Portuguese/Contents/L1/Lesson One - Saying Hello

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Welcome to the Portuguese Language Course Wikibook. Good luck - or should we say, boa sorte!

Dialogue 1[edit | edit source]

Ricardo: Bom dia. O meu nome é Ricardo. Como está?
João: Bem, obrigado. E você?
Ricardo: Estou bem, obrigado. Qual é o seu nome?
João: O meu nome é João.
Ricardo: Muito prazer.
João: Adeus!
Ricardo: Adeus!

Analysing each sentence:

  • Bom dia - translates as ("good day"), but is normally used until 12PM as a short form of "boa manhã/madrugada"("good morning") and never after sun down.

Other greetings include:

  • Boa tarde (“good afternoon”)
  • Boa noite (“good evening, good night”).
  • Olá (“hello”) - informal.
  • Oi (“hi”) - informal.

  • O meu nome é Ricardo - My name is Ricardo ("Richard" could also be used if pronunciation is an issue).
    • O (/u/, “the”) - masculine singular definite article;
    • meu (/mew/, “my”) - masculine singular first-person singular possessive pronoun;
    • nome (/ˈno.mɨ/, “name”) - masculine noun;
    • é (/ɛ/, “is”) - third-person singular present indicative of verb ser (“to be”);
    • Ricardo (/ʁi.ˈkaɾ.ðu/, “Ricardo”).
  • Note that the direct translation would be “the my name is Ricardo.” But in Portuguese you can optionally use the definite article (English the) before possessive pronouns (English “my”, “our”, “his”, etc.;) This sentence is equivalent to “Meu nome é Ricardo.”
  • In informal language, or in spoken language in general, "Chamo-me João" similar in context to the use of "I'm João", a more direct translation would be "I'm called João". João can also be changed into John.

  • Como está? - “How are you?”
  • In this type of situation, the inquiry about someone's state may only be a show of politeness and consideration, an implicit request to engage in personal conversation and an acknowledgment of the other's presence, rather than explicit probe into private matters. The targeted (it may be directed to a group "Como estão?") is given the opportunity to refuse engagement by keeping the answer simple and positive, like in the example or elaborate and explain if the deeper personal relation is reciprocal or welcomed. This of course depends on the social environment where it takes place...

João then answers:

  • Tudo bem, obrigado. E você? - “All right, thank you.”
    • Obrigado (“thank you”) - this can only be used by men. If you are a woman, you must use obrigada instead.
    • E (“and”)
    • você (“you”) - this is the second-person singular formal pronoun. Despite being second-person, verbs following it are conjugated in the third-person. The informal second-person pronoun is tu.

The use of "está" indicates deference and opens the reply to use "você" (from "Vos", 2nd person of I), a more archaic instance would be to use "estáis" (now in complete disuse). If the persons were in familiar terms they would have used "estás" and "tu". The use of "Tudo bem" can be confusing since it indicates a relaxed stance a more cordial/formal reply would have been "Estou bem" (I'm fine/well).

Articles[edit | edit source]

The English language has three articles: the (definite article), a and an (indefinite articles). Portuguese has four definite and four indefinite articles, as they inflect in gender and number.

The definite articles are:

  • O (/u/, “masculine singular”): o homem - “the man”
  • Os (/uʃ/, “masculine plural”): os homens - “the men”
  • A (/ɐ/, “feminine singular”): a mulher - “the woman”
  • As (/ɐʃ/, “feminine plural”): as mulheres - “the women”

The indefinite articles are:

  • Um (/ũ/, “masculine singular”): um homem - “a man”
  • Uns (/ũʃ/, “masculine plural”): uns homens - “some men”
  • Uma (/ˈu.mɐ/, “feminine singular”): uma mulher - “a woman”
  • Umas (/ˈu.mɐʃ/, “feminine plural”): umas mulheres - “some women”

Note that the indefinite plural article translates as English some.

Gender[edit | edit source]

The English language has three genders: masculine (he), feminine (she) and neuter (it). Portuguese has two, but, unlike English, all nouns and most pronouns have a gender, even inanimate things like casa (“house, feminine”) and ouro (“gold, masculine”).

Grammatical gender in Portuguese aren’t always the same as the object’s real gender. For example, criança (“child”) is always a feminine word, whether you are referring to a boy or a girl.

The Portuguese genders are:

  • masculine; and
  • feminine.

As a Portuguese learner, you must memorise the gender of every word. In most cases, the gender of a word can be identified by its ending:

  • Words ending in o are usually masculine;
  • Words ending in a are usually feminine;
  • Words ending in ção are usually feminine;
  • Words ending in dor are usually masculine;
  • Words ending in ente and ista are usually used for both genders;

Number[edit | edit source]

Like English, Portuguese words can be singular or plural. Portuguese plurals end in s. Usually the following rules apply:

  • Singulars ending in vowels pluralise with s: carro (“car”) → carros (“cars”);
  • Singulars ending in r, z and n pluralise with es: mar (“sea”) → mares (“seas”);
  • Singulars ending in s pluralise with es if the stress is in the last syllable: país (“country”) → países (“countries”); they are the same when plural if the stress is not in the last syllable: atlas (“atlas”) → atlas (“atlases”);
  • Singulars ending in m pluralise with ns replacing the m: bem (“good”) → bens (“goods”);
  • Singulars ending in x are the same when plural: tórax (“thorax”) → tórax (“thoraxes”);
  • Singulars ending in il pluralise with:
    • is replacing the il if the stress is in the last syllable: canil (“kennel”) → canis (“kennels”);
    • eis replacing the il if the stress is not in the last syllable: míssil (“missile”) → mísseis (“missiles”);
  • Other singulars ending in l pluralise with is replacing the l: jornal (“newspaper”) → jornais (“newspapers”);
  • Singulars ending in ão pluralise with:
    • ões replacing the ão (most common): opção (“option”) → opções (“options”);
    • ães replacing the ão: pão (“bread”) → pães (“breads”);
    • s: mão (“hand”) → mãos (“hands”);

Ser and estar[edit | edit source]

Let's analyse the third line, in which Ricardo answers:

Estou bem, obrigado. - “I am fine, thank you.”

The meaning of bem and obrigado have already been explained. The other word, estou means I am. It is one of two verbs that translate to our English ‘I am’, the other being sou.

Consider the following English phrases and their Portuguese translations:

I am old. Eu sou velho.
I am here. Eu estou aqui.
I am furious. (I am furious right now) Eu estou furioso.
I am furious. (I am a furious person) Eu sou furioso.
I am wearing a hat. Eu estou vestindo um chapéu.
I am infected. Eu estou infectado.
I am diabetic. Eu sou diabético.

Estou is a form of Estar and sou is a form of ser and both verbs translate as to be. For a Portuguese learner, it is important to know when to use one and when to use the other:

  • Estar implies that something is temporary, that it can be changed. It is used, for example, for being somewhere, for being wearing something, for having a curable disease, for being in a certain state of mind.
  • Ser implies that something is unlikely to change. It is used, for example, for being a certain nationality, for being young, old, a teenager, an adult, etc., for being always big or small, for having an incurable disease.

There some exceptions to these rules. For example, “I am dead” is “Eu estou morto.” even though the fact someone is dead is unlikely to change.

Estou is a form of the verb estar. Confused? Think of a verb like a tree. On the trunk there's the verb's name - this is called the infinitive. Some examples of infinitives are...

 ESTAR      -     SER    -     TER   -    COMER    -    FALAR    -    ABRIR
 To be in        To be       To have      To eat       To speak      To open

Now we have to imagine the branches of the tree. Each branch is a different TENSE of the verb. Example? 'I am running' is present continuous tense because it is happening NOW whereas 'I was running' is past continuous tense because it happened in the PAST.

Finally, the leaves on the branches are different CONJUGATIONS. Example? We say 'I run' and 'you run' but 'he/she/it runS' with an 's' on the end. This is a different conjugation of the present indicative tense of the verb 'to run'. However in Portuguese there are more conjugations than in English.

Let's take a look at the conjugations for the verb ESTAR. We already know that one of them will be 'está', from the dialogue.

ESTAR - To Be in

I am Eu est ou
You (familiar) are Tu est ás
He is
Ele est á
She is
Ela est á
You (normal) are
Você est á
We are Nós est
You (plural) are Vocês est
They are
(also elas, vocês)
Eles est ão

Look back at the dialogue. Ricardo says Estou bem. We can see that the first word means 'am'. Bem simply means 'well'. So we have 'Am well.' We seem to be missing the 'I'! However, in Portuguese, because there are different conjugations for the different people, you can often leave out the 'I, we, they' etc. if it is obvious. In the case of 'I' and 'we' it is always obvious in the present tense.

There's also always a bit of confusion at the start between the different forms of 'you'.

  • Tu – This is really mostly used in Portugal, and some regions from Brazil. It is a really casual way of saying ‘you’ – used between close friends or to children. If in doubt, don’t use it, use 'o senhor/a senhora' (masculine/feminine).
  • Você – It only refers to one person. Used in informal speech mainly in Brazil.
  • Vocês – Plural form of ‘tu’ or ‘você’.

There is also one other form of you: Vós. However this form is less used and is mostly used by people in Northern Portugal and in classic literature. Therefore we shall ignore this form of "you". However if you need to understand it, the grammar references on this Wikibook include Vós - which, I should point out, is like vocês - it is currently only used when talking to more than one person. Still confused? Check out the Personal Pronouns of Subject page.

Muito prazer means It's a pleasure.

Adeus means goodbye.

Exercises[edit | edit source]

EXERCISES • Dialogue translation
  1. Translate the following into Portuguese:
    1. I am called Luís.
    2. My name is Helen.
    3. How are you? (use the 'tu' form of estar)
  2. Translate the following into English:
    1. Ele está bem.
    2. Muito prazer.
    3. Chamo-me Derek.
    4. O meu nome é Jill.
  1. Translate the following into Portuguese
    1. Chamo-me Luís.
    2. O meu nome é Helen
    3. Como estás?
  2. Translate the following into English
    1. He is well.
    2. It's a pleasure.
    3. I am called Derek.
    4. My name is Jill.
EXERCISES • Gender and number
  1. What is the gender of the following nouns:
    1. muro (“wall”)
    2. motorista (“driver”)
    3. computador (“computer”)
    4. cortina (“curtain”)
    5. competição (“competition”)
  2. What is the singular form of the following plural nouns:
    1. letras (“letters”)
    2. cidades (“cities”)
    3. cães (“dogs”)
    4. monitores (“monitors”)
    5. olhos (“eyes”)
    6. cantis (“canteen”)
    7. fãs (“fans”)
    8. sons (“sounds”)
    9. canais (“channels”)
  1. What is the gender of the following nouns
    1. masculine
    2. masculine and feminine
    3. masculine
    4. feminine
    5. feminine
  2. What is the singular form of the following plural nouns
    1. letra
    2. cidade
    3. cão
    4. monitor
    5. olho
    6. cantil
    7. som
    8. canal
EXERCISES • Articles
  1. What definite and indefinite articles should be used with the following words
    1. garrafas
    2. caçador
    3. canções
    4. proposição
    5. chão
    6. cantoras
  1. What definite and indefinite articles should be used with the following words
    1. as, umas
    2. o, um
    3. as, umas
    4. a, uma
    5. o, um
    6. as, umas

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