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 PortugalYou 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 portuguesaShe 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?
- Ela é portuguesa, não é?She is Portuguese, isn’t she?
- YES: ÉShe is or Sim, éYes, she is
- NO: Não éShe's not or Não, não éNo, she's not
- Vocês cozinham?Do youpl. cook?
- YES: CozinhamosWe cook or Sim, cozinhamosYes, we cook or Cozinhamos simYes, we cook
- NO: Não cozinhamosWe don't cook or Não, não cozinhamosNo, we don't cook
- Tu gostas de vinho tinto?Do you like red wine?
- YES: GostoI likeit or Sim, gostoYes, I likeit or Gosto simYes I likeit
- NO: Não gostoI don't likeit or Não, não gostoNo, 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 interrogativosinterrogative pronouns and advérbios interrogativosinterrogative 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:
Quanto? How much?
Interrogative adverbs, on the other hand, refer to the reason, time, place, or manner. These are the most common:
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 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 és?Who are you?
Quem disse isso?Who said that?
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)
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?
If you just want to ask why?, without using any other words, you spell it with an accent, like this:
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?
Let’s practice these in the next lesson!