Bastante, Quase, and Realmente

In this learning note, we’ll explore 3 tricky Portuguese words that can take on very different meanings depending on their placement in a sentence or the type of word they modify:

  • bastante paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio enough, very, many
  • quase paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio almost
  • realmente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio really

We’ve mentioned 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, in other contexts, very. Bastante modifies the verb of the sentence, and it is always invariable.
Examples:
Elas comem bastante. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They eat plenty.
Isso é bastante interessante! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio That’s very interesting!
As an adverb, bastante is used to express the degree (“plenty”) to which the action (“to eat”) is carried out. But you can also come across bastante as three other parts of speech: as an adjective, a quantifier, or a pronoun.

Bastante as an Adjective

As an adjective, bastante is similar to sufficient or satisfactory. In this context, bastante comes after the noun it is modifying and has to agree with it in number (but not gender, as bastante is a unisex adjective). The plural of bastante, which is a fairly uncommon adjective, is bastantes.
Examples:
Ele é bastante. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He is sufficient.
Existem provas bastantes. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 agrees in number with the object it replaces.
Examples:
Quanto pêlo de gato há no chão? Bastante (pêlo de gato) . paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio How much cat hair is there on the floor? A lot (of cat hair) .
Muitos museus cobram entrada. Bastantes (museus) ! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Many museums charge entry fees. Many!

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.
Example:
Não estudei o bastante para ter boa nota. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 learned means almost.

Quase as an Adverb of Degree

Example:
A Maria quase leu o livro. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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

Advérbios de modo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Adverbs of manner, 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 to describe the manner in which the action is carried out.
Example:
A Maria leu quase o livro inteiro. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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

Advérbios de tempo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Adverbs of times are adverbs that tell us when something is happening. In that regard, quase can sometimes be used to indicate a moment in time.
Example:
Estou quase a chegar a casa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I’m almost (arriving) home.
In this case, quase expresses how close in time I am to arriving home, i.e. imminently. Another way to translate this would be “about to”, as in “I’m about to arrive home.
As you can see, while bastante and quase can be a little confusing, they are easier to interpret if you look at where 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.
Examples:

Realmente as an adverb of affirmation

Realmente, isso é caro. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Indeed, that's expensive.

Realmente as an adverb of manner

Isso é realmente caro. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Thats really expensive.

Comments

  • Hello, i don’t really understand the difference between bastante as an indefinite pronoun and as an adjective. In French the equivalent of bastante “assez” can also mean enough or many like in portuguese. Could’nt we say “existem bastantes provas”? Furthermore, regarding bastante as a noun, could we say “Não estudei bastante para ter boa nota” without the “a”. The grammar here feels very tricky. Portuguese grammar feels very “fluid”. Thank you for any comment on this subject.

    • Hi, Marie. You’re right to be a bit confused, because the examples in the “Indefinite Pronoun” don’t truly show it as a pronoun (replacing a noun), since the noun still appears right after. We’ve just revised that bit 🙂

      Apart from that, “assez” is a great word to compare with “bastante”. They are used similarly and you can definitely say “Existem bastantes provas”. However, using “bastante” as a noun without the definite article doesn’t work, because then it falls into another of its meanings. When I read “Não estudei bastante para ter boa nota”, what I understand is “I didn’t study a lot to get a good grade”. The “o” is very important there to make it mean what we really want: “I didn’t study enough” (Eu não estudei o bastante).

  • Thank you very much for this answer. So actually “bastante” is really tricky, since if you were to omit the “a” before bastante, you would actually suggest you got a good grade though you didn’t really study, which is the exact contrary of “o bastante”, since then you wouldn’t have got a good grade because you didn’t study enough. Very, very tricky! I don’t know if i’ll ever be able to use it. Could we say “não estudei sufficientemente para ter boa nota”, easier i think. Thanks a lot

    • You’re welcome. Yes, you can use suficientemente. Easier because it’s just one word – but, hm, it’s a long word! We’re more likely to say “não estudei o suficiente” (that pesky “o” again) 🙂

What Did You Think? Leave Us a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The subject is used only for admin purposes and won't be displayed in your comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.