Bastante, quase, and realmente: 3 tricky Portuguese words that can mean very different things depending on their placement in a sentence or the type of word they are modifying. We’ve talked about some of these words before, but let’s take a closer look to get more comfortable with their different uses.
The Many Lives of Bastante – Adverb, Adjective, Pronoun, Noun?
Bastante as an Adverb
In the beginning of this unit, we saw how bastante works as an adverb of degree, and how it can mean both “sufficient” or, sometimes, “very”. Bastante modifies the verb of the sentence, and it is always invariable.
Elas comem bastante. They eat sufficiently.
Isso é bastante interessante! That’s very interesting!
Bastante is used to express the degree (“a lot”) to which the action (“to eat”) is carried out. But you can also come across bastante in three other ways: as an adjective, as a quantifier, and as a pronoun.
Bastante as an Adjective
As an adjective, bastante is similar to “sufficient” or “satisfactory”. In this case, bastante comes after the noun it is modifying and has to agree with in in number (but not gender; bastante is a two-gendered adjective). The plural of bastante, which is a fairly uncommon adjective, is bastantes.
Ele é bastante. He is sufficient.
Existem provas bastantes. There are enough proofs.
Bastante as an Indefinite Pronoun
Bastante can also stand in as an indefinite pronoun to signify a large but undefined amount of a certain something. In this case, it is placed before the object it’s referring to, and it agrees in number with it.
Há bastante pêlo de gato no chão. There’s a lot of cat hair on the floor.
Bastantes museus cobram entrada. Many museums charge entry fees.
Bastante as a Noun
Finally, bastante can also be a noun, meaning “something that is enough”. It’s an odd one, we know. As a noun, bastante is masculine, and it is always invariable and always preceded by the determiner “o”, so it’s very easy to spot.
Não estudei o bastante para ter boa nota. I haven’t studied enough to get a good grade.
Quase – Adverb of Degree, of Manner, or of Time?
The second of our troublesome adverbs of manner is quase, which as we’ve seen means “almost”.
Quase as an Adverb of Degree
A Maria quase leu o livro.Maria almost read the book.
Here, quase (placed before the verb) tells us that the degree to which the action (“to read”) was carried out was almost non-existent. Maria was about to read the book, but then she didn’t.
Quase as an Adverb of Manner
Adverbs of manner (advérbios de modo), which we’ll look at in further lessons, are adverbs which express how exactly a certain action is carried out. Not the degree – much, or little – but the manner – fully, passionately, worriedly, and so on. When placed immediately after the verb, quase can be interpreted as meaning “not fully” or “not completely”, which does classify the manner, and not the degree, in which the action is being carried out.
A Maria leu quase o livro inteiro. Maria read almost the entire book.
In this example, Maria did read her book, but quase tells us that the way she did so was incomplete. She got close, but she didn’t quite finish it.
Quase as an Adverb of Time
Adverbs of time (advérbios de tempo) are adverbs that tell us when something is happening. In that regard, quase can sometimes be used to indicate a moment in time.
Estou quase a chegar a casa. I’m almost home.
In this case, quase expresses how close in time I am to arriving home, i.e. imminently.
As you can see, while bastante and quase can be a little confusing, they are easier to interpret if you look at how they’re placed and think of what exactly they’re modifying.
Realmente is realmente tricky, too!
Back in the previous unit, we saw how realmente could function as an adverb of affirmation, being translated to English as “indeed”. However, depending on its position in the sentence, it can also be translated as “really”. Notice how the meaning changes below when it modifies the adjective “caro” as an adverb of manner.
Adverb of affirmation: Realmente, isso é caro. Indeed that's expensive.
Adverb of manner: Isso é realmente caro. Thats really expensive.