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/
- Senhor/a – Just because I mentioned it in the previous point, this is how you say “sir” or “madam”. You can use it when you want to treat someone formally. For example, you can ask the question I spoke of above, as follows: “Olá, como está o senhor/ a senhora?”.
Pronunciation –> /sin(g)yor/ sin(g)yora
- 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 ben(g), ohbrigadu/ ohbrigadah/
- Mais ou menos. – I have previously said that you should not bother strangers with 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/
- Vou/ Vamos andando – This is another way to say you are feeling a little bit overwhelmed about something (maybe the dog barking, again!). It literally means “I/ We continue going”, as in “we still keep going, so it means we are kind of ok…not great, but ok!”. Do you get the picture?
Pronunciation –> /voh andan(g)du/
- 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/
- Com licença – This is also a way to say “Excuse me”, but not in a way of calling someone’s attention to you, but more as a polite thing to say when you get in between two people that are speaking, or if you want to enter a room, for example. You can knock the door and say “Com licença” and then enter. You can also use this when you burp. True story.
Pronunciation –> /Kon(g) lissen(g)ssa/
- Obrigado/a– We use this word often, to thank someone for being such a lovely person =) It means, you guessed it…”thank you“. We like saying it a lot and you will get a lot from Portuguese people if you just make sure you are the nicest you can. So use and abuse this word! If you are a man, you should say the masculine version of it – “Obrigado” – while if you are a woman, you should say “obrigada” instead.
Pronunciation –> /Obrigadu/
- De nada – This is what you should answer if someone says “obrigado/a” to you. It means “you are welcome“, or literally “of nothing”, meaning that the person does not need to thank you for anything, as you did what you did because you wanted to do it. So no need to thank! =)
Pronunciation –> /De nade/
Speaking about yourself
- 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/
- Sou médico(a)/ professor(a)/ engenheiro(a) – If someone asks you what you do (“O que faz?/ Em que trabalha”), just answer like this. This literally means “I am a doctor/ teacher/ engineer..”. You just have to look up what your profession is in Portuguese, and add the “sou” (I am) and you are good to go!
Pronunciation –> /Soh mediku/ prufssor/ en(g)jnyehru
- Desculpe, não falo Português – If you can’t speak Portuguese and you want to inform the person who is speaking to you very fast, in Portuguese, you can say “Desculpe, não falo Português”, which literally means, “I am sorry, I don’t speak Portuguese”.
Pronunciation –> /Deshculp, naun(g) falu Portugehsh/
- 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/ alemaung/ shpanyol/
Useful things at the restaurant or café
- Tenho uma reserva – If you arrive to the restaurant, say, in Porto, and you want to say that you have a reservation, this is the way to go!
Pronunciation –> /Ten(g)yu uma rezerva/
- Tem mesa para quatro? – When you want to ask if there is a table available for four, you can ask it this way. It literally means “Do you have a table for four?”.
Pronunciation –> /Ten(g) mehza pahra kuatru/
Other numbers, in case you are not four:
- Um/ Uma – One
- Dois/ Duas – Two
- Três – Three
- Quatro – Four
- Cinco – Five
- Seis – Six
- Sete – Seven
- Oito – Eight
- Nove – Nine
- Dez – Ten
- Onze – Eleven
- Doze – Twelve
- Treze – Thirteen
- Catorze – Fourteen
- Quinze – Fifteen
Pronunciation –> /Un(g), doish, trehsh, kuatru, sinku, seish, set, oitu, nov, desh, on(g)z/ dohz, trehz, katohrz, kinze/
- Queria – This means “I would like” and it is more polite than saying “Quero”. So, if you want to ask for a water, for example, you should say “Queria uma água, por favor”.
Pronunciation –> /Keria/
- (Uma) Água – Water is a non-countable noun, but yet you can hear Portuguese people saying “uma água”. This is because we are kind of thinking of the bottle of water, as in “Queria uma garrafa de água”. Therefore, you can either say “Queria água para beber, por favor” or “Queria uma (garrafa de) água para beber, por favor”.
Pronunciation –> /Ahgua/
- Um café – This is what you probably will hear the most, especially at the end of the meals. It is tradition that the Portuguese drink a small coffee, after their dinner or lunch. So, if you ask for “um café”, know that you will be asking for a kind of an espresso coffee, without milk. If you want a bigger coffee or if you want to add milk, you will have to specify.
Pronunciation –> /kafeh/
- Vinho – This is a “must-have” in any typical Portuguese table. The Portuguese typically drink this beverage with their lunch and dinner. Just one or two small glasses. We have “Vinho tinto”, “Vinho Branco” or the Minho (northern region of Portugal) typical “Vinho Verde”. In Porto, we also have the world famous Port Wine or “Vinho do Porto”, but we do not drink it with the food, as it is more like a starter or a post-meal kind of wine.
Pronunciation –> /vin(g)yu/
- (Uma) Cerveja – Although we are not as famous for our beers, as say, the Germans, we do have our own kind of beers and we enjoy drinking them on warm days! In the northern Portugal area, you can try “Super Bock” and on the southern part “Sagres”. They are the two main brands of Portuguese beer. If you want to ask for a beer, you can say “Queria uma cerveja, por favor”. Again, while “cerveja” should not be countable, we think of it as “Queria uma garrafa/ lata de cerveja, por favor” and we make it countable.
Pronunciation –> /Serveje/
- Onde é/ fica a casa de banho? – Sometimes we go to a cafe just to go to the bathroom. If you are visiting and you need to go, this will probably happen to you. If so, you can ask “Onde é/ fica a casa de banho”, which literally means “Where is the bathroom”?
Pronunciation –> /Ond eh/ fika a kasa de ban(g)yu/
- Queria a conta, por favor! – At the end of the meal, if you are at the restaurant, it will be time to pay sooner or later. Then, you will have to say “Queria a conta, por favor”, even if you don’t want to pay. That means ” I would like to have the bill, please”…
Pronunciation –> /A konte pur favohr/
- Posso pagar com/ Aceita cartão de crédito? – If you have only cash, you want to ask “Posso pagar com dinheiro?” and that should not be a problem, as you can pay with cash everywhere in Portugal. The problems may start if you only have a credit card, as not all places accept this way of payment. Therefore, it can be handy to ask “Aceita cartão de crédito?”.
Pronunciation –> /Possu pagahr kom/ Asseite kartaun(g) de krehditu/
Btw… before continuing with useful phrases in regards to meals I want to share something with you.
Make sure to watch these 35+ Simple phrases in Portuguese you must know before travelling also on my YouTube channel to get the pronunciation right:
- O Pequeno-almoço – Do not forget to take your breakfast! If you are in Portugal, you have to ask “Onde se pode tomar o pequeno-almoço”? – “where can I have breakfast?”. In Portuguese, we do not say “have breakfast”, but “take breakfast”, as in “tomar pequeno-almoço”.
Pronunciation –> /U pekehnu almosso/
- O Almoço – The Portuguese have lunch around 13 or 13.30pm. If you want to have lunch here in Portugal, you have to try one of our typical restaurants. We have many and I think you will like them!
Pronunciation –> /U almosso/
- O Jantar – Dinner is served around 20pm in Portugal, and we like to share this meal with our family and take our time to eat. So, if you want to really try the Portuguese “jantar”, gather your people or join a Portuguese family and enjoy!
Pronunciation –> /U jan(g)tar/
At the store
- Tem tamanho S/ M/ L/ XL? – This means “Do you have the size S/ M/ L/ XL?”. If you need another size, ask this. S is for small, M for medium, L for large and XL for extra large.
Pronunciation –> /Ten(g) S/ M/ L/Xish L/
- Estou só a ver, obrigado/a – If you enter a store, the lady there will probably ask you if you need some help (“Precisa de ajuda”?). If you are just checking and looking around, you can say exactly that, by saying “Estou só a ver, obrigado/a”.
Pronunciation –> /Stoh son a ver, obrigadu/a/
- Onde são os provadores? – If you want to try something on, you will need the fitting rooms. Here is the way to ask where they are – Onde são os provadores?”
Pronunciation –> /Ond saun(g) us pruvadohresh/
Other Useful Phrases
- Fala Inglês/ Francês/ Espanhol/ Alemão? – In case you can’t find the courage or the right words to speak in Portuguese, here is a way to get by. This means “Do you speak English/ French/ Spanish/ German” and since many Portuguese people are able to speak other languages other than Portuguese, you will probably be lucky and get away with it! But remember, try to speak Portuguese as much as you can!
Pronunciation –> /Fahle inglesh/ fran(g)sesh/ sapan(g)yol/ alemaun(g)/
- Sim/ Não – If you ask the question of the previous point, or any other YES/ NO questions, you might end up with these answers – Sim (yes) or Não (no).
Pronunciation –> /Sin(g)/ Naun(g)/
- Talvez – This is another possible answer, as it means “maybe” and the Portuguese use it when they are not sure about something. Bear in mind you have to use “talvez” with “conjuntivo” form in most cases!
Pronunciation –> /Talvesh/
- Se calhar – It means “maybe” as well. It can be used interchangeable with “talvez”.
Pronunciation –> /Se kalyiar/
So, dear folks, this is all for today. I guess that I could have written many more simple phrases to learn before visiting Portugal, 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!