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What is ‘cair a ficha’ in Portuguese? Posted by on Nov 16, 2019 in Culture, Idioms, Learning, Slang, Slang, Vocabulary

Saudações a todos os leitores! Greetings, everyone! The other day I was thinking about interesting topics to cover in our blog and then it hit me: I should write about cair a ficha! Cair a ficha is a popular idiom that we use regularly in Portuguese to express that moment when we realize or notice, sometimes suddenly, something that we did not know before or that was not clear to us.

Typical Brazilian pay phones (photo by Clovis Vieira at Wikimedia Commons)

Its origin dates back from pay phones and the metal coins (ficha) the used to be inserted in the slot and would drop (cair) from the device at the end of a call. Nowadays, phone booths can barely be found around the streets anymore, as smartphones have taken over. But what matters is that the term has not changed over the years and is still often used by all of us, regardless of the generation.

But how should you use it? What does it mean, exactly? Is there a translation or equivalent way of saying cair a ficha in English? There are actually several possibilities, so you can choose from more than one. And that’s what today’s post it all about!

the penny dropped

  •  Achei que Marcela e Carlos estavam agindo estranho, mas então caiu a ficha que eles provavelmente tinham terminado | I thought Marcela and Carlos were acting weird, but then the penny dropped: they had probably broken up

to put two and two together

  • Quando fiz as contas, caiu a ficha que o taxista havia me enganado e cobrado a mais pela viagem | When I did the math, I put two and two together and concluded that the taxi driver had tricked me and overcharged for the ride 

to hit (someone)

  • Ao ver a esposa na rua com outro homem, finalmente caiu a ficha de Felipe que ela estava tendo um caso | Upon spotting his wife on the street with another man, it finally hit Felipe that she was having an affair  
  • Pedro continua gastando dinheiro à toa, parece que ainda não caiu a ficha que ele não mora mais com os pais| Pedro keeps wasting his money on nothing, it seems that it still hasn’t hit him that he no longer lives with his parents

to realize

  • Minha ficha não tinha caído de como estava tarde até eu olhar meu relógio e ver que já passava da meia-noite! | I hadn’t realized how late it was until I checked my watch and saw it was past midnight!  

hit home

  • Só depois de entrar no apartamento vazio que caiu a ficha do quanto ele sentia falta da namorada | Only after he entered the empty apartment did it hit home with how much he missed his girlfriend

to occur to (someone) 

  • Meu carro não estava ligando, mas aí caiu a minha ficha que o tanque estava completamente vazio | My car wouldn’t start, but then it occurred to me that the tank was completely empty 

to sink in

  • A ficha demorou a cair, só quando compareci ao enterro que comecei a chorar pela morte do meu tio | It took a while to sink in, but only when I attended the funeral that I began to cry for the death of my uncle  
  • Ainda não caiu minha ficha que acabei de formar na faculdade depois de todos anos! | It still didn’t sink in that I just graduated from college after all these years! 

to (not) be aware

  • Não tinha caído a fichado quanto eu estava endividado até eu conferir meu saldo bancário | I was not aware of how much debt I was in until I checked my bank balance 

to dawn (on someone)

  • Bárbara não entendia porque estava sentindo tanto enjôo, então caiu a ficha que ela podia estar grávida | Barbara couldn’t figure out why she was feeling so sick, so it dawned on her that she could be pregnant 
  • Quando caiu a fichaque era meu último dia de trabalho depois de quinze anos na empresa, me senti aliviada | When it dawned on me that it was my last day of work after fifteen years at the company, I felt relieved

So, what did you think? See you next time!

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