questions in portuguese

Asking Questions in Portuguese

Yes/No Questions in Portuguese

There are a number of different ways to form questions in Portuguese. We’ll start with those for which the answers are either affirmative or negative. These are the easiest Portuguese questions to ask because very few changes have to be made to turn a statement into a question.

1. Add a question mark to the end of a statement

Tu estás em Portugal You are in Portugal
Tu estás em Portugal? Are you in Portugal?
By adding a ‘?’ to a statement, all we have to do is change the intonation of the sentence and it becomes a “yes or no” question.

2. Add a phrase like “não é?” to the end of a statement

Ela é portuguesa She is Portuguese
Ela é portuguesa, não é? She is Portuguese, isn’t she?, She is Portuguese, right?
This type of question is used when you’re almost sure of what you’re saying, sometimes even as a rhetorical question. Não é is the most common phrase, but you can also apply this to other questions by replacing é with other verbs. For example:
Ela está em casa, não está? She's at home, right?

Answering Yes/No Questions

In English, you could answer these questions simply by saying “yes” or “no”, but in Portuguese, responding with only sim yes or não no, would sound a little too abrupt or incomplete. Instead, you respond using the same verb from the question. For example:

  • Tu estás em Portugal? Are you in Portugal?
    • YES: Estou I am or Sim, estou Yes, I am or Estou sim Yes, I am
    • NO: Não estou I'm not or Não, não estou No, I'm not
  • Ela é portuguesa, não é? She is Portuguese, isn’t she?
    • YES: É She is or Sim, é Yes, she is
    • NO: Não é She's not or  Não, não é No, she's not
  • Vocês cozinham? Do youpl. cook?
    • YES: Cozinhamos We cook or Sim, cozinhamos Yes, we cook or Cozinhamos sim Yes, we cook
    • NO: Não cozinhamos We don't cook or Não, não cozinhamos No, we don't cook
  • Tu gostas de vinho tinto? Do you like red wine?
    • YES: Gosto I likeit or Sim, gosto Yes, I likeit or Gosto sim Yes I likeit
    • NO: Não gosto I don't likeit or Não, não gosto No, I don't likeit

Repeating the verb like this is similar to saying “Yes, I do” or “No, I don’t” in English, but in Portuguese you just have to be a little more specific.

Open-ended Questions in Portuguese

Other questions require more elaborate answers, so we need to make use of pronomes interrogativos interrogative pronouns and advérbios interrogativos interrogative adverbs, which you can think of as simply Portuguese “question words”. By using these pronouns and adverbs, you can ask for more detailed or specific information. These words are often followed by the words é que, which we will cover later in the Questions unit.
Interrogative pronouns replace nouns and are used to ask about the identity, quality, or quantity of that person, place, or thing. These are the most common:
Quê? What?
Quem? Who?
Qual? Which?
Quanto? How much?
Interrogative adverbs, on the other hand, refer to the reason, time, place, or manner. These are the most common:
Porquê? Why?
Quando? When?
Onde? Where?
Como? How?
Let’s take a look at some examples for each of these words that we use to ask open-ended questions in Portuguese:

Que (What)

Although not mandatory, when asking questions, the pronoun que is frequently preceded by the demonstrative pronoun o. When it appears at the end of the question, you have to add an accent (ê).
O quê? What?
O que estás a fazer? What are you doing?
The only rule is: when que is followed by a noun, you don’t add the pronoun o before it.
Que dia é hoje? What day is today?

Quem (Who)

Quem és? Who are you?
Quem disse isso? Who said that?

Qual (Which)

Qual queres? Which one do you want?
Qual must match the number of the noun (singular or plural), so you also need to know the plural form: quais.
Quais preferes? Which ones do you prefer?

Quanto (How much/many)

Quanto custa? How much does it cost?
Quanto must match both the gender (quanto/quanta) and number (quantos/quantas) of the noun it refers to.
Quantas batatas comes? How many potatoes do you eat?

Onde (Where)

Onde fica a saída? Where is the exit?
Onde estás? Where are you?

Como (How)

Como fazem isso? How do they make it?
Another way to ask how? in the sense of to what degree? is with the word quão along with an adjective, as in: Quão fácil é isso? How easy is it?

Quando (When)

Quando fazes anos? When is your birthday?

Porquê (Why)

If you just want to ask why?, without using any other words, you spell it with an accent, like this:
Porquê? Why?
If you want to be more specific by adding more words to the question, the adverb drops the ^ accent:
Porque dizes isso? Why do you say that?
Porque estás triste? Why are you sad?

Learning More

Later in this unit, we’ll cover more on questions in Portuguese, such as how to use “é que” and how to form questions containing prepositions.
But for now, let’s practice what we just learned in the next lesson!

Comments:

  • Great lesson, thank you!
    Just wanted to inform you that the sound button is missing in most places. Not sure if that’s how it was designed, just thought i’ll bring it to your notice :):)

    • Thanks for checking! Don’t worry, these are on the list to be added. We record in batches, so sometimes we go ahead and include the example sentences before the audio is ready.

  • Hi, Thanks for this useful topic, I got all the point, just could you please tell more regarding “de que”! Normally when we have to use it? What is the difference between “de que” , “o que” and “que” also when we can Substitute “de que” and “qual e” with together

    • Usually de means of, about, or from, so it can appear with que in the Portuguese translation of questions like What is the book about?, What is this made of?, What is this from?

      De is also sometimes used in contexts where we wouldn’t use a preposition in English, so those are harder to predict. It’s more about learning over time how things are worded in Portuguese. For example: De que raça é o cão? means What breed is the dog?, but more literally would translate to “Of what breed is the dog?”

      In questions like these, De que and Qual é can be used interchangeably, as long as you make the necessary sentence modifications: De que raça é o cão? (Of what breed is the dog?) => Qual é a raça do cão? (What is the dog’s breed?)

      As for o que vs que: the o is optional, except when que is followed by a noun. In that case you would not include the o. I hope that helps!

      These learning notes will appear later in this unit, but you can link to them now for more info about forming questions:

      Using “de” and other prepositions in questions

      Using “é que” in questions

    • Yes, there is 🙂 In “porquê”, “quê” is the stressed syllable and the final E sounds like a medium E, as in “conheço”. In “porque”, “por” is the stressed syllable and the final E sounds like a closed E, as in “sabe”. To clearly hear these differences in the E vowel, you can check this very thorough guide about the Portuguese vowel sounds: Open & Closed Vowels in European Portuguese (scroll down for the table)

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