumin, kamikaze, seppuku, harakiri, jisatsu, jigai, ainu; martial arts terms such as karatê, aikidô, bushidô, katana, judô, jiu-jítsu, kyudô, sumô; writing kanji, kana, katakana, hiragana, romaji; art concepts such as kabuki and ikebana, bathing furniture/device ofurô, Nihong (target news niche and websites), kabóchá (introduced in Japan by the Portuguese), reiki, and shiatsu. Some words have popular usage while others are known for a specific context in specific circles. Terms used among Nikkei descendants are oba-chan ('grandma'), onee-san, onee-chan, onii-san, onii-chan, toasts and salutations kampai, banzai, and sometimes treatment suffixes chan, kun, sama, san, senpai.

Chinese contributed with a few terms such as tai chi chuan, nunchaku and chá.

Aside from the above-mentioned prosodic effects from Italian, the influence of other languages on the phonology of Brazilian Portuguese have been very minor. Some authors claim that the loss of initial es- in the forms of the verb estar (e.g. "Tá bom") – now widespread in Brazil – reflects an influence from the speech of African slaves.[8] Something extremely controversial since the same feature attributed to African influence can be found in European Portuguese and several other Romance languages. It is also claimed that some common grammatical features of Brazilian Portuguese – such as the near-complete disappearance of certain verb inflections and a marked preference for the periphrastic Periphrasis future (e.g. "vou falar") over the synthetic future ("falarei") – recall the grammatical simplification typical of pidgins and creoles. However, the same or similar processes can be observed in the European variant, (and in Spanish variants e.g., Chilean, Argentinian and Mexican Spanish), and such theories have not yet been proved.[9] Regardless of these borrowings and very minor alterations, Brazilian Portuguese can be traced directly from 16th-century European Portuguese.[9]

Written and spoken languages

The written language taught in Brazilian schools has historically been based on the standard of Portugal, and until the 19th century, Portuguese writers have often been regarded as models by some Brazilian authors and university professors. Nonetheless, this closeness and aspiration to unity was severely weakened in the 20th century by nationalist movements in literature and the arts, which awakened in many Brazilians the desire for true (own) national writing uninfluenced by standards in Portugal. Later on, agreements were made as to preserve at least the orthographical unity throughout the Portuguese-speaking world, including the African and Asian variants of the language (which are typically more similar to EP, due to a Portuguese presence lasting into the end of the 20th century).

On the other hand, the spoken language suffered none of the constraints that applied to the written language. Brazilians, when concerned with pronunciation, look up to what is considered the national standard variety, and never the European one. Lately, Brazilians in general have had some exposure to European speech, through TV, and movies. Often one will see Brazilian actors working in Portugal, and Portuguese actors working in Brazil.

Formal writing

The written Brazilian standard differs from the European one to about the same extent that written American English differs from written British English. The differences extend to spelling, lexicon, and grammar. However, with the entry into force of the Orthographic Agreement of 1990 in Portugal and in Brazil since 2009, these differences were drastically reduced.

Several Brazilian writers have been awarded with the highest prize of the Portuguese language. The Camões Prize awarded annually by Portuguese and Brazilians is often regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Literature for works in Portuguese.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, João Guimarães Rosa, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Graciliano Ramos, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Cecília Meireles, Clarice Lispector, José de Alencar, Rachel de Queiroz, Jorge Amado, Castro Alves, Antonio Candido, Autran Dourado, Rubem Fonseca, Lygia Fagundes Telles and Euclides da Cunha are Brazilian writers recognized for writing the most outstanding work in the Portuguese language.

Spelling differences

The Brazilian spellings of certain words differ from those used in Portugal and the other Portuguese-speaking countries. Some of these differences are merely orthographic, but others reflect true differences in pronunciation.

Until the implementation of the 1990 orthographic reform, a major subset of the differences related to the consonant clusters cc, , ct, pc, , and pt. In many cases, the letters c or p in syllable-final position have become silent in all varieties of Portuguese, a common phonetic change in Romance languages (cf. Spanish objeto, French objet). Accordingly, they stopped being written in BP (compare Italian spelling standards), but continued to be written in other Portuguese-speaking countries. For example, we had EP acção / BP ação ("action"), EP óptimo / BP ótimo ("optimum"), and so on, where the consonant was silent both in BP and EP, but the words were spelled differently. Only in a small number of words is the consonant silent in Brazil and pronounced elsewhere or vice versa, as in the case of BP fato, but EP facto. However, the new Portuguese language orthographic reform led to the elimination of the writing of the silent consonants also in the EP, making now the writing system virtually identical in all of the Portuguese-speaking countries,

However, BP has retained those silent consonants in a few cases, such as detectar ("to detect"). In particular, BP generally distinguishes in sound and writing between secção ("section" as in anatomy or drafting) and seção ("section" of an organization); whereas EP uses secção for both senses.

Another major set of differences is the BP usage of ô or ê in many words where EP has ó or é, such as BP neurônio / EP neurónio ("neuron") and BP arsênico / EP arsénico ("arsenic"). These spelling differences are due to genuinely different pronunciations. In EP, the vowels e and o may be open (é or ó) or closed (ê or ô) when they are stressed before one of the nasal consonants m, n followed by a vowel, but in BP they are always closed in this environment. The variant spellings are necessary in those cases because the general Portuguese spelling rules mandate a stress diacritic in those words, and the Portuguese diacritics also encode vowel quality.

Another source of variation is the spelling of the [ʒ] sound before e and i. By Portuguese spelling rules, that sound can be written either as j (favored in BP for certain words) or g (favored in EP). Thus, for example, we have BP berinjela / EP beringela ("eggplant").

Formal versus informal registers

The linguistic situation of the BP informal speech in relation to the standard language is controversial. There are authors (Bortoni, Kato, Mattos e Silva, Bagno, Perini) who describe it as a case of diglossia, considering that informal BP has developed – both in phonetics and grammar – in its own particular way.

Accordingly, the formal register of Brazilian Portuguese has a written and spoken form. The written formal register (FW) is used in almost all printed media and written communication, is uniform throughout the country, and is the "Portuguese" officially taught at school. The spoken formal register (FS) is basically a phonetic rendering of the written form; it is used only in very formal situations, such as speeches or ceremonies, by educated people who wish to stress their education, or when reading directly out of a text. While FS is necessarily uniform in lexicon and grammar, it shows noticeable regional variations in pronunciation. Finally, the informal register (IS) is almost never written down (basically only in artistic works or very informal contexts such as adolescent chat rooms), but exceptions do exist (for example modernist works such as Macunaíma). It is used to some extent in virtually all oral communication outside of those formal contexts  even by well educated speakers  and shows considerable regional variations in pronunciation, lexicon, and grammar.

However, the theory of diglossia in BP is met with some opposition, since diglossia does not constitute simply the coexistence of different varieties or "registers" of the language – formal and informal  . It describes, in fact, situations in which there are two (often related) languages: a formal one and an informal one, which is the spoken tongue. Opponents of the diglossia theory argue that the various aspects that separate the informal register and the formal one in Brazil cannot be compared with the numerous differences between standard Italian or German and the national dialects with which they share speakers.

The discussion is framed around whether informal BP is different enough from the standard in order to be considered a low-prestige language in its own right, spoken by the Brazilian people, who must learn a language that is not their own, the formal Portuguese language. In opposition to this theory, the following arguments have been used:

  1. even in the most informal and low-prestige varieties of BP, almost the entirety of the lexicon is the same, with few differences of pronunciation in comparison to the standard BP, especially in what refers to the basic vocabulary;
  2. there are some different aspects in the grammar, but many authors argue they are very minor (besides, some of those differences also arose during the recent development of European Portuguese);
  3. the fact that the informal vocabulary is much smaller than the formal one happens in every literate language, so it cannot be used to prove the low-prestige variety constitutes another language in a typical situation of diglossia;
  4. the preference of another form over another that is also considered correct in the standard/classical grammar also does not justify the existence of diglossia (e.g., preferred compound tense vai faltar and faltará – "will lack" – are both standard BP; the common expression ter que is standard and equivalent to the verb dever);
  5. the phonetic aspects of the informal language are mostly a matter of preference or accent, since the standard language, in general, accepts most of them (for example, the devoicing of final r, which is accepted by standard BP, as well as the common contraction of words in Portuguese, such as para os becoming pros, as long as it is not written that way).

Characteristics of informal BP

The main and most general (i.e. not considering various regional variations) characteristics of the informal variant of BP are the following (some of them may occur in EP as well):


The vocabularies of Brazilian and European Portuguese also differ in a couple of thousand words, many of which refer to concepts that were introduced separately in BP and EP.

Since Brazilian independence in 1822, BP has tended to borrow words from English and French. However, BP generally adopts foreign words with minimal adjustments, while EP tends to apply deeper morphological changes. However, there are instances of BP adapting English words, whereas EP retains the original form – hence BP estoque and EP stock. Finally, one dialect often borrowed a word while the other coined a new one from native elements. So one has, for example

BP mouse ← English "(computer) mouse" versus EP rato ← literal translation of "mouse" in Portuguese ("mouse" is also used in EP)
BP esporte (alternatives: desporto, desporte) ← English "sport" versus EP desporto ← Spanish deporte
BP jaqueta ← English "jacket" versus EP blusão ← EP blusa ← French blouse/blouson (also used in BP)
BP concreto ← English "concrete" versus EP betão ← French béton (in BP, a concrete truck is still called "betoneira")
BP grampeador ("stapler") ← grapadora ← Spanish grapa versus EP agrafadoragrafo ← French agrafe.

A few other examples are given in the following table:

Brazil Portugal Meaning
abridor de latas abre-latas can opener
aeromoça, comissário(a) de bordo, comissário(a) de voo hospedeiro(a) do ar, assistente de bordo stewardess, flight attendant
água-viva, medusa alforreca, água-viva, medusa jellyfish
AIDS SIDA (síndrome da imunodeficiência adquirida) AIDS
alho poró alho-porro, alho-francês leek
aluguel aluguer rent (noun), rental
amerissagem amaragem landing on the sea, splashdown
aquarela aguarela, aquarela watercolor
arquivo ficheiro file (computer)
aterrissagem aterragem landing
Band-Aid, curativo penso rápido Band-Aid (US), plaster (UK)
banheiro, toalete, toilettes, sanitário casa de banho, quarto de banho, lavabos, sanitários bathroom, toilet
bonde, bonde elétrico eléctrico streetcar (US), tram (UK)
brócolis brócolos broccoli
cílio (< Cl. Lat. cilium), pestana pestana, cílio, celha eyelash
café da manhã, desjejum, parva pequeno-almoço, desjejum breakfast
caminhonete, van, perua (informal) camioneta station wagon (US), estate car (UK)
câncer cancro cancer (disease)
carona boleia ride, hitchhiking
carteira de habilitação, carteira de motorista, carta carta de condução, carta driver's license (US), driving licence (UK)
carteira de identidade, RG (from Registro Geral) bilhete de identidade (BI), cartão do cidadão ID card
telefone celular (more commonly celular), aparelho de telefonia celular telemóvel (< telefone ("telephone") + móvel ("mobile")) cell phone (US), mobile phone (UK)
canadense canadiano Canadian
caqui (< Japanese 柿 kaki) dióspiro persimmon
cadarço atacador shoelace
descarga autoclismo toilet flush
disco rígido, HD disco rígido hard disk
dublagem dobragem dubbing
durex, fita adesiva fita gomada, fita-cola, fita adesiva (durex is a condom) Scotch tape (US), Sellotape (UK), Durex (Australia)
time, equipe equipa, equipe team
estação de trem, estação ferroviária, gare estação de comboio, estação ferroviária, gare railway station
estrada de ferro, ferrovia caminho-de-ferro, ferrovia, via férrea railroad (US), railway (UK)
favela bairro de lata slum, shantytown
fila bicha, fila line (US), queue (UK) (waiting for service)
fóton fotão photon
fones de ouvido auscultadores, auriculares, fones headphones
freio, breque travão, freio brake
gol golo goal (in sports)
grama, relva relva grass (lawn)
Irã Irão Iran
Islã Islão Islam
israelense, israelita israelita Israeli
legal fixe cool (popular slang term)
maiô fato de banho swimsuit
mamadeira biberão, biberon, mamadeira (older term) baby bottle
metrô, metropolitano metro, metropolitano subway (US), tube (UK)
Moscou Moscovo Moscow
ônibus autocarro bus
panamenho, panamense panamiano Panamanian
polonês, polaco (rarely used because of its pejorative meaning) polaco Polish
secretária eletrônica atendedor de chamadas (telephone) answering machine
tcheco, checo checo Czech
tela ecrã, monitor screen
trem, composição ferroviária comboio, composição ferroviária train
Vietnã Vietname Vietnam
xícara chávena tea cup/ mug
zíper fecho-éclair zipper (US) zip (UK)


Syntactic and morphological features

Topic-prominent language

Modern linguistic studies have shown that Brazilian Portuguese is a topic-prominent or topic- and subject-prominent language.[10] Sentences with topic are extensively used in Brazilian Portuguese, most often by means of turning an element (object or verb) in the sentence into an introductory phrase, on which the body of the sentence constitutes a comment (topicalization), thus emphasizing it, as in Esses assuntos eu não conheço bem – literally, "These subjects I don't know [them] well".[11] The anticipation of the verb or object at the beginning of the sentence, repeating it or using the respective pronoun referring to it, is also quite common, e.g. in Essa menina, eu não sei o que fazer com ela ("This girl, I don't know what to do with her") or Com essa menina eu não sei o que fazer ("With this girl I don't know what to do").[12] The use of redundant pronouns for means of topicalization is considered grammatically incorrect, because the topicalized noun phrase, according to traditional European analysis, has no syntactic function. This kind of construction, however, is sometimes used in European Portuguese poetry, usually for keeping the metre, and is considered a case of anacoluthon (anacoluto in Portuguese). Brazilian grammars traditionally treat this structure similarly, rarely mentioning such a thing as topic. Nevertheless, the so-called anacoluthon has taken on a new dimension in Brazilian Portuguese.[13] The poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade once wrote a short metapoema (a metapoem, i. e., a poem about poetry, a specialty for which he was renowned) treating the concept of anacoluto:

[...] O homem, chamar-lhe mito não passa de anacoluto[14] (The man, calling him myth is nothing more than an anacoluthon).

In colloquial language, this kind of anacoluto may even be used when the subject itself is the topic, only to add more emphasis to this fact, e.g. the sentence Essa menina, ela costuma tomar conta de cachorros abandonados ("This girl, she usually takes care of abandoned dogs"). This structure highlights the topic, and could be more accurately translated as "As for this girl, she usually takes care of abandoned dogs".

The use of this construction is particularly common with compound subjects, as in, e.g., Eu e ela, nós fomos passear ("She and I, we went for a walk"). This happens because the traditional syntax (Eu e ela fomos passear) places a plural-conjugated verb immediately following an argument in the singular, which may sound "ugly" to Brazilian ears. The redundant pronoun thus clarifies the verbal inflection in such cases.


Portuguese makes extensive use of verbs in the progressive aspect, almost as in English.

Brazilian Portuguese seldom has the present continuous construct estar a + infinitive, which, in contrast, has become quite common in European over the last few centuries. BP maintains the Classical Portuguese form of continuous expression, which is made by estar + gerund.

Thus, Brazilians will always write ela está dançando ("she is dancing"), not ela está a dançar. The same restriction applies to several other uses of the gerund: BP uses ficamos conversando ("we kept on talking") and ele trabalha cantando ("he sings while he works"), but rarely ficamos a conversar and ele trabalha a cantar as is the case in most varieties of EP.

BP retains the combination a + infinitive for uses that are not related to continued action, such as voltamos a correr ("we went back to running"). Some dialects of EP [namely from Alentejo, Algarve, Açores (Azores), and Madeira] also tend to feature estar + gerund, as in Brazil.

Personal pronouns


In general, the dialects that gave birth to Portuguese had a quite flexible use of the object pronouns in the proclitic or enclitic positions. In Classical Portuguese, the use of proclisis was very extensive, while, on the contrary, in modern European Portuguese the use of enclisis has become indisputably majoritary.

Brazilians normally place the object pronoun before the verb (proclitic position), as in ele me viu ("he saw me"). In many such cases, the proclisis would be considered awkward or even grammatically incorrect in EP, in which the pronoun is generally placed after the verb (enclitic position), namely ele viu-me. However, formal BP still follows EP in avoiding starting a sentence with a proclitic pronoun; so both will write Deram-lhe o livro ("They gave him/her the book") instead of Lhe deram o livro, though it will seldom be spoken in BP (but would be clearly understood).

However, in verb expressions accompanied by an object pronoun, Brazilians normally place it amid the auxiliary verb and the main one (ela vem me pagando but not ela me vem pagando or ela vem pagando-me). In some cases, in order to adapt this use to the standard grammar, some Brazilian scholars recommend that ela vem me pagando should be written like ela vem-me pagando (as in EP), in which case the enclisis could be totally acceptable if there would not be a factor of proclisis. Therefore, this phenomenon may or not be considered improper according to the prescribed grammar, since, according to the case, there could be a factor of proclisis that would not permit the placement of the pronoun between the verbs (e.g. when there is a negative adverb near the pronoun, in which case the standard grammar prescribes proclisis, ela não me vem pagando and not ela não vem-me pagando). Nevertheless, nowadays, it is becoming perfectly acceptable to use a clitic between two verbs, without linking it with a hyphen (as in 'Poderia se dizer', Não vamos lhes dizer') and this usage (known as: pronome solto entre dois verbos) can be found in modern(ist) literature, textbooks, magazines and newspapers like Folha de S.Paulo and O Estadão (see in-house style manuals of these newspapers, available on-line, for more details).

Contracted forms

Even in the most formal contexts, BP never uses the contracted combinations of direct and indirect object pronouns which are sometimes used in EP, such as me + o = mo, lhe + as = lhas. Instead, the indirect clitic is replaced by preposition + strong pronoun: thus BP writes ela o deu para mim ("she gave it to me") instead of EP ela deu-mo; the latter most probably will not be understood by Brazilians, being obsolete in BP.


The mesoclitic placement of pronouns (between the verb stem and its inflection suffix) is viewed as archaic in BP, and therefore is restricted to very formal situations or stylistic texts. Hence the phrase Eu dar-lhe-ia, still current in EP, would be normally written Eu lhe daria in BP. Incidentally, a marked fondness for enclitic and mesoclitic pronouns was one of the many memorable eccentricities of former Brazilian President Jânio Quadros, as in his famous quote Bebo-o porque é líquido, se fosse sólido comê-lo-ia ("I drink it [liquor] because it is liquid, if it were solid I would eat it")


There are many differences between formal written BP and EP that are simply a matter of different preferences between two alternative words or constructions that are both officially valid and acceptable.

Simple versus compound tenses

A few synthetic tenses are usually replaced by compound tenses, such as in:

future indicative: eu cantarei (simple), eu vou cantar (compound, "ir"+infinitive)
conditional: eu cantaria (simple), eu iria/ia cantar (compound, "ir"+infinitive)
past perfect: eu cantara (simple), eu tinha cantado (compound, "ter"+past participle)"

Also, spoken BP usually uses the verb ter ("own", "have", sense of possession) and rarely haver ("have", sense of existence, or "there to be"), especially as an auxiliary (as it can be seen above) and as a verb of existence.

written: ele havia/tinha cantado (he had sung)
spoken: ele tinha cantado
written: ele podia haver/ter dito (he might have said)
spoken: ele podia ter dito

Differences in formal spoken language


In many ways, compared to European Portuguese (EP), Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is conservative in its phonology. That also occurs in Angolan Portuguese, São Tomean Portuguese, and other African dialects. Brazilian Portuguese has 8 vowels, 5 nasal vowels, with several diphthongs, and triphthongs.


The reduction of vowels is one of the main phonetic characteristics of the Portuguese language, but the intensity and frequency with which that phenomenon happens varies significantly between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese.

Brazilians generally pronounce vowels more openly than Europeans even when they reduce them. In the syllables that follow the stressed one, BP generally pronounces o as [u], a as [ɐ], and e as [i]. Some dialects of BP also follow these rules for vowels before the stressed syllable.

In contrast, EP pronounces unstressed a primarily as [ɐ], elides some unstressed vowels or reduces them to a short, near-close near-back unrounded vowel [ɨ], a sound that does not exist in BP. Thus, for example, the word setembro is [seˈtẽbɾu]/[sɛˈtẽbɾu] in BP but [s(ɨ)ˈtẽbɾu] in EP.

The main difference among the dialects of Brazilian Portuguese is the frequent presence or not of open vowels in unstressed syllables. Southern and Southeastern dialects generally pronounce e and o when they are not reduced to [i] and [u] and as closed vowels [e] and [o] if they are not stressed, in which case the pronunciation will depend on the word. Thus, 'operação' (operation) and 'rebolar' (to shake one's body) may be pronounced [opeɾaˈsɐ̃ũ] and [heboˈla].

However, in Northeastern and Northern accents, there are many complex rules that still have not been much studied but lead to the open pronunciation of e and o in a huge number of words. Thus, contrary to other dialects, the open vowels [ɛ] and [ɔ] are not used only in stressed syllables. Thus, the previous examples would be pronounced differently: [ɔpɛɾaˈsɐ̃ũ] and [hɛbɔˈla].

Another noticeable if minor difference between Northern-Northeastern dialects and Southern-Southeastern ones is the frequency of nasalization of vowels before m and n: in the former, the vowels are virtually always nasalized they are stressed or unstressed; in the latter dialects, the vowels may remain unnasalized if they are unstressed. A famous example of this distinction is the pronunciation of banana: a Northeasterner would speak [bɐ̃ˈnɐ̃nɐ], and a Southerner would speak [baˈnɐ̃nɐ].

It is also noteworthy that the vowel nasalization, in some dialects of Brazilian Portuguese is very different from that seen in French, for example. In French, the nasalization extends uniformly through the entire vowel. In the Southern-Southeastern dialects of Brazilian Portuguese, the nasalization begins almost imperceptibly and then gets far stronger in the end of the vowel, rhus being closer to the nasalization of Hindi-Urdu phonology (see Anusvara). In some cases, the nasal archiphoneme actually represents the addition of a nasal consonant like /m, n, ŋ, ȷ̃, w̃, ɰ̃/.

"manta" = /ˈmɐ̃ntɐ/

"tampa" = /ˈtɐ̃mpɐ/

"banco" = /ˈbɐ̃ŋku/

"bem" = /bẽȷ̃/

"bom" = /bõʊ̃/ or /ˈbõɰ̃/ or /ˈbõŋ/

"pan" = /ˈpɐ̃ɰ̃/ or /ˈpɐ̃ŋ/


Palatalization of /di/ and /ti/

One of the most noticeable tendencies of modern BP is the palatalization of /d/ and /t/ by most regions, which are pronounced [dʒ] and [tʃ] (or [dᶾ] and [tᶴ]), respectively, before /i/. The word presidente "president", for example, is pronounced [pɾeziˈdẽtᶴi] in these regions of Brazil but [pɾɨziˈdẽt(ɨ)] in Portugal. The pronunciation probably began in Rio de Janeiro and is often still associated with this city but is now standard in many other states and major cities, such as Belo Horizonte and Salvador, and it has spread more recently to some regions of São Paulo (because of migrants from other regions), where it is common in most speakers under 40 or so. It has always been standard in Brazil's Japanese community since it is also a feature of Japanese. The regions that still preserve the unpalatalized [ti] and [di] are mostly in the Northeast and South of Brazil by the stronger influence from European Portuguese (Northeast), and from Italian and Argentine Spanish (South).

Epenthesis in consonant clusters

BP tends to break up consonant clusters, if the second consonant is not /r/, /l/, or /s/, by inserting an epenthetic vowel, /i/, which can also be characterized, in some situations, as a schwa. The phenomenon happens mostly in the pretonic position and with the consonant clusters ks, ps, bj, dj, dv, kt, bt, ft, mn, tm and dm: clusters that are not very common in the language ("afta": [ˈaftɐ] > [ˈafitɐ]; "opção" : [ɔpˈsɐ̃ũ] > [ɔpiˈsɐ̃ũ]).

However, in some regions of Brazil (such as some Northeastern dialects), there has been an opposite tendency to reduce the unstressed vowel [i] into a very weak vowel so partes or destratar are often realized similarly to [pahts] and [dʃtɾaˈta]. Sometimes, the phenomenon occurs even more intensely in unstressed posttonic vowels (except the final ones) and causes the reduction of the word and the creation of new consonant clusters (prática > prát'ca; máquina > maq'na; abóbora > abobra; cócega > cosca).

L-vocalization and suppression of final r

Syllable-final /l/ is pronounced [u̯], and syllable-final /r/ is weakened in most regions to [χ] or [h] but not in São Paulo State or in the South Region ir dropped (especially at the ends of words). That sometimes results in rather striking transformations of common words. The brand name "McDonald's", for example, is rendered [mɛ̝kiˈdõnawdᶾis], and the word "rock" is rendered as [ˈhɔki]. (Both initial /r/ and doubled r are pronounced in BP as [h], as with syllable-final [r].) Combined with /n/ and /m/ already not being at the end of syllables in Portuguese and replaced with nasalization on the previous vowel, that makes BP strongly favor open syllables.

Another remarkable aspect of BP is the suppression of final r, even in formal speech. It may still be pronounced, in most of Brazil as [χ] or [h], in formal situations, at the end of a phrase, but almost never in a coda with other words (then, the pronunciation would be [ɾ])). Thus, verbs like matar and correr are normally pronounced [maˈta] and [koˈhe]. However, the same suppression also happens in EP much less often than in BP.[15]


Nasalization is much stronger in many BP dialects than in EP and is especially noticeable in vowels before /n/ or /m/ before by a vowel, but in EP, they are nearly without nasalization. For the same reason, open vowels (which are not normally under nasalization in Portuguese) cannot occur before /n/ or /m/ in BP, but can in EP. That sometimes affects the spelling of words. For example, EP, harmónico "harmonic" [ɐɾˈmɔniku] is BP harmônico [aɦˈmõniku]. It also can affect verbal paradigms: EP distinguishes falamos "we speak" [fɐˈlɐ̃muʃ] from 'falámos' [fɐˈlamuʃ] "we spoke," but in BP, it is written and pronounced falamos [faˈlɐ̃mus] for both.

Related is the difference in pronunciation of the consonant represented by nh in most BP dialects. It is always [r] in EP, but in most of Brazil, it represents a nasalized semivowel [j̃], which nasalizes the preceding vowel as well:[16] manhãzinha [mɐ̃j̃ɐ̃zĩj̃ɐ] ("early morning").

Phonetic changes

Several sound changes that affected EP were not shared by BP. Consonant changes in EP include the weakening of /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/ to fricative [β], [ð], and [ɣ], while in BP these phonemes are maintained as stops in all positions. EP consistently converts syllable-final [s] and [z] to palatal [ʃ] and [ʒ], while most dialects of BP maintain them as dentals. Whether such a change happens in BP is highly variable according to dialect. Rio de Janeiro and a few states in the Northeast are particularly known for such pronunciation; São Paulo, on the other hand, along with most other Brazilian dialects, is particularly known for lacking it. In the Northeast, it is more likely to happen before a consonant than word-finally, and it varies from region to region. Some dialects (such as that of Pernambuco) have the same pattern as Rio, while in several other dialects (such as that of Ceará), the palatal [ʃ] and [ʒ] replace [s] and [z] only before the consonants /t/ and /d/. A vowel change in EP that does not occur in BP is the lowering of /e/ to [ɐ] before palatal sounds ([ʃ], [ʒ], [r], [ʎ], and [j]) and in the diphthong em /ẽĩ/, which merges with the diphthong ãe /ɐ̃ĩ/ in EP, but not in BP.

There are many dialect-specific phonetic aspects in BP that can be essential characteristics of a dialect or another in Brazil. For example, Cearense is notorious for changing [v] into [h] in rapid speech (vamos [vɐ̃mu], "let's go", becomes [hɐ̃mu]); more rural dialects in southeastern states, including São Paulo and Minas Gerais, change preconsonantal "r" into [ɹ]; several dialects reduce the diminutive suffix inho to im (carrinho, "little car:" [kaˈhĩȷ̃u] > [kaˈhĩ]) and several dialects nasalize the /d/ in the gerund form: "cantando" [kɐ̃ˈtɐ̃du] > [kɐ̃ˈtɐ̃nu]. Another common change that often makes the difference between two regions' dialects is the palatalization of /n/ followed by the vowel /i/. Thus, there are two slightly distinct pronunciations of the word menina, "girl:" with palatalized ni [miˈnʲinɐ] and without palatalization [miˈninɐ].

A change that is in the process of spreading in BP and perhaps started in the Northeast is the insertion of [j] after stressed vowels before /s/ at the end of a syllable. It began in the context of /ɡ/ (mas "but" is now pronounced [majs] in most of Brazil, making it homophonous with mais "more"). Also, the change is spreading to other final vowels, and, at least in the Northeast and also Southeast, the normal pronunciations of voz "voice" is [vɔjs]. Similarly, três "three" becomes [tɾejs], making it rhyme with seis "six" [sejs]; that may explain the common Brazilian replacement of seis with meia ("half", as in "half a dozen") when phone numbers are spelled out.

Differences in the informal spoken language

There are various differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, such as the dropping of the second-person conjugations (and, in some dialects, of the second-person pronoun itself) in everyday usage and the use of subject pronouns (ele, ela, eles, elas) as direct objects. People from Portugal can understand Brazilian Portuguese well. However, some Brazilians find European Portuguese difficult to understand at first. This is mainly due to vowel reduction in unstressed syllables in European Portuguese: loss of phonemic contrasts, or often, in the case of word-final e, omission. Speakers of EP also introduce more allophonic modifications of various sounds. Another reason is that Brazilians have almost no contact with the European variant, but Portuguese are used to watching Brazilian television programs and listening to Brazilian music.


Spoken Brazilian usage differs from European usage in many aspects. The differences include the placement of clitic pronouns and, in Brazil, the use of subject pronouns as objects in the third person. Nonstandard verb inflections are also common in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese.

Affirmation and negation

Spoken Portuguese rarely uses the affirmation adverb sim ("yes") in informal speech. Instead, the usual reply is a repetition of the verb of the question.


— Foste à biblioteca?
— Fui (, fui ontem).


— Você foi na/à/pra biblioteca?
— Fui.


— Tu foste/foi na/à/pra biblioteca? (Southern variant)
— Fui.


"Have you gone to the library yet?"
"Yes, I went there yesterday."

In BP, it is common to form a yes/no question as a declarative sentence followed by the tag question não é? ("isn't it?"), contracted in informal speech to né? (compare English "He is a teacher, isn't he?"). The affirmative answer to such a question is a repetition of the verb: "É:":

Ele não fez o que devia, né? ("He didn't do what he should've, did he?")

É. ("Right, he didn't.")


Ela já foi atriz, né? ("She had already been an actress, hadn't she?")

É. ("She already had.") Or – É, sim, ela já foi. (If a longer answer is preferred.)

It is also common to negate statements twice for emphasis, with não ("no") before and after the verb:


— Você fala inglês?
— Não falo, não.
"Do you speak English?"
"I don't speak [it], no."

Sometimes, even a triple negative is possible:

— Você fala inglês?
— Não. Não falo, não
"Do you speak English?"
"No. I don't speak it, no."

In some regions, the first "não" of a "não...não" pair is pronounced [nũ].

In some cases, the redundancy of the first não results in its omission, which produces an apparent reversal of word order from that prevailing in European Portuguese:


— Você fala inglês?
— Não falo. ([I do] not speak)


— Você fala inglês?
— Falo não. ("[I] speak not")


"Do you speak English?"
"No, I don't."


Standard Portuguese forms a command according to the grammatical person of the subject (who is ordered to do the action) by using either the imperative form of the verb or the present subjunctive. Thus, one should use different inflections according to the pronoun used as subject: tu ('you', grammatical second person with the imperative form) or você ('you', grammatical third person with the present subjunctive):

Tu és burro, cala a boca! (cale-se)
Você é burro, cale a boca! (cale-se)
"You are stupid, shut your mouth! (shut up)"

Currently, several dialects of BP have largely lost the second-person pronouns, but even they use the second-person imperative in addition to the third-person present subjunctive form that should be used with você:

BP: Você é burro, cale a boca! OR
BP: Você é burro, cala a boca! (considered grammatically incorrect, but completely dominant in informal language)

Although Brazilians use the second-person imperative forms even when referring to você and not tu, in the case of the verb ser 'to be (permanently)' and estar 'to be (temporarily)', the second-person imperative and está are never used; the third-person subjunctive forms seja and esteja may be used instead.

The negative command forms use the subjunctive present tense forms of the verb. However, as for the second person forms, Brazilians do not use the subjunctive-derived ones in spoken language. Instead, they employ the imperative forms: "Não anda", rather than the grammatically correct "Não andes".

As for other grammatical persons, there is no such phenomenon because both the positive imperative and the negative imperative forms are from their respective present tense forms in the subjunctive mood: Não jogue papel na grama (Don't throw paper on the grass); Não fume (Don't smoke).


EP demonstrative adjectives and pronouns and their corresponding adverbs have three forms corresponding to different degrees of proximity.

Este 'this (one)' [near the speaker]
Esse 'that (one)' [near the addressee]
Aquele 'that (one)' [away from speaker and addressee]

In spoken BP, the first two adjectives/pronouns have merged:

Esse 'this (one)' [near the speaker] / 'that (one)' [near the addressee]
Aquele 'that (one)' [away from both]


Esta é a minha camisola nova. (EP)
Essa é minha camiseta nova. (BP)
This is my new T-shirt.

Perhaps as a means of avoiding or clarifying some ambiguities created by the fact that "este" ([st] > [s]) and "esse" have merged into the same word, informal BP often uses the demonstrative pronoun with some adverb that indicates its placement in relation to the addressee: if there are two skirts in a room and one says, Pega essa saia para mim (Take this skirt for me), there may be some doubt about which of them must be taken so one may say Pega essa aí (Take this one there near you") in the original sense of the use of "essa", or Pega essa saia aqui (Take this one here).

Personal pronouns and possessives

Tu and você

In many dialects of BP, você (formal "you" in EP) replaces tu (informal "you" in EP). The object pronoun, however, is still te ([tʃi] or [ti]). Also, other forms such as teu (possessive), ti (postprepositional), and contigo ("with you") are still common in most regions of Brazil, especially in areas in which tu is still frequent.

Hence, the combination of object te with subject você in informal BP: eu te disse para você ir (I told you that you should go). In addition, in all the country, the imperative forms may also be the same as the formal second-person forms, but it is argued by some that it is the third-person singular indicative which doubles as the imperative: fala o que você fez instead of fale o que você fez ("say what you did").

In areas in which você has largely replaced tu, the forms ti/te and contigo may be replaced by você and com você. Therefore, either você (following the verb) or te (preceding the verb) can be used as the object pronoun in informal BP. A speaker may thus end up saying "I love you" in two ways: eu amo você or eu te amo. In parts of the Northeast, most specifically in the states of Piauí and Pernambuco, it is also common to use the indirect object pronoun lhe as a second-person object pronoun: eu lhe amo.

In parts of the South, in most of the North and most of the Northeast, and in the city of Santos, the distinction between semi-formal ‘você' and familiar ’tu' is still maintained, and object and possessive pronouns pattern likewise. In the Paraná state capital, Curitiba, 'tu' is not generally used.[17]

In Rio de Janeiro and minor parts of the Northeast (interior of some states and some speakers from the coast), both tu and você (and associated object and possessive pronouns) are used interchangeably with little or no difference (sometimes even in the same sentence).[18] In Salvador, tu is never used and is replaced by você.

Most Brazilians who use tu use it with the third-person verb: tu vai ao banco. "Tu" with the second-person verb can still be found in Maranhão, Pernambuco, Piauí and Santa Catarina. A few cities in Rio Grande do Sul (but in the rest of the state speakers may or may not use it in more formal speech), mainly near the border with Uruguay, have a slightly different pronunciation in some instances (tu vieste becomes tu viesse), which is also present in Santa Catarina and Pernambuco. In the states of Pará and Amazonas, tu is used much more often than você and is always accompanied by a second-person verb.

In São Paulo, the use of "tu" in print and conversation is no longer very common and is replaced by "você." However, São Paulo is now home to many immigrants of Northeastern origin, who may employ "tu" quite often in their everyday speech. Você is predominant in most of the Southeastern and Center Western regions; it is almost entirely prevalent in the states of Minas Gerais (apart from portions of the countryside, such as the region of São João da Ponte, where "tu" is also present[19]) and Espírito Santo, but "tu" is frequent in Santos and all coastal region of São Paulo state as well as some cities in the countryside.

In most of Brazil "você" is often reduced to even more contracted forms, resulting ocê (mostly in the Caipira dialect) and, especially, because vo- is an unstressed syllable and so is dropped in rapid speech.

2nd singular person conjugation in Standard and Brazilian Portuguese
(colloquial Sulista)
fala falas fala
falou falaste falou falasse
falasse falasses falasse
fale fala
não fale não fala não fales não fale, não fala
Third-person direct object pronouns

In spoken informal registers of BP, the third-person object pronouns 'o', 'a', 'os', and 'as', common in EP, are virtually nonexistent and are simply left out or, when necessary and usually only when referring to people, replaced by stressed subject pronouns like ele "he" or isso "that": Eu vi ele "I saw him" rather than Eu o vi.

Seu and dele

When você is strictly a second-person pronoun, the use of possessive seu/sua may turn some phrases quite ambiguous since one would wonder whether seu/sua refers to the second person você or to the third person ele/ela.

BP thus tends to use the third-person possessive 'seu' to mean "your" since você is a third-person pronoun and uses 'dele', 'dela', 'deles', and 'delas' ("of him/her/them" and placed after the noun) as third-person possessive forms. If no ambiguity could arise (especially in narrative texts), seu is also used to mean 'his' or 'her'.

Both forms ('seu' or 'dele(s) /dela(s)') are considered grammatically correct innboth EP and BP.

Definite article before possessive

In Portuguese, one may or may not include the definite article before a possessive pronoun (meu livro or o meu livro, for instance). The variants of use in each dialect of Portuguese are mostly a matter of preference: it does not usually mean a dialect completely abandoned either form.

In EP, a definite article normally accompanies a possessive when it comes before a noun: este é o meu gato 'this is my cat'. In Southeastern BP, especially in the standard dialects of the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the definite article is normally used as in Portugal, but many speakers do not use it at the beginning of the sentence or in titles: Minha novela, Meu tio matou um cara. In Northeastern BP dialects and in Central and Northern parts of the state of Rio de Janeiro, (starting from Niterói), rural parts of Minas Gerais, and all over Espírito Santo State, speakers tend to but do not always drop the definite article, but both esse é o meu gato and esse é meu gato are likely in speech.

Formal written Brazilian Portuguese tends, however, to omit the definite article in accordance with prescriptive grammar rules derived from Classical Portuguese even if the alternative form is also considered correct, but many teachers consider it inelegant.


Some of the examples on the right side of the table below are colloquial or regional in Brazil. Literal translations are provided to illustrate how word order changes between varieties.

European Portuguese Brazilian Portuguese
Brazilian Portuguese
placement of
clitic pronouns
Eu amo-te.

"I love you/thee."

Eu te amo.

"I you/thee love."

Responde-me! (tu)

Responda-me! (você)

"Answer me!" (you)

Responda-me! (você)

"Answer me!" (you)

Me responde! (você)1

"Me to answer!" (you)

use of personal
Eu vi-a.

"I saw her."

Eu a vi.

"I her saw."

Eu vi ela.

"I saw she."

Word order in the first Brazilian example is frequent in European Portuguese too like in subordinate clauses like Sabes que eu te amo "You know that I love you", but not in simple sentences like "I love you." However, in Portugal, an object pronoun would never be placed at the start of a sentence, as in the second example. The example in the bottom row of the table, with its deletion of "redundant" inflections, is considered ungrammatical, but it is nonetheless dominant in Brazil in all social classes.

Use of prepositions

Just as in the case of English, whose various dialects sometimes use different prepositions with the same verbs or nouns (stand in/on line, in/on the street), BP usage sometimes requires prepositions that would not be normally used in EP in the same context.

Chamar de

Chamar 'call' is normally used with the preposition de in BP, especially when it means 'to describe someone as':

Chamei ele de ladrão. (BP)
Chamei-lhe ladrão. (EP)
I called him a thief.
Em with verbs of movement

When movement to a place is described, EP uses the preposition a with the verb, and BP uses em (contracted with an article, if necessary):

Fui na praça. (BP)
Fui à praça. (EP)
I went to the square. [temporarily]

In both EP and BP, the preposition para can also be used with such verbs with no difference in meaning:

Fui para a praça. (BP, EP)
I went to the square. [definitively]


According to some contemporary Brazilian linguists (Bortoni, Kato, Mattos e Silva, Perini and most recently, with great impact, Bagno), Brazilian Portuguese may be a highly diglossic language. This theory claims that there is an L-variant (termed "Brazilian Vernacular"), which would be the mother tongue of all Brazilians, and an H-variant (standard Brazilian Portuguese) acquired through schooling. L-variant represents a simplified form of the language (in terms of grammar, but not of phonetics) that could have evolved from 16th-century Portuguese, influenced by Amerindian (mostly Tupi) and African languages, while H-variant would be based on 19th-century European Portuguese (and very similar to Standard European Portuguese, with only minor differences in spelling and grammar usage). Mário A. Perini, a Brazilian linguist, even compares the depth of the differences between L- and H- variants of Brazilian Portuguese with those between Standard Spanish and Standard Portuguese. However, his proposal is not widely accepted by either grammarians or academics. Milton M. Azevedo wrote a chapter on diglossia in his monograph: Portuguese language (A linguistic introduction), published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.


From this point of view, the L-variant is the spoken form of Brazilian Portuguese, which should be avoided only in very formal speech (court interrogation, political debate) while the H-variant is the written form of Brazilian Portuguese, avoided only in informal writing (such as songs lyrics, love letters, intimate friends correspondence). Even language professors frequently use the L-variant while explaining students the structure and usage of the H-variant; in essays, nevertheless, all students are expected to use H-variant.

The L-variant may be used in songs, movies, soap operas, sitcoms and other television shows, although, at times, the H-variant is used in historic films or soap operas to make the language used sound more ‘elegant’ or ‘archaic’. There is a claim that the H-variant used to be preferred when dubbing foreign films and series into Brazilian Portuguese, but nowadays the L-variant is preferred, although this seems to lack evidence. Movie subtitles normally use a mixture of L- and H-variants, but remain closer to the H-variant.

Most literary works are written in the H-variant. There would have been attempts at writing in the L-variant (such as the masterpiece Macunaíma, written by Brazilian modernist Mário de Andrade and Grande Sertão: Veredas, by João Guimarães Rosa), but, presently, the L-variant is claimed to be used only in dialogue. Still, many contemporary writers like using the H-variant even in informal dialogue. This is also true of translated books, which never use the L-variant, only the H one. Children's books seem to be more L-friendly, but, again, if they are translated from another language (The Little Prince, for instance) they will use the H-variant only.


This theory also posits that the matter of diglossia in Brazil is further complicated by forces of political and cultural bias, though those are not clearly named. Language is sometimes a tool of social exclusion or social choice.

Mário A. Perini, a Brazilian linguist, has said:

"There are two languages in Brazil. The one we write (and which is called "Portuguese"), and another one that we speak (which is so despised that there is not a name to call it). The latter is the mother tongue of Brazilians, the former has to be learned in school, and a majority of population does not manage to master it appropriately.... Personally, I do not object to us writing Portuguese, but I think it is important to make clear that Portuguese is (at least in Brazil) only a written language. Our mother tongue is not Portuguese, but Brazilian Vernacular. This is not a slogan, nor a political statement, it is simply recognition of a fact.... There are linguistic teams working hard in order to give the full description of the structure of the Vernacular. So, there are hopes, that within some years, we will have appropriate grammars of our mother tongue, the language that has been ignored, denied and despised for such a long time."

According to Milton M. Azevedo (Brazilian linguist):

"The relationship between Vernacular Brazilian Portuguese and the formal prescriptive variety fulfills the basic conditions of Ferguson's definition [of diglossia]...[...] Considering the difficulty encountered by vernacular speakers to acquire the standard, an understanding of those relationships appears to have broad educational significance. The teaching of Portuguese has traditionally meant imparting a prescriptive formal standard based on a literary register (Cunha 1985: 24) that is often at variance with the language with which students are familiar. As in a diglossic situation, vernacular speakers must learn to read and write in a dialect they neither speak nor fully understand, a circumstance that may have a bearing on the high dropout rate in elementary schools..."

According to Bagno (1999) the two variants coexist and intermingle quite seamlessly, but their status is not clear-cut. Brazilian Vernacular is still frowned upon by most grammarians and language teachers, with only remarkably few linguists championing its cause. Some of this minority, of which Bagno is an example, appeal to their readers by their ideas that grammarians would be detractors of the termed Brazilian Vernacular, by naming it a "corrupt" form of the "pure" standard, an attitude which they classify as "linguistic prejudice". Their arguments include the postulate that the Vernacular form simplifies some of the intricacies of standard Portuguese (verbal conjugation, pronoun handling, plural forms, etc.).

Bagno denounces the prejudice against the vernacular in what he terms the "8 Myths":

  1. There is a striking uniformity in Brazilian Portuguese
  2. A big amount of Brazilians speak Portuguese poorly while in Portugal people speak it very well
  3. Portuguese is difficult to learn and speak
  4. People that have had poor education can't speak anything correctly
  5. In the state of Maranhão people speak a better Portuguese than elsewhere in Brazil
  6. We should speak as closely as possible to the written language
  7. The knowledge of grammar is essential to the correct and proper use of a language
  8. To master Standard Portuguese is the path to social promotion

In opposition to the "myths", Bagno counters that:

  1. The uniformity of Brazilian Portuguese is just about what linguistics would predict for such a large country whose population has not, generally, been literate for centuries and which has experienced considerable foreign influence, that is, this uniformity is more apparent than real.
  2. Brazilians speak Standard Portuguese poorly because they speak a language that is sufficiently different from Standard Portuguese so that the latter sounds almost "foreign" to them. In terms of comparison, it is easier for many Brazilians to understand someone from a Spanish-speaking South American country than someone from Portugal because the spoken varieties of Portuguese on either side of the Atlantic have diverged to the point of nearly being mutually unintelligible.
  3. No language is difficult for those who speak it. Difficulty appears when two conditions are met: the standard language diverges from the vernacular and a speaker of the vernacular tries to learn the standard version. This divergence is the precise reason why spelling and grammar reforms happen every now and then.
  4. People with less education can speak the vernacular or often several varieties of the vernacular, and they speak it well. They might, however, have trouble in speaking Standard Portuguese, but this is due to lack of experience rather than to any inherent deficiency in their linguistic mastery.
  5. The people of Maranhão are not generally better than fellow Brazilians from other states in speaking Standard Portuguese, especially because that state is one of the poorest and has one of the lowest literacy rates.
  6. It is the written language that must reflect the spoken and not vice versa: it is not the tail that wags the dog.
  7. The knowledge of grammar is intuitive for those who speak their native languages. Problems arise when they begin to study the grammar of a foreign language.
  8. Rich and influential people themselves often do not follow the grammatical rules of Standard Portuguese. Standard Portuguese is mostly a jewel or shibboleth for powerless middle-class careers (journalists, teachers, writers, actors, etc.).

Whether Bagno's points are valid or not is open to debate, especially the solutions he recommends for the problems he claims to have identified. Whereas some agree that he has captured the feelings of the Brazilians towards Brazil's linguistic situation well, his book (Linguistic Prejudice: What it Is, What To Do) has been heavily criticized by some linguists and grammarians, due to his unorthodox claims, sometimes asserted to be biased or unproven.


The cultural influence of Brazilian Portuguese in the rest of the Portuguese-speaking world has greatly increased in the last decades of the 20th century, due to the popularity of Brazilian music and Brazilian soap operas. Since Brazil joined Mercosul, the South American free trade zone, Portuguese has been increasingly studied as a foreign language in Spanish-speaking partner countries.

Many words of Brazilian origin (also used in other Portuguese-speaking countries) have also entered into English: samba, bossa nova, cruzeiro, milreis and capoeira. While originally Angolan, the word "samba" only became famous worldwide because of its popularity in Brazil.

After independence in 1822, Brazilian idioms with African and Amerindian influences were brought to Portugal by returning Portuguese Brazilians (luso-brasileiros in Portuguese).

Language codes

pt is a language code for Portuguese, defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2). There is no ISO code for spoken or written Brazilian Portuguese.

bzs is a language code for the Brazilian Sign Language, defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-3).[20]

pt-BR is a language code for the Brazilian Portuguese, defined by Internet standards (see IETF language tag).

See also



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