When it comes to qualifying something or someone according to its length, you might come across these three adjectives:
longo, comprido e curto long and short
You can see the first two have the same translation and are indeed synonyms. However, they are often used in different contexts and might ‘sound’ bad if used in an unusual way. Let’s take a better look at each of the three adjectives below.
Due to the similarity to the English word ‘long’, you might be tempted to always use this one when speaking, so you have to be careful. We mainly use longo when qualifying distances or periods of time.
Não faço planos a longo-prazo I don't make long-term plans
Foi uma longa reunião It was a lengthy meeting
A distância é longa até Madrid It's a long distance to Madrid
An exception would be, for example, when talking about sentences/texts: Eu escrevo textos longos I write long texts
Comprido is used more when referring to body parts, clothing and other relatively small things such as beds, couches, wires, among others.
Eles têm cabelo comprido They have long hair
Os meus braços são compridosMy arms are long
As mangas estão demasiado compridas The sleeves are too long
Usei o lápis mais compridoI used the longer pencil
Quero um tapete comprido para a salaI want a long carpet for the living room
When mentioning body parts such as the nose, legs and hair, the term longo is also often used.
Be aware of the similarity with the word cumprido: they’re homophones, which means that despite sounding almost the same as comprido, they’re actually very different words as cumprido means accomplished/achieved.
As mentioned before, curto is the opposite of the two adjectives above. You can use it whether you’re talking about distances, time or objects. Let’s stay in the context of the examples used earlier to make things clearer.
Tivemos um curto debate We had a short debate
A distância é curta The distance is short
Eles têm o cabelo curto They have their hair short