Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese (Portuguese: português brasileiro or português do Brasil; pt-BR) is a group of Portuguese dialects written and spoken by most of the 190 million inhabitants[1] of Brazil and by a few million Brazilian emigrants, mainly in the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Canada, Japan and Paraguay.

Some authors compare the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese to those found between British and American English,[2] while others see the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese as greater or much greater.[3][4] The differences in the spoken language are much more pronounced than the differences in the formal written language.[3] As many as 15% of the words are different and limited mainly to flora, fauna, foods, etc. As with many languages, the differences between standard Brazilian Portuguese and its informal vernacular are marked, though lexicon and most of the grammar rules remain the same. Nonetheless, there are still scientific debates about the status of that variant due to those differences, especially whether or not it would be a case of diglossia.

Nevertheless, the comparatively recent development of Brazilian Portuguese (and its use by people of various linguistic backgrounds), the cultural prestige and strong government support accorded to the written standard has maintained the unity of the language over the whole of Brazil and ensured that all regional varieties remain fully intelligible. Starting in the 1960s, the nationwide dominance of television networks based in the southeast (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) has made the dialects of that region into an unofficial spoken standard for the means of communication, as well.



Portuguese legacy

The existence of Portuguese in Brazil is a legacy of Portuguese colonization of the Americas. The first wave of Portuguese-speaking immigrants settled in Brazil in the 16th century, yet 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 thousands of slaves brought to the country between the 16th and 19th centuries.

By the end of the 18th century, however, 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 inlands, and the huge immigration of Portuguese during that time, who brought their language and became a much more important ethnic group in Brazil. Besides, they brought millions of slaves, who were in general more likely to learn Portuguese, since the Africans would speak lots of different languages that were mutually unintelligible and had more contact (even if forcedly) with the Portuguese speakers.

Since the early 18th century, Portugal's government had made many efforts to expand the use of Portuguese in all the colony, particularly because its consolidation in Brazil would help guarantee to them 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 Marquis of Pombal administration (1750–1777), Brazil started to use only Portuguese, for he expelled the Jesuit missionares – who taught the Língua Geral – and prohibited the use of Nhengatu, or Lingua Franca.[5]

The aborted 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 effect on Portuguese. Even the substantial non-Portuguese-speaking immigration waves of the late 19th and early 20th century (mostly from Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Japan and Lebanon) were linguistically integrated into the Portuguese-speaking majority within very few generations, except for some areas of the three southern states (in the case of Germans, Italians and Slavs) and rural corners of São Paulo (Italians and Japanese).

Nowadays the overwhelming majority of Brazilians speak Portuguese as their mother tongue, with the exception of small communities of descendants of European and Japanese immigrants – mostly in the South and Southeast – and Amerindian villages, who make up for an extremely minor part of the population. However, even in those cases, the populations use Portuguese frequently as a means of communication with other people and to understand television and radio programs, for example.

Influences from other languages

The evolution of Brazilian Portuguese has certainly been influenced by the languages it supplanted: first the Amerindian tongues of the natives, then the various African languages brought by the slaves, and finally those of later European and Asian immigrants. The influence is clearly detected in the Brazilian lexicon, which today has hundreds of words of Tupi–Guarani and Yoruba origin, among others. However, the vocabulary is still predominately Portuguese, since the contributions of other languages were restricted to a few subjects or areas of knowledge.

From South America, words deriving from the Tupi–Guarani language family are particularly prevalent in place names (Itaquaquecetuba, Pindamonhangaba, Caruaru, Ipanema, Paraíba). The native languages also contributed for the names of most of the plants and animals found in Brazil, such as arara ("macaw"), jacaré ("South American alligator"), tucano ("toucan"), mandioca ("manioc"), abacaxi ("pineapple"), and many more. However, it should be noted that 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.

The African languages provided hundreds of words too, especially in the following subjects: food (e.g. quitute, quindim, acarajé, moqueca), religious concepts (mandinga, macumba, orixá, axé), African-Brazilian music (samba, lundu, maxixe, berimbau), body-related parts and diseases (banguela, bunda, capenga, caxumba), places (cacimba, quilombo, senzala, mocambo), objects (miçanga, abadá, tanga) and household concepts, such as cafuné ("caress on the head"), curinga ("joker card"), caçula ("youngest child"), and moleque ("brat, spoiled child"). Though the African slaves had various ethnic origins, the Bantu and Guinean-Sudanese groups contributed by far to most of the borrowings, above all the Kimbundu (from Angola), Kikongo (from Angola, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo[6]), Yoruba/Nagô (from Nigeria), and Jeje/Ewe language (from Benin).

There are also many borrowings from other European languages such as English, specially words connected to technology, modern science and finance, like layout, briefing, designer, slideshow, mouse (computing), forward, commodities, commercial terms like kingsize, fast food (ˈfɛstʃ ˈfudʒɪ), delivery service, self service, drive-thru, telemarketing, franchise, merchandise, but also cultural aspects such as okay, junk food, hot dog, pet, lol, nerd (ˈnɛʁdʒi, rarely ˈnɐɻdz), geek (ˈʒiki, rarely ˈgik), noob, punk, skinhead (skĩˈχɛdʒi), emo (ˈẽmu), indie (ˈĩdʒi), hooligan, cool, vibe, hype, overdose, junkie, cowboy, mullet, sex appeal, drag queen, bro, gospel, praise, bullying (ˈbuljĩgɪ, but much often the closer to native pronounce ˈbɐlĩ(ŋ)), stalking (ˈstawkĩ, much often closer ˈstɔwkĩ(ŋ)), etc.

French (food, furniture, luxurious fabrics and abstract concepts). Scholars affirm that even now, French remains as the largest foreign influence in Portuguese due to the fact that French borrowings were adopted by a strong cultural affinity. Brazilian Portuguese tends to adopt French suffixes as in aterrissagem, differently from European Portuguese. Brazilian Pt. also tends to adopt culture-bound concepts from French, but when it comes to technology, the major influence is the English, while European Pt. tends to adopt technological terms from French. That is the difference between estação and gare. An evident example of the dichotomy between English and French influences is the use of the expressions know-how, used in a technical context, and savoir-faire, in literal Portuguese saber-fazer, proficiência-da-feitura, saber-como), German and Italian (mostly food, music, arts and architecture), and, to a lesser extent, Asian languages such as Japanese. The latter borrowings are also mostly related to food and drinks or culture-bound concepts, such as quimono, from Japanese kimono. Besides strudel, pretzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut (spelled chucrute and pronunced Portuguese pronunciation: [ʃuˈkɾutʃi]), Oktoberfest, biergarten, there are also abstract terms from German like encrenca or blitz. A significant number of beer brands in Brazil are named after German culture-bound concepts due the fact that the brewing process was brought by German immigrants. Besides, there were many Italian loan words and expressions which are not related to food or music: (italianisms) like tchau, imbróglio, bisonho, panetone, è vero, cicerone, male male, terra roxa, capisce, mezzo, va bene, ecco, ecco fatto, ecco qui, caspita, cavolo, incavolarsi, engrouvinhado, andiamo via. Due to its large Italian diaspora, parts of the Southern and Southeast states have an Italian influence over the prosody, the vocal patterns of the language, with an Italian sounding stress.[7]

The influence of these languages in the phonology and grammar of Brazilian Portuguese have been very minor.[citation needed] Some authors claim the loss of initial es in the verb estar – now widespread in Brazil – is an influence from African slaves' speech,[8] and it is also claimed that some common factors of BP – such as the near-complete disappearance of certain verb inflections and the marked preference for compound tenses – recall the grammatical simplification typical of pidgins. However, the same or similar processes can be verified in the European variant, and such theories have not yet been proved.[9] Regardless of these borrowings and changes, it must be kept in mind that Brazilian Portuguese is not a Portuguese creole, since it can be traced as a direct evolution 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. Moreover, Brazilians in general have had very little exposure to European speech, even after the advent of radio, TV, and movies. The language spoken in Brazil has evolved largely independently of that spoken in Portugal. To many Brazilians, the language spoken in Portugal is almost unintelligible.[citation needed]

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. Several Brazilian writers were 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. They are similar to how the English spellings of certain words in the United States differ from the spellings used in other English-speaking countries.

A major subset of the differences relates to words with c and p followed by c, ç, or t. In many cases, the letters c or p 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 down in BP, similar to Italian spelling standards, but are still written in other countries. For example, we have EP acção / BP ação ("action"), EP óptimo / BP ótimo ("optimum"), and so on, where the consonant is silent both in BP and EP, but the words are 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, 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 who describe it as a case of diglossia, considering that informal BP has developed  – both in phonetics and grammar  – in its own way and now constitutes a different, albeit quite similar, language, which would explain the unease that many Brazilians have when learning standard Portuguese. According to them, while diglossia inevitably develops in every literate society, it is much more striking in Brazil than in English or in European Portuguese.

According to that theory, 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 like 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). 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 even grammar.

However, the theory of diglossia in BP finds many oppositions, since diglossia does not mean simply the coexistence of different varieties or "registers" of the language  – formal and informal – . It means, in fact, the situation in which there are two (often related) languages: a formal one and an informal one, which is the spoken tongue. Opposers of that theory argue that the various aspects that separate the informal register and the formal one in Brazil cannot be compared with the numerous differences of standard Italian or German and their national dialects. Besides, the relatively "simplified" grammar of BP  – actually, many different levels of informal BP with distinct alterations in grammar and pronunciation  – would be a reflex of the formation of informal speeches, which happens in every language in the world.[citation needed]

The discussion remains whether informal BP has enough differences in order to be actually considered a low-prestige language, spoken by the Brazilian people, who, therefore, must learn a language that is not their own, the Portuguese language. Thus, opposing to that theory, many arguments have been used:

  1. even in the most informal and low-prestige varieties of BP, almost the entirety of the lexicon is Portuguese, with few differences of pronunciation in comparison to the standard BP, especially in what refers to the basic vocabulary;
  2. there are several 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 for another form that is also considered correct by 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 (note that some of them may occur in EP, too):

  • dropping the first syllable of the verb estar ("to be") throughout the conjugation (ele tá ("he's") instead of ele está ("he is"), nós táva(mos/mo) ("we were") instead of nós estávamos ("we were")); (Exactly the same in EP)
  • dropping prepositions before subordinate and relative clauses beginning with conjunctions (Ele precisa que vocês ajudem instead of Ele precisa de que vocês ajudem); (Exactly the same in EP)
  • replacing haver when it means "to exist" with ter ("to have"): há muitos problemas na cidade ("there are many problems in the city") can be heard, but is much rarer than tem muitos problema(s) na cidade
  • lack of third-person object pronouns, which may be omitted completely or replaced by their respective personal pronouns (eu vi ele or even just eu vi instead of eu o vi for "I saw him/it") (may occur in EP as well)
  • lack of second-person verb forms (except for a few parts of Brazil) and, in various regions, plural third-person forms as well (mostly lower-class speakers) (tu cantas becomes tu canta or você canta (Brazilian uses the pronoun "você" a lot but rarely uses "tu")
  • lack of the relative pronoun cujo/cuja ("whose"), which is replaced by que ("that/which"), either alone (the possession being implied) or along with a possessive pronoun or expression, such as dele/dela (A mulher cujo filho morreu ("the woman whose son died") becomes A mulher que o filho [dela] morreu ("the woman that [her] son died"))
  • frequent use of the pronoun a gente ("the people") with 3rd p. sg verb forms instead of the 1st p. pl verb forms and pronoun nós ("we/us"), though both are formally correct and nós is still much used (uneducated speakers may contaminate the two forms, e.g. say a gente fazemos instead of a gente faz); (Occurs in EP as well)
  • obligatory proclisis in all cases (always me disseram, rarely disseram-me), as well as use of the pronoun amidst two verbs in a verbal expression (always vem me treinando, never me vem treinando or vem treinando-me)
  • contracting certain high-frequency phrases, which is not necessarily unacceptable in standard BP and is often restricted to certain regions or circumstances[clarification needed] (para > pra; vamos em boa hora > vamos embora > bora; em vocês, para vocês > n'ocês, p'r'ocês; dependo de ele ajudar > dependo d'ele ajudar; com as > c'as ; deixa eu ver > 'x'o vê; você está > cê tá etc.)
  • preference for para over a in the directional meaning (Para onde você vai? instead of Aonde você vai? ("Where are you going?"))
  • use of certain idiomatic expressions, such as Cadê o carro? instead of Onde está o carro? ("Where is the car?")
  • lack of indirect object pronouns, especially lhe, which are replaced by para plus their respective personal pronoun (Dê um copo de agua para ele instead of Dê-lhe um copo de agua ("Give him a glass of water"); Quero mandar uma carta para você instead of Quero te mandar uma carta ("I want to give you a letter"))
  • use of dele and dela instead of seu when it means "his" or "her" (o marido dela instead of o seu marido ("her husband"))
  • use of as a pronoun for indefinite direct objects (similar to French 'en'). Examples: falaí (fala + aí) ("say it"), esconde aí ("hide it"), 'per aí (espere aí = "wait a moment").
  • impersonal use of the verb dar ("to give") to express that something is feasible or permissible. Example: dá pra eu comer? ("can/may I eat it?") ; deu pra eu entender ("I was able to understand")


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 estoque and 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 (in EP, the word "mouse" is also commonly used)
BP esporte (alternatives: desporto, desporte) ← English "sport" versus EP desporto ← Spanish deporte
BP jaqueta ← English "jacket" versus EP blusão ← EP blusa ← French blouse (also used in BP)
BP concreto ← English "concrete" versus EP betão ← French beton (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 English
abridor de latas abre-latas can opener
aeromoça, comissária de bordo aeromoça, hospedeira flight stewardess
água-viva, medusa alforreca jellyfish
AIDS SIDA (Síndrome da Imunodeficiência Adquirida) AIDS
alho poró alho-porro leek
aquarela aguarela watercolor
amerissagem amaragem landing on the sea, splash-down
aterrissagem aterragem landing
Band-Aid penso rápido band-aid (US), plaster (UK)
banheiro, toalete, toilettes, sanitário casa de banho, lavabos, sanitários bathroom, toilet
bonde, bonde elétrico eléctrico streetcar (US), tram (UK)
brócolis brócolos broccoli
cílio (Classical Latin "cilium"), pestana, celha pestana eyelash
café da manhã, desjejum, parva pequeno almoço, desjejum breakfast
caminhonete, van, perua (informal) camioneta station wagon (US), estate car (UK)
câncer cancro cancer (the disease)
carona boleia ride, hitchhiking
carteira de habilitação, carteira de motorista, carta carta de condução driver's license (US), driving licence (UK)
carteira de identidade, RG (from "Registro Geral") bilhete de identidade ID card
telefone celular (or simply and most common "celular"), aparelho de telefonia celular telemóvel cell phone (US), mobile phone (UK)
canadense canadiano Canadian
caqui (from Japanese 柿 kaki) dióspiro persimmon
dublagem dobragem dubbing
durex, fita adesiva fita gomada, fita-cola, fita adesiva Scotch Tape (US), Sellotape (UK)
time, equipe equipa, equipe team
estação de trem gare, estação train station
estrada de ferro, ferrovia caminho de ferro, ferrovia railway
favela bairro de lata slum, shanty-town
fila bicha, fila line (US), queue (UK)
fones de ouvido auscultadores, auriculares 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
maiô, maillot fato de banho woman's swimsuit
mamadeira biberão, biberon baby bottle
metrô metro, metropolitano underground railway, metropolitan railway
Moscou Moscovo Moscow
ônibus autocarro bus
polonês, polaco polaco Polish
rúgbi, rugby râguebi, rugby rugby
secretária eletrônica atendedor de chamadas (telephone) answering machine
sutiã, soutien, soutien-gorge soutien, sutiã bra
tcheco, checo checo Czech
tela ecrã screen
trem, composição ferroviária comboio train
Vietnã Vietname Vietnam
fóton fotão photon

Some of the words shown in only one column (like comboio, atendedor de chamadas, and mamadeira) do exist in the other dialect, but are rarely used.


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 an external comment that could have been included as an element (object or verb) of the sentence (topicalization), thus emphasizing it, e.g. in Esses assuntos eu não conheço bem – literally, "These subjects I don't know [them] well".[11] The anticipation of the verb or object in the beginning of the phrase, repeating them 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]


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

BP seldom has the present continuous construct estar a + infinitive, which, in contrast, has become quite common in EP in the last 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"), seldom 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"), and that some dialects of EP (namely from Alentejo, Algarve, Açores(Azores), Madeira) will also tend to use estar + gerund in the same way as Brazilians.

Ter instead of haver

In a few compound verb tenses, BP in general uses the auxiliary ter (originally "to hold", "to own"), where EP would normally use haver ("to have, shall / will"). However, both forms are correct according to the prescribed grammar. Thus, ele tinha feito and ele havia feito (compound pluperfect "he had done") are interchangeable, and, in fact, the later form is still used in BP, even if quite rarely.

In particular, the EP construction há de cantar ("he will sing" or "he shall sing") is almost unheard in BP, except, sometimes, in the sense of swearing or promising (e.g. Eu hei de fazer esse negócio funcionar). BP also uses ter in existential sense, whereas EP would use haver, hence "there is no money" will be both "não tem dinheiro" and "não há dinheiro".

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, 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).

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

BP/EP differences in the formal spoken language


In many ways, compared to European Portuguese (EP), Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is conservative in its phonology. This also occurs in Angolan Portuguese, São Tomean Portuguese, and other African dialects. Brazilian Portuguese is a phonetically rich language[citation needed], with 8 vowels, 5 nasal vowels, with several diphthongs, and triphthongs. Brazilian Portuguese is also considerably more nasal than European Portuguese due to Tupi influence.[citation needed]


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 reducing 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 very short, near central unrounded vowel [ɨ], a sound that does not exist in BP. Thus, for example, the word setembro is [seˈtẽbɾu]/[sɛˈtẽbɾʊ] 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. In general, the Southern and Southeastern dialects would always pronounce e and o  – when they are not reduced to [i] and [u]  – 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 [opeɾaˈsɐ̃ʊ̃] and [heboˈla].

However, in the Northeastern and Northern accents, there are many complex rules that still have not been much studied which lead to the open pronunciation of e and o in a huge number of words. Thus, on the contrary of the other dialects, the open vowels [ɛ] and [ɔ] are not exclusively used in stressed syllables. Thus, the previous examples would be pronounced differently: [ɔpɛɾaˈsɐ̃ʊ̃] 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 nasalized in virtually all the cases, no matter if they are stressed or unstressed; on the other hand, in the latter dialects, the vowels may remain non-nasalized if they are unstressed. A famous example of this distinction is the pronunciation of banana: a Northeastern BP speaker would speak [bɐ̃ˈnɐ̃nɐ], while a Southern one would speak [baˈnɐ̃nɐ].


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. This 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 has spread more recently to some regions of São Paulo (due to the migrants from other regions), where it is common in most speakers under 40 or so. It has always been standard among Brazil's Japanese community, since this is also a feature of Japanese. The regions that still preserve the non-palatalized [ti] are mostly in the Northeast and South of Brazil, due to stronger influence from European Portuguese (Northeast), and from Italian and Argentine Spanish (South).

Epenthesis in consonant clusters

BP tends to break up clusters where the first consonant is not /r/, /l/, or /s/ by the insertion of the epenthetic vowel /i/, which can also be characterized, in some situations, as a schwa.[13] This phenomenon happens mostly in pretonic position and with the consonant clusters ks, ps, bj, dj, dv, kt, bt, ft, mn, tm and dm, i.e. clusters that are not very common in the Portuguese language ("afta": [ˈaftɐ] > [ˈafitɐ]; "opção" : [ɔpˈsɐ̃ʊ̃] > [ɔpiˈsɐ̃ʊ̃]).

However, in some regions of Brazil (such as some Northeastern dialects), there has been an opposite tendency to further reduce the unstressed vowel [i] into a very weak vowel, resulting that partes or destratar are often realized similarly to [pahts] and [dʃtɾaˈta]. Sometimes that phenomenon occurs even more intensely in unstressed post-tonic vowels (except the final ones), causing the reduction of the word and the creation of new consonant clusters (prática > prát'ca; máquina > maq'na; abóbora > abobra; cócega > cosca).[14]

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] or dropped (especially at the ends of words). This 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]. (Initial /r/ and doubled 'r' are pronounced in BP as [h], as with syllable-final [r].) Combined with the fact that /n/ and /m/ are already disallowed at the end of syllables in Portuguese (being replaced with nasalization on the previous vowel), this makes BP have a phonology that strongly favors open syllables.

Another remarkable aspect of BP is the suppression of final "r" even in formal speech. The final "r" 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 (in which case 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, albeit with much less frequency than in BP.[15]


Nasalization is much stronger in BP than EP. This is especially noticeable in vowels before /n/ or /m/ followed by a vowel, which are pronounced in BP with nasalization as strong as in phonemically nasalized vowels, while in EP they are nearly without nasalization. For the same reason, open vowels (which are disallowed under nasalization in Portuguese in general) cannot occur before /n/ or /m/ in BP, but can in EP. This sometimes affects the spelling of words. For example, EP, harmónico "harmonic" [ɐɾˈmɔniku] is BP harmônico [aɦˈmõniku]. It also can affect verbal paradigms – for example, EP distinguishes falamos "we speak" [fɐˈlɐmuʃ] from 'falámos' [fɐˈlamuʃ] "we spoke", but BP has falamos [faˈlɐ̃mus] for both.

An important exception to this is the country's largest city, São Paulo, where, perhaps due to the influence of Italian immigrants, nasalization of stressed vowels before a nasal consonant does not occur. Thus, the word homens 'men' is pronounced with an oral, non-nasal vowel /o/ in São Paulo, as opposed to the nasal /o/ to be heard in the rest of Brazil.[16] This is relevant since São Paulo is a major media hub, and this open pronunciation is thus used on nationally-broadcast television shows.

Related to this is the difference in pronunciation of the consonant represented by nh in many BP dialects. This is always [ɲ] in EP, but in several parts of Brazil, it represents a nasalized semivowel [j̃], which nasalizes the preceding vowel, as well.[17] Example: manhãzinha [mɐ̃j̃ɐ̃zĩj̃ɐ] ("early morning").

Phonetic changes

BP did not participate in many sound changes that later affected EP, particularly in the realm of consonants. In BP, /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/ are stops in all positions, while they are weakened to fricatives [β], [ð], and [ɣ] in EP. Many dialects of BP maintain syllable-final [s] and [z] as such, while EP consistently converts them to [ʃ] and [ʒ]. Whether such a change happens in BP is highly dialect-specific. Rio de Janeiro is particularly known for such a pronunciation; São Paulo and most Southern dialects are particularly known for not having it. Elsewhere, such as 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 in Pernambuco) have the same pattern as Rio de Janeiro; and in several other dialects (such as in Ceará), the fricatives replace [s] and [z] only before the consonants /t/ and /d/. Another change in EP that does not occur in BP is the lowering of /e/ to [ɐ] before palatal sounds ([ʃ], [ʒ], [ɲ] [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, which can be essential characteristics of a dialect or another in Brazil. For example, the cearense dialect is notorious for changing [v] into [h] in rapid speech (vamos [vɐ̃mʊ], "let's go", becomes [hɐ̃mʊ]); more rural dialects in southeastern states, including Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, change pre-consonantal "r" into [ɹ]; several dialects reduce the diminutive suffix inho to im (carrinho, "little car" – [kaˈhĩȷ̃ʊ] > [kaˈhĩ]) and several dialects nasalise the /d/ in the gerund form, such as: "cantando" [kɐ̃ˈtɐ̃dʊ] > [kɐ̃ˈtɐ̃nʊ]. Another common change that, in many cases, makes the difference between two region's 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].

An interesting change that is in the process of spreading in BP, perhaps originating in the Northeast, is the insertion of [j] after stressed vowels before /s/ at the end of a syllable. This began in the context of /a/  – for example, mas "but" is now pronounced [majs] in most of Brazil, making it homophonous with mais "more". Additionally, this change is spreading to other final vowels, and at least in the Northeast the normal pronunciations of voz "voice" and Jesus are [vɔjs] and [ʒeˈzujs]. Similarly, três "three" becomes [tɾejs], making it rhyme with seis "six" [sejs]; this may explain the common Brazilian replacement of seis with meia ("half", as in "half a dozen") when spelling out phone numbers.[18]

BP/EP differences in the informal spoken language

There are various differences between European Portuguese (EP) and Brazilian Portuguese (BP), such as the dropping of the second person conjugations (and, in some dialects, of the 2nd person pronoun itself) in everyday usage and use of subject pronouns (ele, ela, eles, elas) as direct objects. Portuguese people can understand Brazilian Portuguese well. However, some Brazilians find European Portuguese difficult to understand at first. This is mainly because European Portuguese tends to compress words to a greater extent than in Brazil – for example, tending to drop unstressed /e/ – and to introduce greater allophonic modifications of various sounds. Another reason is that Brazilians have almost no contact with the European variant, while Portuguese are used to watching Brazilian television programs and listening to Brazilian music.


Spoken Brazilian usage differs considerably from European usage in many aspects. Between Brazilian Portuguese, particularly in its most informal varieties, and European Portuguese, there can be considerable differences in grammar as well. The most prominent ones concern the placement of clitic pronouns and use of subject pronouns as objects in the third person. Nonstandard inflections are also common in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese.

Affirmation and negation

Spoken Portuguese rarely uses the affirmation adverb sim ("yes") in informal speech. The verb in question is generally preferred.


— Já foste à câmara municipal?
— Já, fui ontem.
— Foste à câmara municipal?
— Fui (, fui ontem).


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


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


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

In BP, it is very common to include the verbal form não é (contracted in informal speech to ) at the end of questions as a sort of emphasis (like in English "He is a teacher, isn't he?"). Thus, the affirmation is often made by simply saying "é" in response to that kind of question. Examples:

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

É. (He didn't.)


Ela já foi atriz, né? (She was an actress, wasn't she?)

É. (She was.) or – É/Sim, ela já foi. (If a longer answer is preferred)

It reveals a natural tendency that only occurs in Brazilian Portuguese, to not reply an answer to the question itself, literally, but many times already focused on what the speaker has intended to know through the question.

It is also common to negate statements twice for emphasis, with não (no) at the beginning and end of the sentence:


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

Or only:


— Você fala inglês?
— Não.
"Do you speak English?"

Sometimes even a "triple" negative is also possible. For example:

— 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 places, however, like Northeastern Brazil, the first of these two não's is considered redundant informal speech, resulting in a word order for negation opposite to the one still prevailing in European Portuguese:


— Você fala inglês?
— Não falo. (I don't speak)

:BP (Northeastern variant):

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


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


Standard Portuguese forms commands according to the grammatical person of the subject (the being who is ordered to do the action) 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 2nd person with the imperative form) or você ('you', grammatical 3rd person with the present subjunctive). For example:

Tu és burro, cala a boca!
Você é burro, cale a boca!
"You are stupid, shut up!"

Currently, several dialects of BP have largely lost the second person pronouns, but even those dialects – and, of course, the ones which still use tu – 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 gramatically incorrect, but completely dominant in informal language)

It is interesting to notice that, 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 2nd person imperative and está are never used; the 3rd 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. Example: "Não anda", rather than the grammatically correct "Não andes".

As for the other grammatical persons, there is not such phenomenon, because both the Positive Imperative and the Negative Imperative forms derive from their respective present tense forms in the subjunctive mood. Examples: 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 of these adjectives/pronouns have merged into the second:

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 doubts created by the fact that "este" ([st] > [s]) and "esse" merged into the same word, informal BP often uses the demonstrative pronoun with some adverb that indicates its placement in relation to the addressee. For example: 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]). Besides, other forms such as teu (possessive), ti (postprepositional), and contigo ("with you") are still common in most regions of Brazil, especially where tu still has frequent usage.

Hence, the combination of object te with subject você in informal BP, for example: 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, although it is argued by some that it is the third-person singular indicative which doubles as the imperative, e.g. Fala o que você fez instead of Fale o que você fez ("Tell what you did").

In the areas where você 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 object pronoun in informal BP. Hence a speaker may end up saying "I love you" in two ways: Eu amo você and/or Eu te amo. In parts of the Northeast, it is also common to use the indirect object pronoun lhe as a second-person object pronoun, thus resulting Eu lhe amo.

In parts of the South (Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and southwest of Paraná), most of the Northeast (the main exceptions are parts of Bahia – primarily its capital: Salvador) and the city of Santos (in São Paulo) and neighbourings the distinction between semiformal ‘você' and familiar ’tu' is still maintained; object and possessive pronouns pattern likewise. In Paraná state capital, Curitiba, there’s a slight different variety, 'tu' is not generally used.[19] Curitiba’s accent is slightly different too.

In Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, for instance, você is almost never used in spoken language – o senhor/a senhora (highly formal third person pronoun) is employed whenever tu may sound too informal[citation needed]. The same happens in most of the Northeast, albeit in a less strict way (você may also be used informally, though mostly in order to sound more serious or polite).

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 to no difference (sometimes in the same sentence).[20]In Salvador, tu is never used, você is always used.

Most Brazilians who use tu use it with the 3rd person verb: Tu vai ao banco. "Tu" accompanied by the second-person verb can still be found in Maranhão, Pernambuco, Piauí and Santa Catarina, for instance, and in a few cities in Rio Grande do Sul (although in the rest of the state speakers may or may not use it in more formal talk), mainly near the border with Uruguay, with a slightly different pronunciation in some conjugations (tu vieste becomes tu viesse), which is also present in Santa Catarina and Pernambuco. In Pará, tu is used more often than você and is always accompanied by the second-person.

In Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, the use of “tu” in print and conversation nowadays is not very common; “você” is used instead. However, it should be noted that São Paulo is now home to many imigrants 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: Você 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[21]) 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, .

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 – they are simply left out, or (when necessary, and usually only when referring to people) replaced by stressed subject pronouns (e.g., ele "he" or isso "that"); for example, 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 wouldn't know whether seu/sua refers to the second person você or to the third person ele/ela.

Because of that, BP tends to use the third-person possessive 'seu' to mean "your" – given that 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. In situations where no ambiguity may arise (especially in narrative texts), seu is also used to mean 'his' or 'her' (e.g. O candidato apresentou ontem o seu plano de governo para os próximos quatro anos), which doesn't happen in spoken language.

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

Definite article before a 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, i.e. it does not mean a dialect completely abandoned this or that 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 etc. 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 drop the definite article, but there is nothing such as a total preference for this form instead of the other, making both esse é o meu gato and esse é meu gato likely in their speech.

Formal written Brazilian Portuguese tends, however, to omit the definite article in accordance with prescriptive grammar rules derived from Classical Portuguese, even though the alternative form is also considered correct, but many professors 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 the 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

"To-me answer!" (you)

use of personal
Eu vi-a.

"I saw her."

Eu a vi.

"I her saw."

Eu vi ela.

"I saw she."

The word order in the first Brazilian example is actually frequent in European Portuguese, too, for example in subordinate clauses like Sabes que eu te amo "You know that I love you", but not in simple sentences like "I love you." But in Portugal an object pronoun would never be placed at the start of a sentence, like 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.

In Latin the word order was very flexible, that's why "I love you" could be said Ego te amo, in a proclitic form, or Ego amo te, in an enclitic form. Latin also had the forms: Te amo, Amo te and Vos amo. Brazilian Portuguese Eu te amo is an example of proclisis just like French Je t'aime. Other forms are possible in Portuguese besides Eu te amo and Eu amo-te like: Te amo, Amo-te, Vos amo, Eu amo você and Amo você.

Use of prepositions

Just as in the case of English, where the 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

The verb 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 describing movement toward a place, EP uses the preposition a with the verb, while 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 many times 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 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’ and/or ‘archaic’. There is a claim that the H-variant used to be preferred when dubbing foreign films and series into Brazilian Portuguese[citation needed], 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.[citation needed]


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.[clarification needed]

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. Nearly all 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 Stardard 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[citation needed].

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).


pt-BR is a language code for the Brazilian Portuguese, defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).

See also

Portal icon Brazil portal
Portal icon Languages portal

Some regional accents


  • Azevedo, Milton. 2005. Portuguese: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
  • Azevedo, Milton; University of California. "Vernacular Features in Educated Speech in Brazilian Portuguese"[22]
  • Bagno, Marcos. "Português ou Brasileiro? (Portuguese or Brazilian?)" [23]
  • Bagno, Marcos."Português do Brasil: Herança colonial e diglossia" Revista da FAEEBA.[24]
  • Módolo, Marcelo. As duas línguas do Brasil (The Two Languages of Brazil). Editora FAUUSP.
  • Perini, Mário. 2002. Modern Portuguese: A Reference Grammar. Yale University Press. New Haven.


  1. ^ IBGE. Censo 2010: população do Brasil é de 190.732.694 pessoas.
  2. ^ Say It in Portuguese, p. vii, R. Prista], Courier Dover Publications, 1979
  3. ^ a b Portuguese for Dummies, p. 9, Karen Keller, 2006
  4. ^ Learner English, p. 113, Michael Swan, Bernard Smith, Cambridge University Press, 2001
  5. ^ Johns Hopkins University
  6. ^ Chilcote, Ronald H. (1967). Portuguese Africa. Prentice-Hall. p. 57. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Pontes, E. (1987). O tópico no português do Brasil. Pontes Editores.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, p. 1882
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^

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