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Brazilian Portuguese vs. European Portuguese Posted by on Jun 16, 2010 in Learning, Vocabulary

We get a lot of questions on Facebook about why we don’t feature content teaching European Portuguese. The simple answer is that none of the Portuguese bloggers know European Portuguese – only Brazilian Portuguese. The longer answer, which follows in detail, is that the two are so different that they are taught individually, almost as different languages. In fact, some people from Portugal don’t acknowledge Brazilian Portuguese as the same language; they call the language brasileiro, or Brazilian.

While Brazilian Portuguese developed from European Portuguese, the two dialects diverged enormously over time, much more so than UK English and American English, for example. There are several areas where the languages differ, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

1. Spelling

Despite reforms to the Portuguese language, differences in spelling in continental Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese abound. European Portuguese tends to be closer to Spanish – for example, the word current is atual in Brazilian Portuguese, whereas in European Portuguese, it’s actualClick here to see more examples.

2. Vocabulary

European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese use very different vocabulary, and speakers may have trouble understanding each other because of it (along with spoken accents). European Portuguese tends to have words more closely related to other Romance languages, particularly Spanish, whereas Brazilian Portuguese has more words  from South American indigenous languages. A good example of this is the word for pineapple: in Portugal, it’s ananas, like in Spanish, whereas in Brazil, it’s abacaxi, which comes from Tupi.

3. Infinitive & gerund

In Brazil, you use the gerund to describe something you are doing right now, whereas in Portugal, you use the infinitive. Here’s an example, using the sentence “I am working.”

Brazil: Estou trabalhando.

Portuguese: Estou a trabalhar.

4. Object pronouns

In Brazil, the object pronoun tends to come before the verb, whereas in Portugal, it’s more common for the object pronoun to follow the verb with a dash. Here’s an example, using the sentence “Nobody warned me.”

Brazil: Ninguém me avisou.

Portugal: Ninguém avisou-me.

5. Você

The word você (you) is more commonly used in Brazil than in Portugal. In Brazil, it’s frequently used throughout the country for both formal and informal you, along with the informal tu in certain parts of the country. Meanwhile, in Portugal, people tend to use just tu for informal you, and o senhor/a senhora in formal situations. However, the use of você is increasing amongst young people in Portugal.

For more information about the differences between the two types of Portuguese, click here.

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  1. Francis:

    I am glad you have demonstrated the vast difference between the languages. I am tired of language courses comparing it to US-UK English.
    The differences between Brazil and Portugal speakes is much greater!

  2. VAnder:

    The two languages, despite their differences, are exactly the same; what makes one language be another is not only their peculiarities, such as some vocabulary or even usage. Portuguese spoken in Brazil and Portuguese spoken in Portugal is Portuguese, for God’s sake. If that was so, we could say that within Brazil we would have hundreds of different official languages; the Portuguese spoken in Rio de Janeiro, for instance, is very different from the Portuguese spoken in Recife. Here, where I live, which’s a city in Brazil, we often say ananas instead of abacaxi. And did you know that in Rio de Janeiro people ofen say TU for VOCÊ just like in Portugal? Curiosities about the language which is very rich thanks to Camões and Machado de Assis, among others.

  3. William:

    Hi, not that it’s important, but to say pineapple in Spanish, one says “piña” which is completely different from “annanas”.

    • Rachel:

      @William Actually William, ananá is used as the word for pineapple in several Spanish speaking countries.

  4. William:

    Oh, I didn’t know that, something new, I withdraw what I’ve said before. 🙂

  5. Alexandre:

    Well written but just one minor correction 😉

    In Portugal we also say:
    “Ninguém me avisou”

    But I’ll give you another example:
    Brazil: “Você me avisou”
    Portugal: “Tu avisaste-me”

  6. Marcel:

    Open your mind before reading the following lines.

    I’d undoubtedly compare Brazilian Portuguese to European Portuguese the same way I do with American English and British English.

    Talking about Grammar, Queen’s English speakers use the perfect tenses way more often than speakers of AE (American English).

    You have the same issues of PT-BR and PT when it comes to spelling, theater/theatre.

    And it goes much farther beyond that. While people in the US would use freaking, fu**ing and other words to exalt something (a verb or an adjective as in “you’re fu**ing annoying me / you’re fu**ing ugly”, someone from UK would rather use “bloody” and *arse* instead of *ass*.

    People try to make both Portugueses look more diverse when actually they’re both going toward the same direction. There is nothing such European or Brazilian Portuguese anymore. Since the reform it’s Portuguese and that’s it.

    Dialects will ever exist. Take a look at German (more than a hundred dialects, including a Brazilian dialect), Italian (barese, napoletano, and so on) and many other languages and you will see my point.

  7. daniel:

    Another one:

    In brazilian portuguese it is used “Gostaria de saber…” which means “I would like to know…”

    In Portugal it is used: “Gostava de saber..”

    in Brazil :
    “Gostaria de saber os documentos necessários para tirar o passaporte?”

    in Portugal:
    “Gostava de saber os documentos necessários para tirar o passaporte?”

    If you use the Portugal sentence in Brazil , most people will say it is grammatically wrong.

  8. Mauricio:

    Hi, very well written,

    I am a Brazilian expat here in Portugal and, actually, most of people don’t acknowledge Brazilian Portuguese as Portuguese. It´s Kinda funny though because, when talking about the language, they usually are very proud of saying that portuguese is spoken by more than 200 million people around the world.

  9. John Peter:

    Its not two completely different languages , it’s just that some people just don’t have a clue of what they are speaking about. Yes the languages have their differences but they have never reached a point where they have become two seperate languages. “Brasileiro” or “Brazilian” does not and will never exist , it’s Portuguese , just a you say Americans speak english and surely not American. To cut the chase , Portugal knows how to speak it and Brazilian’s have a rather inadequate way of communicating using Portuguese.

  10. Christopher Cliff:

    I have had the immense pleasure of studying Portuguese spoken in Portugal at University, and I can assure you that I have never seen a group of people who have managed to corrupt a language system as the Brazilians have. The Brazilian way of speaking Portuguese is quite outrageous! They use a vast amount of words and much more may I dare add, erroneously. The mere thought of people verbally destroying such a language makes me cringe to a great extent. I do believe , that those interested in learning Portuguese should indeed learn it from a source derived from the motherland (Portugal) . One last point , there is no such thing as “Brazilian” , It’s just simply called Decaying Portuguese (spoken obviously in Brazil) .

  11. Prof. Machado:

    There are many differences in vocabulary and some grammatical structures between Portuguese spoken in Brazil and Portugal. But never believe if someone said they are different languages. This is sheer nonsense. Brazilian and Portuguese can understand as well as an Australian and a British or American. In fact the Brazilians watch TV channels from Portugal and the Portuguese to watch Brazilian channels.
    Currently the Portuguese of Brazil is the most taught foreign due to the economic potential of Brazil.
    However if you want to learn Portuguese, the variant does not matter because you will be able to understand both Brazilian Portuguese and Angolan ….
    Bons estudos!

    Abraço a todos….

  12. Prof. Machado:

    Reply to Christopher Cliff :

    “those interested in learning Portuguese should indeed learn it from a source derived from the motherland (Portugal) ”.
    What is the best choice? Learn English in Australia or England? British English is better than Australian English? Surely both questions are too stupid to merit response.
    I think Mr. Christopher Cliff has the right to study the variant he chooses, but detract from a country and its culture with over 200 million speakers is a lack of culture immeasurable.

    A big hug to all Australians and Anglophones!

  13. Nancy:

    I agree with previous posts that these two countries speak the same language and that the differences between them are similar to UK English and North American english — There are many cultural differences that exist that impact language such as the area of comedy. British comedy is not understood or appreciated by many north Americans as I’m sure many Brits do not find “red neck” comedy that hilarious. These same cultural differences change the vocabulary used by the Portuguese and Brazilians, but this by no means suggests these are completely different languages or dialects.

    I have been speaking European Portuguese my entire life, despite being born and raised in Canada, and I must admit, Brazilian Portuguese sounds much more beautiful to the non-native Portuguese speaker. It would be nice if European Portuguese moved to a more Brazilian sound as it is much easier for an anglophone to learn.

    Question for anyone: Do Brazilians understand European Portuguese accents as easily as we understand theirs? For instance, are they also taught the “tu” conjegation of verbs just so that they can recognize it when it’s spoken? Do they know what an “ananas” is? Thanks!

  14. Fabio:

    Hey Nancy (and everyone),

    As a Brazilian native, I personally understand the accent of European Portuguese without a problem but there are some Portuguese people who speak fast and skip syllables so it could be hard to understand at times. One can compare the difference between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese to North American English vs Scottish English. An American or Canadian person may watch a Scottish movie with Scottish people using the same grammar and vocabulary as them but still need subtitles because the Scottish accent is so strong.

    The Portuguese we learn in Brazil has 99% the same grammar and vocabulary as what is taught in Portugal. The difference is how we choose to speak in Brazil. Portuguese people conjugate their verbs correctly but (we) Brazilians choose to conjugate the verbs invorrectly in day to day life. For example, We use “você” a lot but when we use “tu,” we usually use it in the third person conjugation instead of properly using the second person conjugation. So, we would say, “tu quer mais comida?” Instead of properly saying, “tu queres mais comida?” Since saying it correctly sounds weird to Brazilians in day to day life.

    In any case, learning one form of Portuguese or the other won’t matter since the person would be able to understand and adapt quickly to whatever form needed.

    Learning Brazilian Portuguese won’t guarantee that the person will have an easier time understanding Brazilian Portuguese since even in Brazil, we have different dialects and accents. So we have different forms of Portuguese within Brazil. My wife is from southern Brazil and she uses words that are different than my Rio de Janeiro Portuguese. Phonetically it is also different since she rolls her R’s (like in Portugal) and my R’s (from Rio) are guttural like in Hebrew and French. We in Rio pronounce the letter S’s that are followed by consonants with a “sh” sound (for example, the navigator Vasco da Gama would be pronounced Vashco da Game in Rio) which is the same pronunciation as the European Portuguese but someone from São Paulo would pronounce the same S differently (like it is pronounced in English).

    The bottom line is that there are differences but that is expected since Portugal and Brazil have been separate from each other since 1822 and the dialects from each nation will naturally go their own way as each society changes differently with time. I read somewhere that the Portuguese spoken in Northeastern Brazil is the closest to the Portuguese spoken in Lisbon in the 16th century. Closer to the older Portuguese than modern Portuguese spoken today in Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. The thing is that the Portuguese spoken in Northeastern Brazil evolved much less over the years than the Portuguese spoken in Europe, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo where influx of immigrants and the adoption of indigenous words (the latter being the case in Rio and São Paulo) changed the language over the centuries.

  15. lusonoide:

    I’ve noticed that the difference between European Spanish and
    Portuguese compared to their south American versions seems
    to reflect a master/servant relationship.In s/American everyone speaks to eachother using formal 3rd person conjugations of verbs while European versions are aware of
    an informal version of speech as well as a formal one.

  16. Rui:

    Dear Rachel,

    With regard to your arguments about differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, I would like to point:

    1) In Portugal it is incorrect to say “Ninguém avisou-me” (please see point 4. above). The correct sentence will be “Ninguém me avisou”;

    2) The position of clitic pronouns within a sentence is something quite complicated in Portuguese and even educated native speakers of European Portuguese will use different positions. The point is that the language is very very plastic regarding this issue and you may use different solutions, all of them correct. There are some rules, but for most situations different positions are possible, even within European portuguese;

    3) You should not compare standard European Portuguese with popular Brazilian Portuguese because it will be a biased comparision. You should compare standard European with standard Brazilian, and then you will see how similar they are. Then, if you compare standard European with popular European, you will find almost as many differences as the ones you will find if you compare standard European with popular Brazilian;

    4) I agree with Fabio’s answers above. His answer is objective and factual when he says that both variaties of Portuguese are the same language. Unfortunately, there are many other people, both from Portugal and Brazil, that enroll in regretabble provincial sectarism, often due to their ignorance.

    King regards,


  17. Lobo Ibérico:

    Actually pineaple, or ‘ananas’ is portuguese, also used in spanish. the portuguese empire brought pineaples and loads of other stuff to europe. portuguese is vulgar latin with a celtic accent and gothic + arabic influences. it has influenced spanish as much as it has been influenced by it. don’t know why the european variant is always portrayed as submissive or inferior to brasilian portuguese and spanish, it sounds nothing like neither.

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