When it comes to qualifying something according to length, you might come across these three adjectives:
longo, comprido e curto long, long and short
You can see that longo and comprido both mean long, but they tend to be used in different contexts. Let’s take a better look at each of the three adjectives below.
Due to the similarity to the English word long, you might be tempted to always use this one, so you have to be careful. We mainly use longo when qualifying distances or periods of time.
Não faço planos a longo-prazo I don't make long-term plans
Foi uma longa reuniãoIt was a lengthy meeting
A distância é longa até Madrid It's a long distance to Madrid
An exception would be, for example, when talking about sentences/texts: Eu escrevo textos longos I write long texts
Comprido is used more often when referring to body parts, clothing and other relatively small things such as beds, couches, wires, among others.
Eles têm cabelo compridoThey have long hair
Os meus braços são compridos My arms are long
As mangas estão demasiado compridasThe sleeves are too long
Usei o lápis mais comprido I used the longer pencil
Quero um tapete comprido para a sala I want a long carpet for the living room
Be aware of the similarity with the word cumprido: they’re homophones, which means that despite sounding almost the same, they’re actually very different words as cumprido means accomplished/achieved.
Despite the aforementioned differences between comprido and longo, they do have some overlap in meaning and use. Longo, in particular, may be heard in contexts where comprido is expected to fit better (such as describing body parts). However, the other way around (comprido taking over from longo) doesn’t usually work as well and can be more jarring to a native speaker.
As mentioned before, curto is the opposite of the two adjectives above. You can use it whether you’re talking about distances, time, or objects. Let’s stay in the context of the examples used earlier to make things clearer.
Tivemos um curto debate We had a short debate
A distância é curta The distance is short
Eles têm o cabelo curtoThey have their hair short