Breaking It Down: Brazilian Portuguese vs European Portuguese

There are two widely recognized Portuguese variants: Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. To non-Portuguese speakers, these differences may seem inconsequential, but they are extremely relevant. Especially when it comes to translating or localizing audiovisual content in a high quality way. Let’s examine how these two variants differ and why this matters. 


How pronouns are used in Brazil and Portugal differ. For example, while Brazilians rarely use “tu” for the second person—instead making use of “você”—in Portugal, they utilize both “tu” and “você.” How they place their pronouns also comes into play, with those living in Portugal placing object pronouns after the verbs and Brazilians placing them before the verb. In some places in Brazil (mainly the South), it is common to use “tu” but conjugated as you would conjugate verbs for “você.

Conjugation of verbs

The conjugation verbs that go with the pronouns also have clear differences across these variants. Brazilians prefer the você conjugation, as it is the same for the third person he/she conjugation. Because of these differences, Brazilians visiting or living in Portugal can struggle with the differences between formal and informal search. Confusing “tu” with “você” when speaking European Portuguese can be an etiquette faux pas and may cause offense. 


There are also slight vocabulary differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese. The vocabulary for words like refrigerator, pedestrian, and ice cream, are different in these two variants. In Brazil, their European Portuguese counterparts would actually mean refrigerated warehouse, pawn, and cold. These vocabulary swaps can make switching between the two variants particularly difficult. How you answer the phone is different too. In Portugal, you would answer the phone with “está lá?”, which essentially translates to “are you there?”. In Brazil, you would instead say “alô” which is similar to saying “hello?”.


Brazilian and European Portuguese are pronounced differently as well. When speaking European Portuguese, you generally don’t pronounce the letter “e” if it falls between two consonants. And when it comes to Brazilian Portuguese, you pronounce words that have “di” or “ti” like you would “gi” and “chi” in English, among other differences. The general intonation varies as well, with Brazilian Portuguese having more open vowel sounds, which causes European Portuguese to sound more muffled in comparison.

Why These Differences Matter

Understanding the differences between these two Portuguese variants can make it easier for Portuguese speakers to adapt to new environments. It’s also deeply important to be aware of these differences if you plan to introduce content into an audience that speaks Portuguese, as you need to choose the proper variant when it’s time to translate the text, whether that be translating it from a different variant of Portuguese or a different language entirely. 

The majority of Portuguese speakers will be able to figure out what a text says no matter which variant is used, but you want to ensure you don’t offend local customs and that your text relates clearly to your audience. This is especially important if you’re dealing with official documents that can be rejected if they contain language errors. Identifying which variant you need to use and making sure you take the steps to translate and localize your text properly will make your translated text as effective as possible.


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