On Easy Street

No matter what language you learned first, it’s safe to say you’ve been linguistically lazy at some point. Sometimes we eat our words when speaking or send shorthand text messages, but the important thing is to remember that languages are living things and cutting corners comes with the territory. In Brazilian Portuguese, the case is the same.

Dar (para)…

A phrase that starts with “dar para” (pra) looks like it means “It gives to” or “It gives for”, but that wouldn’t make much sense. In Brazil, it roughly translates to “Can I/you…” or better yet, “Is it possible…”. When you use this phrase, you’re expressing something that can be done or can’t be done (if in the negative).

Ex. “Dá pra falar agora?” (“Can I/you talk now?”)

If you think that is easy, it gets better. When something doesn’t work out, you can simply say “Não deu”, which would be the same as saying “Não foi possível” (“It wasn’t possible”). Conversely, you can also leave out the “para” when speaking affirmatively.

Ex. “Dá.” (“It’s possible.”)

A Gente

If you’ve ever dabbled in Romance languages, you may know that French allows for two ways to express “we” (“on” and “nous”). Well, Portuguese allows for the same freedom as well with “nós” and “a gente”. The easier of the two, in my humble opinion, is always “a gente” because it requires the “he/she/it” conjugation of the verb you wish to use. Percentage-wise, I probably use “a gente” around 95% of the time, even though I know how to conjugate verbs into the “nós” form. What I’m not sure about is if I learned this from Brazilians or if I naturally tend towards the simpler option. See this video and a post I did on the matter for more information.

Ex. “A gente comeu” (“We ate”)
vs.
Ex. “Nós comemos” (“We ate”)

Tu

The pronoun “tu” with the incorrect third-person verb form has fallen into popular use in recent years (correct me if it has been longer). At first, it was relegated to uneducated Brazilians but the phenomenon reached people of all levels of education and economic background. Luckily, “você” as a pronoun is still going strong and I’m pretty sure it won’t be dying out.

Ex. “Tu acha?” (“You think?”)

Speaking of the example above, what do you think about keeping things simple? I’m all for breaking the rules, as long as I don’t lose sight of the actual rules themselves. Fluency doesn’t always pertain to a subject matter. Sometimes it speaks to flexibility, too.

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6 thoughts on “On Easy Street

  1. Actually, tu is pretty common in the south especially in Rio Grande do Sul, and as you pointed out a lot of Brazilians use the incorrect conjugation but you will also hear tu used correctly quite a bit so your example of

    Tu acha would be tu achas. Then there are others: Tu moras, Tu vais, Tu queres…

    In Santa Catarina they also often do this:

    tenho alguma coisa pra ti (with the hard t pronounciation not the typical ch sound)

    instead of

    tenho alguma coisa pra você.

  2. At least where I’m from, no matter the age of the person, if they say “Tu acha…”, it will sound that or they didn’t go to school or they are not from here.

  3. Adam the fact is that Portuguese has two accepted forms of language – the written language and the oral language.

    The so-called ‘incorrect’ conjucation of tu and the third person is only technically incorrect in the written language.
    It’s completely accepted, used, and therefore ‘correct’ in the oral language.

    An exampe of actually ‘incorrect’ would be saying a gente vamos, which Brazilians do not accept as a correct form of speaking, either written or oral.

    An example of this in English (that I can think of on the spot) is when we use there is and there are. When we’re speaking we say ‘there’s lots of people outside today!’ Technically it’s incorrect bc ‘there is’ should match a singular noun but it’s just become an accepted thing that people say. So it’s correct in the spoken language!

    :D

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