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 Play normal audio You are in Portugal
Tu estás em Portugal? Play normal audio 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 Play normal audio She is Portuguese
Ela é portuguesa, não é? Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio 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 paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio yes or não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio Are you in Portugal?
    • YES: Estou paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I am or Sim, estou Play normal audio Yes, I am or Estou sim Play normal audio Yes, I am
    • NO: Não estou Play normal audio I'm not or Não, não estou Play normal audio No, I'm not
  • Ela é portuguesa, não é? Play normal audio She is Portuguese, isn’t she?
    • YES: É Play normal audio She is or Sim, é Play normal audio Yes, she is
    • NO: Não é Play normal audio She's not or  Não, não é Play normal audio No, she's not
  • Vocês cozinham? Play normal audio Do you(pl.) cook?
    • YES: Cozinhamos Play normal audio We cook or Sim, cozinhamos Play normal audio Yes, we cook or Cozinhamos sim Play normal audio Yes, we cook
    • NO: Não cozinhamos Play normal audio We don't cook or Não, não cozinhamos Play normal audio No, we don't cook
  • Tu gostas de vinho tinto? Play normal audio Do you like red wine?
    • YES: Gosto Play normal audio I like(it) or Sim, gosto Play normal audio Yes, I like(it) or Gosto sim Play normal audio Yes I like(it)
    • NO: Não gosto Play normal audio I don't like(it) or Não, não gosto Play normal audio No, I don't like(it)

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 Play normal audio interrogative pronouns and advérbios interrogativos Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio What?
Quem? Play normal audio Who?
Qual? Play normal audio Which?
Quanto? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio How much?
Interrogative adverbs, on the other hand, refer to the reason, time, place, or manner. These are the most common:
Porquê? Play normal audio Why?
Quando? Play normal audio When?
Onde? Play normal audio Where?
Como? Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio What?
O que estás a fazer? Play normal audio 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? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What day is today?

Quem (Who)

Quem és? Play normal audio Who are you?
Quem disse isso? Play normal audio Who said that?

Qual (Which)

Qual queres? Play normal audio Which (one) do you want?
Qual also means “what” sometimes, depending on the context. Qual must match the number of the noun (singular or plural), so you also need to know the plural form: quais.
Quais preferes? Play normal audio Which (ones) do you prefer?

Quanto (How much/many)

Quanto custa? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio How many potatoes do you eat?

Onde (Where)

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

Como (How)

Como fazem isso? Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio How easy is it?

Quando (When)

Quando fazes anos? Play normal audio 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? Play normal audio Why?
If you want to be more specific by adding more words to the question, the adverb drops the ^ accent:
Porque dizes isso? Play normal audio Why do you say that?
Porque estás triste? Play normal audio 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

  • This was really helpful! Is there any difference in pronunciation between porquê and porque?

    • 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)

  • Hi ! Thank you for your amazing work, I’m using your website every day 🙂
    I wonder if I can find any information about Pronomes Relativos? I was looking for it, but it seems like you haven’t yet written anything about it?
    Do you maybe have plans on writing a UNIT about it?
    muito obrigado:)

    • Hi Sara, Funny you should mention this because we’re working on a Pronomes Relativos unit right now! It’s not quite ready yet, but shouldn’t be too much longer. 🙂

  • Hello! I’m studying portuguese in my university. I like this great article and I would like to ask a question about which tenses do we use when asking a rhetorical question? Thank you in advance!

    • Hi, Gabriela! There’s no specific tense to use for rhetorical questions. Whatever is suitable in context is what you should use 🙂

  • If quanto(s)/quanta(s) has to match the gender, why isn’t “quanto custa” quanta custa? Is custa a masculine noun that ends in ‘a’?

    Obrigada!

    • Good question! “Custa” is a verb – it’s the 3rd person singular present tense conjugation of the verb custar (to cost).

      Quanto – How much
      custa – does it cost?

      There’s no gender agreement involved when quanto is used to modify a verb like that. Gender comes into play only when you are using quanto/quanta to modify a noun (as in Quantas batatas – How many potatoes).

  • A question of bags.
    How many names are there for bag in portuguese and which type of bags do the names represent?
    I have seen Saco. Bolsa. Mala. Mochila. When asked a question I invariably choose the wrong one!

    • Olá, David. Generally speaking:
      – Mochila -> For backpacks (all types: school, gym, travelling…).
      – Mala -> The broadest term, which covers purses/handbags, gym bags, satchels, briefcases, suitcases and the like.
      – Bolsa -> A partial synonym of the two terms above, mainly covering some backpacks (e.g. those smaller ones, with drawstrings instead of wide straps), purses/handbags, gym bags and satchels. The term is common in European Portuguese, but even more so in Brazilian Portuguese, where they prefer it over “mala”, unlike us on this side of the ocean.
      – Saco -> Mainly for shopping bags, sacks, tote bags, trash bags.
      – Pasta -> For folders and briefcases.
      – Carteira -> For wallets or smaller handbags.

      This topic was added to our content ideas, by the way. Plenty to cover 🙂

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