Close, but not the same – Portuguese

Due to a comment I got on my last Portuguese post (Brazilian Portuguese Badly Said), I decided to write about a few words that are so similar in writing and meaning that they get easily confused. Two words are ones that I actually used in the last post.

Acostamento (shoulder, roadside) – the place where one pulls over
Encostamento – the act or effect of pulling over

* Keep in mind, in the previous post, I mentioned that some people say the second word when they mean to say the first. However, you’ll rarely, if ever, come across the second word when used correctly since it’s almost always used as a verb (encostar) rather than a noun.

Deformação – the process of being deformed
Deformidade – the result of that process

Observação (observation, remark)
Observância (observance, of the law or in a religious context)

The last two sets come from an article at Revista Língua Portuguesa. If we’re listing all words that are similar in writing and/or meaning, we’d be here for a long time. If you’re a stickler for correctness, I suggest one of the “100 erros de português” lists (here’s one, PDF) and using Houaiss as your main Portuguese(-only) dictionary. If you want to test your knowledge of a list like the one I linked to, play this game at level 5!

Portuguese Life: Part One

I’ve mentioned a few of these differences on the blog in previous years but it seemed a good time to reiterate them. 


After leaving Brazil at the end of the year, I didn’t end up staying in California for long. In fact, a few months in, I left for Lisbon. Living abroad is something I’ll probably always continue to do because, once you do it, it’s hard to stop. I find that people generally have the wrong idea about it, but then again, maybe my circumstances are merely different. I don’t work in an office, I don’t care about being rich, and I don’t have a family (wife and kids). But enough about me, I’m here to shed some light on living in another Portuguese-speaking country.

It’s a nice feeling to touch down in a foreign place and know the language won’t be an issue. While being a nice thought, it actually is a bit of an issue, since the accent is quite different (it catches me off-guard on a regular basis), as is the syntax/grammar and preferred word choices. In fact, I feel like I left a country where I was fluent and landed in another where I’m not. People speak with a mouth that’s more closed than open and there’s a lot of “chiado” (basically, a hissing sound) when they talk. Cariocas are also known for their use of chiado but where a Carioca would say “maish” for “mais”, a Portuguese would say “mâsh”. A Brazilian might say “key” for “que” while a Portuguese would say “kuh” in most cases. Yet another example would be “pela”, where Portuguese people will “eat” the “e”, making it sound like “pla”.

Syntax and grammar-wise, where a Brazilian would say “está chovendo” for “it’s raining”, a Portuguese would say “está a chover”. Another major difference is the use of the enclisis (ie, “Eu quero-te bem” vs. the Brazilian use of the proclisis, “Eu te quero bem”). Many times when “lá” (there) is used, it’s put at or towards the beginning of the sentence, rather than at the end (the Brazilian way).

As for word choices, there are quite a lot of differences, though Portuguese people will understand pretty much everything you say if you speak like a Brazilian. Here’s a breakdown of several words starting with the word in English, then Brazilian Portuguese, then Continental Portuguese:

Trolley – Bonde – Eléctrico

‘Gang’/Group – Galera – Malta

Mall – Shopping – Centro comercial

Bus – Ônibus – Autocarro

Cell phone – Celular – Telemóvel

Bathroom – Banheiro – Casa de banho

Funny – Engraçado/Graça – Piada*

* The Portuguese “piada” carries the same meaning as the Brazilian “graça”. Like in the Continental Portuguese examples, “Não tem piada” / “Não acho piada.” 

In Part Two, I’ll be writing about non-language related differences between Brazil and Portugal. Stay tuned!

Amador vs Amante – Differences

I always found the word ‘amador’ to be interesting because of its makeup, ‘ama’ and ‘dor’, which to me means someone who loves something. Technically, that’s what it means but then again, one might easily confuse this with ‘amante’ (lover). Below, I’ll explain the differences.

Amador (m/f) – amateur, dilettante; dabbler; lover.

Ex. Sou fotógrafo amador.
Ex. I am an amateur photographer.

Amante (m/f) – lover (usually in an intimate context)

Ex. Sou amante dela.
Ex. I’m her lover.

Confusing Terms – Differences/2 for 1

I’m going to combine a Differences post with a 2 for 1 post (both under the Portuguese category). While understanding the difference between the Portuguese words might be no sweat for Brazilians, I’ve been forced to throw them in the ‘confusing words’ pile (where the ‘camisa vs camiseta‘  and ‘troco vs trocado‘ pairs sometimes reside) for far too long. It’s time to stop confusing the terms (at least personally).

Series vs Sitcom

Série (f) – TV series

Seriado (m) – TV series/Sitcom/Serial

As in the US, a sitcom has no defined ending. An easy-ish way to remember the difference is ‘série’ looks like ‘series’ and ‘seriado’ looks like ‘serial’ (even though the last term isn’t used that much anymore).

Shirt vs T-shirt

Camisa (f) – Shirt/Dress shirt (buttons)

Camiseta (f) – T-shirt/Undershirt (casual)

I swore I already wrote about the difference but upon double-checking, I guess not. To not confuse these two, try to remember that t-shirt is a longer word than shirt, just as camiseta is longer than camisa. Also, one should note that jersey (used for sports) can be defined with either word or even jérsei, but it’s more likely you’ll see camisa used for jersey.

Of course, if you look at the comments, you’ll start to understand why some of these terms are confusing…

Check it out! – Differences

There’s a lot of ways to say you’re going to check something out in Portuguese. The verb that immediately comes to mind is verificar (to verify) but let’s go over all of them, shall we? First, one should be sure not to confuse checking something out with checking a box on a list, for example (for which selecionar or marcar is used).

Verificar – To verify. A bit formal.

Ex. Eu verifiquei o meu email e não recebi nada.
Ex. I checked my email and didn’t receive anything.

Conferir – To confer. Less formal, used by advertisers.

Ex. É um lugar bacana, confira!
Ex. It’s a cool place, check it out!

Examinar – To examine. Also a bit formal.

Ex. Vou examinar a evidência.
Ex. I am going to examine the evidence.

There is also checar (to check) but it is an unnecessary Anglicism and since this blog is in favor of using Portuguese words when available, I suggest using the other options above. I consider checar to be a parasitic psuedo-Portuguese along the lines of mídia, deletar, etc. Perhaps this opinion is more in line with those who favor European Portuguese but whatever the case, I take an anti-anglicism stance, especially when a perfectly good Portuguese word probably already exists for the same concept. 

As an additional note, the verb despachar (to dispatch) also exists which is used for checking in your luggage at the counter.

A Cerca De vs. Acerca De – Differences

A Cerca De – (around, about) should be used when there’s an idea of a ‘future time’ or ‘distance’.

Ex. Só nos veremos daqui a cerca de 60 dias.
Ex. We will only see each other in around 60 days.

Ex. Estamos a cerca de 20 quilômetros do lugarejo.
Ex. We are around 20 kilometers from the village.

Acerca De – (about) is the same as saying ‘in respect to’.

Ex. Falávamos acerca do jogo de ontem.
Ex. We were speaking about yesterday’s game.

Porques & Podes

There are quite a few ways to write both porque and pode and I’ll go over them with you.

Porque vs Porquê*

When you see porque as one word, it means “because” (which often has the same meaning as ‘pois‘). When the word has a circunflexo on the final letter (ie, porquê), it gives cause, reason or motive to what is being said.

Ex. Ele faltou à prova porque não sabia a data de sua realização (He missed the test because he didn’t know the day it was to be administered).

Ex. Ele não sabia o porquê de suas lágrimas (He didn’t know the reason for his tears).

* – Another way to express cause, reason or motive is to use the word motivo. It is natural to think that using the Portuguese word for reason (razão) would suit your needs but that is incorrect. You will learn how to use razão in good time and with practice.

Por que vs Por quê

Both mean “why” although they can be placed with or without a question mark on the end, just as in English. The rule is that when the word comes at the end of a sentence, it gains the circunflexo on the final letter.

Ex. Por que não compraste aquele livro? (Why didn’t you buy that book?)

Ex. Não compraste aquele livro, por quê? (You didn’t buy that book, why?)

Pode vs Pôde

Coming from the verb poder (to be able to), pode means it/he/she can or is able to. It is the 3rd person present indicative. Pôde, on the other hand, carries the same placement although it is used to speak of the past.

Ex. Ontem, ele não pôde sair mais cedo, mas hoje ele pode (Yesterday, he couldn’t leave earlier, but today he can).

Training your Ears with the News

While my main focus has always been Brazilian Portuguese, lately I have been getting into the European variety to the extent that I am going to stretch this blog’s focus to include it. A good way to start is by understanding some of the practical differences as well as that which is not always obvious. As an added bonus in this digital age we live in, there’s no need to go to Portugal or to seek out a Portuguese person if you wish to hear them speak.

Expresso is a Portuguese daily and it happens to have a good stream of video reports that anyone can listen to for free. Likewise, O Globo has a multimedia section where, on the righthand side, one can see their video selection. Preferably, I would like to find a variety of Brazilian news sites that offer actual reports in their video section like Diário do Pará’s Youtube channel. If you know of some, let me know!

Six ways to know it’s European Portuguese

I’ve seen many people in many forums and communities who ask about the differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. Some people answer that with a history lesson, some say they are basically the same while others bring up a few phrases that seem funny in one country or the other. I’d like to tell you about 6 practical ways in which you can know if you are reading European Portuguese.

6 Ways to Know it’s European Portuguese

1. The use of the personal pronoun tu (instead of você). I think it’s important to learn how to use ‘tu’ and how to conjugate verbs using it, as even in Brazil, in the North and the South, you’ll hear ‘tu’ used.

2. Reflexive verbs are hyphenated, with the reflective part always following the verb. In Portugal, the phrase “I want you well” would be “Eu quero-te bem” (enclisis), while in Brazil, it would be “Eu te quero bem” (proclisis). There is also something called mesoclisis (see number 6), which is common in Portugal.

3. The use of “Estar + a + verb in the infinitive” instead of “Estar + verb in the gerund (-ing form)”. In Brazil, you would say “Estou pensando” while in Portugal, you would say “Estou a pensar“.

4. The use of se calhar in addition to talvez as a way to say ‘maybe’. The word calhar means chance/happen.

5. The rearrangement of determinors (aqui, aí, lá, ali, etc). In Portugal, you are more likely to see, for example, “eu lá fiquei” (I stayed there) instead of “eu fiquei lá” which would be found in Brazil.

6. Last but not least, in Portugal, you will see the use of the mesoclisis, which is a grammatical term that means ‘within the verb, between the stem and the suffix’. In Continental Portuguese, you’ll see “eu comprá-lo-ei” (I will buy it) while in Brazilian Portuguese, you will see “eu o comprarei“.

Keep in mind, not everything listed is exclusive to either side of the Atlantic (ocean), although it’s best to be prepared, right?

Troco vs Trocado – Tricky Verbs & Words

This one gets a lot of people when they hear there’s two words for (monetary) ‘change’ in Portuguese, even to the point where I often forget which is which. For the record though, let’s take a look at the difference.

Troco– Difference between what you pay and what you are owed in return.

Trocado – Loose/small change.

What that means is if you buy something and ask for your trocado, you’d be incorrect.