Facts about Portuguese Language – Part 1

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Olá, dears students and followers. If you are learning Portuguese or you’re intending to start learning, this article will be perfect for it. Check these (strange) facts about Portuguese language. Surely it will be interesting and useful.

Facts about Portuguese Language – Part 1

I am “the” Pedro

In the very first class, students have the opportunity to meet one uncommon thing in Portuguese language. When we say in Portuguese “I’m Pedro” or “I’m Rita”, we have to use an article. It can be masculine (“o”) or feminine (“a”) and it means “the” in English. So, when we say “eu sou o Pedro” or “eu sou a Rita”, we are literally saying “I am THE Pedro” and “I am THE Rita”, which looks strange for foreigners.

A lot of ways to say you

Also in the first lesson, students understand that in Portuguese language there are more than one form to say “you”. Thus, there is one informal form (“tu”), one formal but not too much (“você”) and one 100% formal (“o senhor” – for men, “a senhora” – for women).

Later we see that there is one fourth form. In this form, we use article + name. For example, if your name is Thomas, someone can asks “O Thomas quer um café?”. It literally means “The Thomas wants a coffee?”. Although, in this case, it means “Do you want a coffee?”. Usually this form is used when we talk with someone familiar for us (a neighbor or a colleague, for example), but for some reason (age, social or professional situation), we shouldn’t become informal.

Here, here, there, there, there

In Portuguese language, something can be at one of three places:

– Near to the person who are talking

– Near to the person who are listening

– Far away from both

For example, if a cell phone is near to me, I should say:

O telemóvel está aqui. = The phone is here.

However, if the phone is near to you (the listener in this case), I should say:

O telemóvel está aí. = There phone is there (near to you).

Finally, if the phone isn’t near to me neither to you, both of us should say:

O telemóvel está ali. = The phone is there (far away from both).

And there is one more detail. This words (aqui, aí, ali), are used for objects we can see. However, if I say “I like to live here is Lisbon”, in this case I can’t see my object completely (I can’t see all city). The same if I say “Sarah likes to live there in France”. So, I have to use the words “cá” (= here) and “lá” (= there):

Gosto de morar cá em Lisboa. = I like to live here is Lisbon.

A Sarah gosta de morar lá em França. = Sarah likes to live there in France.

Strange ways to say things

Every language has its own ways to express ideas and Portuguese language is no exception. In order to understand what we are talking about, we’ll give three examples.

Firstly, if your birthday is in 7th of May, you can say “Faço anos a 7 de maio”. “Faço anos” literally means “I make years” which can sound weird in other languages.

Although, if you are hungry you can say “estou com fome”, which literally means “I’m with hunger”. You can also say “tenho fome” (literally “I have hunger”). And it’s the same principle if you are thirsty, cold, hot or sleepy.

Finally, the last one students can met already in the first lesson, when they say what is their names. In Portuguese language we literally say “I call myself João”, “You call yourself Ana”, “He calls himself Matthew”, etc..

Eu chamo-me João.

Tu chamas-te Ana.

Ele chama-se Matthew.

One word, two opposite meanings

In Portuguese language one word can have 2 meanings, and these 2 can be antonyms. Today we will give you 3 examples.

First is the word “logo”, which can mean “immediately” or “later”.

Quando chego a casa vou logo dormir. = When I come home I go sleep immediately.

Faço isso logo à noite. = I do it later, in the evening. 

The second one is the word “já”,

Ela já está no trabalho. = She is already at work.

Ela já não está no trabalho. = She is no longer at work.

Here the word “não” changes completely the meaning of the word “já”. That’s why is not possible to translate word by word all the time. Check another example where this fact is more evident:

Eu sei. = I know

Eu sei lá. = I have no ideia.

Here is another example where we can’t translate word by word. About this, we will write later, so be in touch!

Words and expressions without translation

There are some words/ expressions which is not possible to translate. Although, once in a sentence they can change its meaning. Today we will talk about the expression “é que”, because it’s the most common and Portuguese people use it all the time.

In order to ask “What is your name?”, I can say “Como te chamas?”. I also can say “Como é que te chamas?”. In this case the meaning doesn’t change, I just put more emphasis on the previous word (“como”). Moreover, it also helps phonetically, but about this we will talk later.

In the previous example both sentences (“Como te chamas?” and “Como é que te chamas?”) are similar. But check this:

Tu és o Angelo. = You are Angelo.

Tu é que és o Angelo.

In the first sentence “Angelo” is neutral, but in the second sentence “Angelo” isn’t neutral. Therefore, probably Angelo is someone I heard about before and finally I’m meeting him. Let’s check one more example:

O Angelo sabe. = Angelo knows.

O Angelo é que sabe.

Again, the first sentence is neutral, but in the second one Angelo is not only “a person who knows” but “the person who knows”.


This was the first part of “Facts about Portuguese Language” and the first article for the blog of Caravela School in Matosinhos. You can read other interesting articles at the blog of Caravela School in Caldas da Rainha as well.

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Likewise, you are always welcome to school. Remember, we are in Caldas da Rainha and Matosinhos.

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