A Few Favorite Brazilian Portuguese Expressions
By Karen Keller
In using these phrases, not only can you sound like a native Brazilian, but you may be able to recognize these commonplace expressions. Brazilian Portuguese is a fun language. It's humorous and full of spice and emotion.
Think of these phrases as clues to Brazilian culture. They start to paint a picture of a nation full of lively, friendly, and laid-back people.
The word saudade (sah-ooh-dah-jee) has no direct translation in English, and it's a major source of linguistic pride for Brazilians. Use Que saudade! (kee sah-ooh-dah-jee) when you miss something so desperately, you have a heartache over it. People say Que saudade! when they remember their best friend who's now living far away, or their childhood beach. Brazilians also often say simply Saudades! at the end of e-mails to tell you they're missing you terribly.
Say Fala sério (fah-lah seh-dee-oh) to mean You're kidding! or You're joking! or No way! Brazilians also say Não acredito! (nah-ooh ah-kdeh-jee-toh; I can't believe it!) in the same situations. But Fala sério has a funnier tone to it. It literally means Talk seriously.
. . . pra caramba!
Here's a great way to emphasize how off-the-charts something is. Pra caramba (pdah kah-dahm-bah) is most often used at the end of a sentence to exaggerate something. Use this phrase instead of putting muito (moh-ee-toh; very) or bem (bang; very) in front of these same words.
Take the classic phrase É boa pra caramba (eh boh-ah pdah kah-dahm-bah). Boa by itself means good. When pra caramba comes after good, it transforms It's good to It's amazing.
Engraçado means funny. Engraçado pra caramba (ang-gdah-sah-doo pdah kah-dahm-bah) means hilarious. Muito frío means very cold. So how cold was it? Frío pra caramba! (fdee-oh pdah kah-dahm-bah; Really, really cold!).
Lindo maravilhoso! (leen-doh mah-dah-veel-yoh-zoo) is a Brazilian saying that literally translates to Beautiful, marvelous! Brazilians like to gush about beauty and how amazing things are.
The weather can be lindo maravilhoso! — Hoje esteve um dia lindo maravihoso! (oh-zhee eh-steh-vee oong jee-ah leen-doh mah-dah-veel-yoh-zoo; Today the weather was fantastic!). A place can be lindo maravihoso! — O local é lindo maravihoso! (ooh loh-kah-ooh eh leen-doh mah-dah-veel-yoh-zoo; The place is amazing!). If you admire someone's work, that can be lindo maravilhoso! too.
And try to remember to use an -a at the end of each word instead of the -o if the word you're talking about is feminine. A gorgeous woman is linda maravilhosa! And a handsome man is lindo maravilhoso!
É mesmo? (eh mehz-moh) means Really? It's usually used to react to some interesting new fact.
You tell someone: Did you know that Portuguese is the fifth most-spoken language in the world? She answers back: É mesmo?
You tell someone: Did you know that Karla is dating Paulinho? He answers back: É mesmo?
You tell someone that you're learning Portuguese. What does she answer back? Sometimes it's an enthusiastic É mesmo! Really!
Um beijo! or Um abraço!
Brazilians are very affectionate people. They often end a conversation with a friend or acquaintance they feel friendly toward by saying Um beijo! (oong bay-zhoh; a kiss) or Um abraço! (oong ah-bdah-soh; a hug). In general, women use Um beijo! to male and female friends, and men use Um beijo! to women and Um abraço! to male friends. These expressions are also common ways to end an e-mail.
Brazilians are also very hospitable. After telling you thank you — obrigado (oh-bdee-gah-doh) if you're male and obrigada (oh-bdee-gah-dah) if you're female — a Brazilian often says Imagina! (mah-zhee-nah; Literally: Imagine!) to mean It's no trouble at all! The initial i is chopped off in spoken language. It sounds like Magina!
Here's a common phrase you may hear when you enter a shop or call a service-oriented company over the phone, like a restaurant. Pois não? (poh-eez nah-ooh) means Can I help you? It's a funny phrase, because it literally means "Because no?" It's pretty nonsensical, and Brazilians have a hard time saying where the phrase originated.
This is another fun, common phrase. Com certeza! (koh-oong seh-teh-zah; Literally: With certainty!) translates to Of course! or Definitely!
If someone asks you Vai para a festa? (vah-ee pah-dah ah fehs-tah; Are you going to the party?), you can answer Com certeza!
If Brazilians value any single trait, it's optimism; it's being able to solve problems. And if the problem can't be fixed, just relax and forget about it. At the first signs of someone's stress, a Brazilian often says Fique tranquilo (fee-kee kdang-kwee-loh; Don't worry). It has a very calming effect.
If the bus takes off just as you arrive to the bus stop, don't worry. Fique tranquilo: There'll be another one in ten minutes. And you can make friends while you wait.