Being Bad in Portuguese

Good and Bad can be confusing in Portuguese, so I thought I’d lay it all out for anyone wishing to understand the differences. I’m going to lead with ‘bad’.

Bad (mau) is an adjective that means “the opposite of good (bom)”. For ex., mau comportamento (bad behavior), mau patrão (bad employer), mau caráter (bad character). Keep in mind though mau is masculine while is feminine. Likewise, the feminine of bom is boa.

Mau vs. Bom
Má vs. Boa

Bad (mal) is an adverb of mode, contrary to “good (bem)”. It must be employed together with the verb or adjective. For ex, mal-estar (uneasiness), mal-educado (badly educated/behaved), etc.

Mal vs. Bem

Hope that helps!

There’s a Moor on the coast…

While reviewing some (Continental) Portuguese idioms online, I found one that stood out and thought I’d share it.

There’s a Moor on the coast…

Há Mouro na costa…

The Moors were the Muslim people from North Africa who lived in the Iberia Peninsula, and they were the archenemies of the catholic Portuguese (and Spanish). They were “a threat” for a number of centuries. This expression, however, has nothing to do with war. On the contrary, it is related to love. You say this when there’s a person threatening to invade someone’s heart.

The Power of Speech – Living in the Amazon

“When Daniel Everett first went to live with the Amazonian Pirahã tribe in the late 70s, his intention was to convert them to Christianity. Instead, he learned to speak their unique language – and ended up rejecting his faith, losing his family and picking a fight with Noam Chomsky. Patrick Barkham meets him


Daniel Everett looks and talks very much like the middle-aged American academic he is – until he drops a strange word into the conversation. An exceptionally melodic noise tumbles from his mouth. It doesn’t sound like speaking at all. Apart from his ex-wife and two ageing missionaries, Everett is the only person in the world beyond the sweeping banks of the Maici river in the Amazon basin who can speak Pirahã.

Just 350 Pirahã (pronounced Pee-da-HAN) hunt and gather from their simple homes in the Brazilian rainforest. Linguists believe their language is unrelated to any other; racist Brazilian traders say the Pirahã talk like chickens. This obscure Amazonian people speak using only three vowels and eight consonants (including the glottal stop) but their language is far from simple. Like Chinese, for example, Pirahã is tonal and speaking in a different pitch transforms the meaning of a word. Unlike other tonal languages, Pirahã can also be hummed and sung.”

The rest of the in-depth article can be found on The Guardian UK

Daniel’s book relating his experiences in the Amazon can be found on (of course), and a 17-minute interview with him is also on BBC Radio (not sure if it will be there forever).

Special thanks to Céline at Naked Translations where I found these links.

Terms of Surprise in Portuguese

Originally, this was a video lesson but the video was deleted.

Gente! – Wow
Gente do céu! – Wow
Que isso! – Whats THAT about?/What are you TALKING ABOUT?/Of course not!!
Eca! – Yuck
Opa! – Oops/Wow
Nossa! – Wow
Nossa senhora! – Wow! (with emphasis)
Nossa mãe! – Wow! (with a lot of emphasis)
Jesus! – Wow
Caraca(s)! – Wow
ixi! – Wow
ixi, maria! – Wow! (with emphasis)

Basic Goodbye Phrases in Portuguese

Originally, this was a video lesson but the video was deleted.

Tchau – Goodbye
Até mais – Until further
Até logo – Until later
Até então – Until then
Até a próxima – Until the next time
Até já – Until later (as in sooner than later)
A gente se vê – We’ll be seeing each other
A gente se fala – We’ll be talking to each other
Falou – He/She/It spoke. Final word
Tenho que ir – I have to go. Seems like ‘queir’
Tô indo – I am going (Estou = tô, just faster)
Beijos – Kisses
Abraço(s) – Hug(s)
Eu vou embora – I am going away
Bora – Short for ‘lets go’
Bora bora – Short for ‘lets go right now’.
Estou fora – I’m out (of here)
Vou nessa – I’m out of here
Já volto – I already return. Meaning I’ll be right back
Adeus – Goodbye (has a certain finality to it)

Other alternatives
Beijinhos – Little kisses
Beijão – Big kiss
Até breve – Until soon (rarely used)
Até amanhã – Until tomorrow
Boa noite – Good night