The Expression “Pois Não” and its Origin

Posted on 11. Jan, 2008 by in Podcast

Today’s post is written by André Barbosa who publishes the fantastic Brazilian Portuguese Podcast.

Pois não” is an expression used by Brazilians as well as by the Portuguese and means “yes”, “of course”, “sure.” It’s curious, however, that this expression contains the adverb “não” (not) and means just the opposite.

“Pois não” comes from another expression: “Pois não haveria de (+ infinitive verb)”. Here’s an example on how to use it:

- João, você pode me emprestar o seu carro? (João, could you lend me your car?)

- Empresto Maria, pois não haveria de emprestar? (Yes Maria, for sure.)


Audio of the Example

“Pois não haveria de emprestar” (Wouldn’t I lend it? – literal meaning) means that João will lend his car to Pedro for sure. It’s like João assumed the obligation to do that and disapproved not doing it.

It is common in Brazil for salespeople to greet shoppers by saying “pois não?”

In the Portuguese language it is common for words and expressions to be shortened. It’s also notable that as words and expressions are shortened their original meaning tends to be lost.

So, the next time you hear or use the expression “pois não”, remember it means “yes, “of course”, “sure”.

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5 Responses to “The Expression “Pois Não” and its Origin”

  1. João Paulo - Ishmerai 11 January 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Good work, that was a very nice article, even me that have portuguese as first language didn’t know about this genesis of the idiom Pois Não, but actually I don’t use it, it’s more common in formal conversation of older people.

  2. Marcos 17 July 2008 at 11:47 am #

    You forgot to mention that it means ‘you’re welcome’ also.

    - Muito obrigado!
    - Pois não!

  3. Evna 21 July 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Note that when salespeople greet shoppers by saying “pois não?” it´s like they´re asking “can I help you?”, although it also may be understood as “what do you want?”, “what are you looking for?”

  4. Eunice 12 May 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    Speak portuguese like me

  5. Alan Corré 25 November 2009 at 12:03 am #

    It is interesting that the response to
    você pode me emprestar..?
    is
    Empresto.

    Other Romance languages do not do this. I offer an explanation in my last comment in:

    http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/Portuguese/History/Influence_of_Hebrew.html

    (all on one line)


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