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 Play slow audio Play normal audio yes or não 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?
- Ela é portuguesa, não é? Play normal audio She is Portuguese, isn’t she?
- Vocês cozinham? Play normal audio Do you(pl.) cook?
- Tu gostas de vinho tinto? Play normal audio Do you like red wine?
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? 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:
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? Play slow audio Play normal audio What day is today?
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? 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?
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?
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?
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!