Comprido, Longo, and Curto

Comprido vs Longo in Portuguese

When it comes to qualifying something according to length, you might come across these three Portuguese adjectives:
longo, comprido e curto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio long, long, and short
When comparing comprido vs longo, you’ll notice that they both mean long, but they tend to be used in different contexts. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three adjectives below.

Longo

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 paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio long when qualifying distances or periods of time.
Não faço planos a longo-prazo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I don't make long-term plans
Foi uma longa reunião paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio It was a long meeting
A distância é longa até Madrid paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio It's a long distance to Madrid
An exception would be when talking about sentences/texts: Eu escrevo textos longos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I write lengthy texts

Comprido

Comprido paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Long 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 comprido paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They have long hair
Os meus braços são compridos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio My arms are long
As mangas estão demasiado compridas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The sleeves are too long
Usei o lápis mais comprido paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I used the longer pencil
Quero um tapete comprido para a sala paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I want a long carpet for the living room
Be aware of the similarity with the word cumprido paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio accomplished, achieved – they’re homophones, which means that even though they sound almost the same, they actually have very different meanings.
Despite the aforementioned differences between comprido vs longo, they do have some overlap in meaning and use. Longo, in particular, is sometimes heard in contexts in which comprido is expected to fit better (such as describing body parts). However, the other way around (comprido replacing longo) doesn’t usually work as well and can be more jarring to a native speaker.

Curto

As mentioned before, curto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio short is the opposite of the two adjectives above. You can use it whether you’re talking about distances, time, or objects. Let’s see a few examples:
Tivemos um curto debate paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio We had a short debate
A distância é curta paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The distance is short
Eles têm o cabelo curto paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio They have short hair

Comments

    • Hello Richard!
      By body attributes, we actually meant body parts – that was a mistake, so thank you for pointing it out. We’ve also updated the Learning Note to make things clearer and added 2 examples as well.

      This is a bit confusing, as it doesn’t follow any particular rules, so let us know if you need any help with this subject.

  • In my mind, I’m thinking that “longo” is reserved for things that are properly measurable rather than just perceived as relatively “long” — is that right?

    (I’ve only just reached this lesson, so may have got the wrong end of the stick here)

    • And maybe also “long” in an abstract sense??????

      I have just learned that “comprido/a” has nothing to do with “comprar”!

    • Hello Alison!

      I’m going to reply to both your comments here.

      “Comprido” has nothing to do with the verb “comprar”. However, “comprado” – past participle of “comprar” does. One simple letter can make a lot of difference.

      Now, the short answer to your question is: well, no. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
      Both “longo” and “comprido” have the same origin, they’re synonyms and can be often used interchangeably. In some situations, though, we refrain from using one or the other. How do people know which one is better? First, “comprido” is more commonly used with tangible things, «things that are properly measurable» to use your own words. Second, there’s also the way it sounds when you say it. Let me give you 2 examples:

      “Que dia tão comprido!” / “Que dia tão longo!” (“What a long day!”)
      “É uma distância comprida até à Lua.” / “É uma longa distância até à Lua.” (“It’s a long distance to the moon.”)

      All 4 are fine and have the same meaning. However, the ones with “longo” sound a little bit better to our ears, especially the moon one. It’s something that eventually becomes intuitive, the more you hear it.

      Did that clear your confusion? Let me know! 🙂

      I’m also going to correct the article as I’ve noticed the word “relatively” might cause some confusion.

  • Olá!
    Quando dizem que usam “comprido” com coisas relativamente pequenas como “wire”. Qual seria a tradução para português?
    Fio? Cabo?

    • Olá, Maria! “Wire” pode ser traduzido das duas formas; depende. Por exemplo, “cabo de eletricidade” (electrical wire), “fio de pesca” (fishing wire/fishing line), etc.

  • Olá. Uma pregunta um pouco técnica… Nos exemplos da lição, porque é que se usam ‘são’ e ‘éstão’ assim:
    “No inverno, as noites são longas”
    “As calças estão curtas”

    Certamente as noites mudam e a medida das calças não, então porque não se usam assim:
    “No inverno, as noites estão longas”
    “As calças são curtas”

    • Olá, Claudine. A escolha entre o verbo ser e estar nem sempre depende de algo ser permanente ou temporário. Às vezes, segue outras regras – ou nenhuma! Nos dois casos que indicaste, em vez de pensarmos em permanente vs. temporário, podemos pensar em padrão vs. não-padrão. No inverno, é normal (padrão) que as noites sejam longas, e nessa lógica, o verbo ser é uma boa escolha. No caso das calças, queremos dizer que elas estão curtas demais, o que é algo inesperado ou indesejado (não-padrão); o verbo estar reflete isso mais claramente.

  • Ah, bom! Faz sentido e entendo agora. Muito obrigada pela explicação tão abrangente e clara.

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