European and Brazilian Portuguese: two sides of the same language

Olá! Tudo bem?

Did you know that Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language in the world? Spoken by people from all the continents, it has the status of official language in Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola and Sao Tome and Principe, and co-official language in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau. Besides, it constitutes the basis of some creole languages in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sao Vicente e Benanvento, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe. As a natural consequence, there are some differences in intonation, pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary in each of these countries.

But lately, Brazilian Portuguese emerged as the main variant of European Portuguese, thanks to Brazilian music and novels.


  1. Historical and geographical reasons

According to the American linguist Albert Marckwardt we can attribute these differences to the concept of colonial leg, that is the tendency of the colonial varieties of a language to change less than the variety spoken in the mother country. Colonies follow the linguistic advances of the mother country with a certain delay due to the geographical distance.

As for Brazil, Portuguese became the official language in 1758, and even if colonization had started in the 16th century, contact with the indigenous people kept changing the language. In xix century there were further changes, due to coming into contact with European and Asian immigrants.

As for the other countries colonized by Portugal, they speak a language that is far more similar to the mother country’s. Most of them are African countries which haven’t had many external contacts with other cultures. Besides, those countries reached their independence much later, so they had more prolonged contact with Portugal and its language.


  1. Main differences

The main differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese are the following:

  1. Accent: Brazilian Portuguese pronounces open vowels, whereas European Portuguese is more murmured and doughy.
  2. Grammar: Reflexive pronouns: European Portuguese puts them after the verb, while Brazilian Portuguese before the verb; but in negative sentences both put them before the verb. Infinitive vs. gerund: when you describe what you are doing at present, European Portuguese uses the structure estar a + infinitive whereas Brazilian Portuguese uses estar + gerund.
  3. Formal and informal speech: Tu and você both mean “you”, as 2nd person singular. In Brazilian Portuguese Tu is not that common, it is used only in dialects, whereas in European Portuguese it is used in an informal way among family and friends. In Brazilian Portuguese você is the informal equivalent of tu used daily. In European Portuguese você is formal.


  1. Spelling: For example, reception is receção in European Portuguese, and recepção in Brazilian Portuguese (this rule is applicable to words where the letter p is audible in the Brazilian variant and silent in the European one). Besides, Brazilians tend to turn some nouns into verbs: for example, “to congratulate” is dar os parabens in Portugal, and parabenizar in Brazil. Another difference concerns the assimilation of foreign words: usually Brazilian Portuguese ignores Latin roots and European Portuguese retains them, so they say mídia in Brazil and media in Portugal.
  2. Phonetics: Portuguese and Brazilian people can understand each other very well, however, some Brazilians could find it difficult to understand the European variant because it tends to compress words. Besides, Brazilians have almost no contact with European Portuguese, whereas in Portugal people are used to watching Brazilian television programmes.
          European Portuguese            Brazilian Portuguese

bom dia/bom dia/


bom dia/bom djia/


boa tarde/boa tard/


boa tarde/boa tardji/


















  1. Vocabulary: the two variants sometimes use different vocabulary to express the same concept or word. But at the end, they are perfectly able to understand each other.
European Portuguese Brazilian Portuguese            English
comboio trem train
autocarro ônibus bus
assistente de bordo aeromoça flight attendant
pequeno-almoço café da manhã breakfast
casa-de-banho banheiro toilet/restroom/bathroom
desporto esporte sport
dar boleia dar carona to give someone a ride
gelado sorvete ice-cream
sumo suco juice
fixe legal cool
pastelaria lanchonete café/snack bar/pastry shop
fato terno suit
chávena xícara cup
frigorífico geladeira refrigerator
castanho marrom brown


  1. What variant should you learn?

The choice of the variant to learn depends on why and where you are going to speak this language, i.e. if you are going to use it for work, travel, or study. Another relevant factor in the choice is obviously your personal preference of the European or Brazilian pronunciation, culture or of one of the two countries. Whatever you choose, bear in mind that it’s still the same language, so you will be able to communicate with people in both countries. Don’t let differences be an obstacle in the learning of this beautiful language!


By Ilaria Cuppone



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