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Learning the Language of Brazil - A Quick Lesson

Updated on January 17, 2015
Cristo Redentor in Rio
Cristo Redentor in Rio

About the Country

Brazil is the largest country in South America. It covers 3,300,169 square miles. The largest cities are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Recife, just to name a few. It was the Portuguese who colonized Brazil to make it what is is today. They first set foot back in the 1500's. The Jesuit Priests also played a role in the development of the country. In fact, some Brazilian holidays are marked by the Jesuits.

The principal language of Brazil is Portuguese - which gets its roots from Portuguese of Portugal or European Portuguese. Another language, Iorubá (a language from Africa), also found its way into Brazil's history books. Together, with a little tongue from the original inhabitants (native indians), you get the language of Brazil - Brazilian Portuguese.

Brazil's main exports are iron ore, soybeans, coffee, and sugar. Its primary import partners are the US, china, Argentina and Germany. In April of 2013, Brazil saw an increase in its exports from 19320.43 USD Million to 20631.05. At last count, it was considered to be the world's 6th largest economy (and expected to increase in the coming years).

Map of Brazil

Brazilian Culture

Brazil's culture is very diverse. Portuguese, African, French, Italians, German, Spanish, Catholic, Amazonian indians. From Brazil's most celebrated event of the year "Carnaval" to "Our Lady Aparecida", there are many holidays and events to be observed. Approximately 8 national holidays per year, and that's not including all the regional holidays such as "The Birth of Rio". Mumba Meu Boi is another famous celebration of the country. As a result of the mixture of culture, there are many genres of Brazilian music. Música de Bossa Nova, Forró, Samba, Axé, Maracatu, Pagode and Brega.

Brazil's Carnaval
Brazil's Carnaval | Source

A Touch of Portuguese Grammar

Portuguese grammar may seem a bit more complicating than English. The reason is that there are more forms of verb conjugation in the Portuguese language than English (just to name one culprit). Gender plays a big part in the Portuguese language. A lot of words fall under gender. Mostly, nouns and adjectives; however, you will find that most pronouns are either masculine or feminine also. To determine whether a word is masculine or feminine, you need to identify the word endings.

Common Masculine Endings:

  • O
  • L
  • R
  • M
  • Á

Common Feminine Endings:

  • A
  • ÇÃO
  • ADE
  • GEM
  • ZÃO
  • SSÃO
  • SÃO

The Plural

As in the English language, the formation of the plural is created by adding S to word endings; however, the formation of the plural can also change the word ending. For this purpose, I have created a list of some common word endings and how the word is changed after the plural.

Plural Endings

Word Ending
Animal (animal)
Homem (men)
Coração (heart)
Computador (computer)


Here is my list of some commonly used pronouns in Portuguese.

  • Eu (I)
  • Você (you)
  • Nós (we)
  • Eles/Elas (they)
  • Senhor/Senhora (used formally in speech)


  • Eu falo Inglês. (I speak English)
  • Você fala Inglês. (You speak English)
  • Nós falamos Inglês. (We speak English)
  • Eles falam Inglês. (They speak English)
  • A senhora fala Ingês. (You speak English - elderly female)

Reflexive Pronouns

List of reflexive pronouns.

  • Me (myself)
  • Se (yourself/themselves/itself)
  • Nos (ourselves


  • Eu me amo. (I love myself)
  • Você se ama. (You love yourself)
  • Nós amamos nos. (We love ourselves)
  • Eles se amam. (They love themselves)


List of possessives

  • Meu/minha (mine)
  • Seu/sua (yours)
  • Nosso/a (ours)
  • Deles/delas (theirs)


  • A minha vida. (my life)
  • A sua vida. (your life)
  • Nossa vida. (our lives)
  • A vida deles. (their lives)


  • O carro verde. (the green car)
  • A casa vermelha. (the red house)
  • As pilhas fracas. (the weak batteries)
  • A panela quente. (the hot pan)

Oh yeah, in case you were thinking "but the adjectives appear backwards", yes, they are, in fact, backwards. It is a common occurrence in Brazilian Portuguese. Even pronouns are sometimes used in the reverse.


In Portuguese, verbs are conjugated from the AR, ER, or IR groups. As in English, there are irregularities in verbs. Let's just concentrate on the regularities for the ease of practice.

I have adopted a method in which I like to use to conjugate verbs (regular verbs). This method was designed to take the strain out of conjugation of verbs. It's an easy way to remember - or take the burden out of remembering - conjugation of verbs.

A quick congugation lesson:

When you conjugate a verb, you are changing it from one tense to another. For the sake of my lesson, The stem of a verb is the verb minus the AR, ER, or IR. And the infinitive is, of course, the stem + the AR, ER, or IR. Having said that, note that all groups in My Conjugation Method follow the stem.

My Conjugation Method

AR groups
Infintive + AM
Infinitive + EI
Infinitive + Á
Infinitive + EMOS
Infinitive + ÃO
ER groups
Infinitive + AM
Infinitive + EI
Infinitive + Á
Infinitive + EMOS
Infinitive + ÃO
IR groups
Infinitive + AM
Infinitive + EI
Infinitive + Á
Infinitive + EMOS
Infintive + ÃO


In the Portuguese language, there is no K, W, or Y. Instead, these letters are imported, in other words: substituted. There are some sounds that are difficult to mimic in Brazilian Portuguese. Particularly, nasal sounds. Nasal sounds are accomplished by letting a little bit of air through your nose when you speak certain syllables. To give you an idea, just pinch your nose when you speak.

I'd like to show you an example of some pronunciations. So, how about a video? We have created one particularly for occasions such as this.

See our video below to hear the Portuguese alphabet.

The Portuguese Alphabet

The Accents

In the case when you find a word with an accent, that particular word needs to be stressed on the accent. And the type of accent will tell you how its stressed. For this, I give you a list of examples:

  • Xícara (cup) - spoken with mouth open
  • Coração (heart) - nasalized
  • (only) - emphasized
  • Você (you) - emphasized
  • Licença (license) - stressed like a strong S

See our video below to see these accents in action.

The Accents

Common Phrases

I have added some common Brazilian Portuguese phrases in order to show a little sentence structure.

  • Você fala Inglês? = Do you speak English?
  • Eu não falo Português = I don't speak Portuguese
  • Eu falo um pouco de Português = I speak a little Portuguese
  • Bom dia = Good morning
  • Boa tarde = Good afternoon
  • Boa noite = Good evening
  • Eu não entendi = I did not understand
  • Muito prazer = Nice to meet you

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    Post Comment
    • Danielspages2013 profile imageAUTHOR

      Daniel Baker 

      3 years ago from João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

      Thank you for the comment Mel Carriere!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very useful hub. I speak Spanish, and although there are certain similarities with Portugese, I can see that the two languages are vastly different. Great job!

    • Danielspages2013 profile imageAUTHOR

      Daniel Baker 

      6 years ago from João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

      Yes, it is a beautiful language. Anytime you would like to know something give me a ring. De nada :-)

    • Leah Whitehorse profile image

      Leah Whitehorse 

      6 years ago

      Great introduction to the language. I really need to learn the future tense properly! Obrigada :-)


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