Nós vs. A gente

Alternation “nós” / “a gente”

(Nós and a gente are both ways of saying ‘we’ in Portuguese.)

The inclusion of the expression a gente among the list of personal pronouns already spurred research into areas of formal and informal speech. In Brazilian-Portuguese, the distribution of use between a gente and nós is more or less equal: 56% and 44%, respectively. There are large divergences found within the five major Brazilian capitals, but Rio de Janeiro is the capital where a gente (59%) is mostly used as a subject, while the remaining cities still employ the use of nós.

The percentages of usage indicate that the substitution of nós for a gente still haven’t reached the level of formal speech, to the point that they have in informal speech. In the decade of the ’90’s, the use of a gente within Rio de Janeiro reached 75% and amongst the youth, a staggering 90%. This fact suggests an accelerated substitution of nós for a gente in the last 20 years.

a gente – 37%
nós – 63%

a gente – 37%
nós – 63%

Rio de Janeiro
a gente – 59%
nós – 41%

São Paulo
a gente – 36%
nós – 64%

Porto Alegre
a gente – 28%
nós – 72%

This information is an excerpt taken from a purchased book called “Como falam os brasileiros.” (“How the Brazilians Speak”). The research was published in 1998.


6 thoughts on “Nós vs. A gente

  1. ahahhah, adoorei este site.
    aqui na minha cidade, Sorocaba, interior de São paulo, falam muuuito a gente, quando corretamente conjugado tudo bem, agora a gente vai, ninguém merece ! Hahahahahah


  2. This is great – I popped “a gente vs. nos” into google and this came right up. Actually, I was wondering if there is an inclusive/exclusive factor tied up with the formal/informal nuance. For example, do people tend to use “a gente” when they want to say something like “we, including you”? Just curious…

    • Good question. I have used it to mean “we” (Americans, even though I was the only one within a group) even though it was jokingly mistaken as though I were referring to “we, including you all” (the others around me at that moment). My usage is pretty much purely “a gente” and I would guess I picked it up via hearing it so much from regular people. I rarely hear “nós” anymore.

  3. Nós sabemos que esta pesquisa é de 1998 e, por isso talvez os resultados já não sejam fiés a realidade.

    A gente sabe . . .

    O que importa é comunicar, né não?

    Lana ;)

  4. Pingback: On Easy Street | Eyes On Brazil

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