If you are travelling to Portugal, or even any other Portuguese speaking country, you will like to know some simple Portuguese phrases. Sure, learning Portuguese completely would be the best, but sometimes there is just not enough time or motivation to do so. Been there, done that!
Don’t worry! Continue reading this post, and you will be guided through the most simple phrases you should muster before you go on your trip or before you have that important meeting with the Portuguese client.
So, with no further ado, here we go.
- Olá, como está? – This literally means “Hello, how are you (sir/madam)?”. This is the polite version of “Olá, como estás?”. The formal version, we use to speak to someone we just met, to a client, to someone who is older than us, or to someone to whom we owe some kind of respect (even if sometimes we don’t want to owe them any respect….like our bosses or so, know what I mean?).
Pronunciation –> /olah, kumu shtáh/
- Estou bem, obrigado/a. – This is the answer to the question above. It means “I am fine, thank you.” Normally, in a formal conversation, we will always answer this, even if we do not feel so well, because you don’t want to bother a person you just met with the story of the dog of your neighbour who is constantly waking you up at night with its annoying barking. So, you just smile and wave, and that´s it. Another thing you want to know is the difference between “obrigado” and “obrigada”. “Obrigado” is what you say for “thank you” if you are a male. If you are a female, on the other hand, you should use “obrigada”. Sure, this is the official rule, but do Portuguese people always follow it? Not even remotely. If you pay attention while visiting Portugal, or while listening to a bunch of Portuguese speaking, you will understand that these two variants will be constantly mixed up, with man saying “obrigada” and women saying “obrigado”. Actually, sometimes you won’t even hear the ending at all, as we have the tendency to eat the vowels at the end. Weird, huh?
Pronunciation –> /shtoh beng, ohbrigadu/ohbrigadah/
- Mais ou menos. – I have previously said that you should not bother strangerswith the dog barking all night, but if you reeeeally can’t hide it any longer how much it is bothering you, and you need to speak about it, this can also be a way of answering the question Olá, como está?”. The meaning of this phrase is “more or less”. So, if someone asks you if you are ok and you are not feeling that great, you can say “mais ou menos”. This will probably lead to them asking you what is up and then you will finally have someone to complain about the barking dog or any other thing that had been bothering you. This would also be good if you had some kind of accident/ injury and someone asks you how are you feeling. his will tell them that, sure, you are not dead, but you are not feeling so great either and it will probably bring you the help you need.
Pronunciation –> /maizohmenush/
- Prazer/ Muito prazer. – Literally meaning “pleasure”, this is what Portuguese say in a more formal way after meeting someone. It is like saying “Oh, it is a pleasure (or a very big pleasure, when using “Muito prazer”) to meet you, even if I do not know anything about you and even if I might come to hate you in the future!” Do we always mean what we say? Maybe not. But we enjoy making others happy and we do not like to sound rude, so we will say it nevertheless. So remember, when meeting your mother-in-law for the first time, even if it is NOT a pleasure, just say “Prazer”. Or, if you are feeling wild that day, you can even go as far as to say “Muito prazer”. Who knows? Maybe she will not be that bad after all =)
Pronunciation –> /prazeir or muintu prazeir/
- Bom dia! – Here in Portugal, as I have already pointed out, we value the good old “Good day” or “Good Morning” . That is exactly what this phrase means. You can use it either in the morning, when you meet someone you know or even when you enter an establishment full of people you don’t know. People will consider you super polite then and will go about their days a bit happier. So, why not, right? You can also use it if it is not in the morning, as a way to wish a “good day”, since “dia” means “day”.
Pronunciation –> /bong diah/
- Boa tarde! – In the afternoon – which in Portugal goes from 1.30 pm till 19.30/ 20.00 pm, just use the expression “boa tarde”, meaning “good afternoon”, when initiating a conversation with someone.
Pronunciation –> /boa tard/
- Boa noite!- Pay attention to when you use this. This phrase means “Good evening”, but it also means “Good night”. We do not have two different expressions and we use “Boa noite” both as a greeting for the evening – which in Portugal goes from 20.00 pm onwards – or for before going to bed.
Pronunciation –> /boa noit/
- Se faz favor/ Por favor! – These phrases are used either with people you know, like your mother or your friend, or with strangers, like the waiter or waitress at the coffee place. Don’t be shy to use it. Both mean “Please” and I think it is always nice to use it when asking someone for something. You can also say it when you want to get someone´s attention and you don’t know the name of the person or he/she is a stranger to you, like the waiter/waitress I previously mentioned.
Pronunciation –> /Se fash favoure or Pur favoure/
- Desculpe! – Meaning “I am sorry”, you will use this to ask for forgiveness if you just hurt someone not on purpose or if you made something you should not have, or if you stepped on the neighbour´s foot of whose dog didn’t stop barking….get the picture? Furthermore, you can also use this to get the attention of someone you don´t know , like with the expression “Faz favor or Por favor”. So if the waiter or waitress doesn’t pay attention to you even after you said “Faz favor” twenty times, try “Desculpe” a bit louder, and maybe he or she will get it.
Pronunciation –> /Deshculp/
- Chamo-me…/ O meu nome é…/ Sou a/o – When introducing yourself, you will want to say your name, and this is the way to go! The first phrase “chamo-me”, literallymeans “I call myself” and the second one, “o meu nome é”, means “my name is”. So, if you are called Maria, you can say either “Chamo-me Maria” or “O meu nome é Maria” when saying your name to someone. There is also a third way of saying this, which is “Sou a Maria”. In this case you are saying ” I am Maria” and in Portuguese you have to use the article “a” or “o” (feminine article meaning “the”) before your name. If you are a man called Manuel, you will say ” Sou o Manuel”. I will further explain this in a future blog post, but for now this is all you have to know.
Pronunciation –> /shamume or o meu nome eh or soh ah or u/
- Eu estou a aprender Português. – If you want to impress Portuguese people, use this phrase to explain that you are learning Portuguese. In terms of grammar, this phrase shows one of the biggest differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, as I previously mentioned in my post Brazilian Portuguese vs European Portuguese, as we do not use the gerund (in English, the form with “ing”, like in “I am learning”) and instead we use this construction #estar + a + verb in infinitive form# to form the present continuous. Peculiar people we are, right?
Pronunciation –> /yieu stoh ahaprender portugesh/
- Sou Inglês/Alemão/Espanhol (etc) – If you want to give some further information about where you are from, just use this phrase. This literally means “I am English/German/Spanish (etc)”.
Pronunciation –> /soh inglesh or alemaung or shpanyol/
So, dear folks, this is all for today. I guess that I could have written many more simple phrases in European Portuguese that you could use, but I think I already gave you a lot of information to process. More posts on this subject soon. In the meantime, check out my list of European Portuguese words, stay tuned and don’t be a stranger!