european portuguese vs. brazilian portuguese

European vs Brazilian Portuguese

What’s the difference between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese? For starters, European Portuguese is the variant spoken in Portugal and is more similar to the dialects spoken in Africa and Asia. (It is sometimes called Continental Portuguese, or even Portuguese Portuguese! 😄  ) Given the size and population of Brazil, however, the Brazilian Portuguese set of dialects are the most famous across the world, including online and in the entertainment industry.
Some compare the distinction between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese to that between American and British English, or between Latin American and European/Castilian Spanish. Practice Portuguese only teaches European Portuguese, so if you are arriving here with a background in Brazilian Portuguese, it can be helpful to understand the differences.
For native Portuguese speakers, the various dialects are mutually intelligible. As a non-native, hearing multiple versions can sometimes add extra confusion and complexity to the learning process, particularly when it comes to the pronunciation differences. If you’re planning to spend time in Portugal, or you just want to learn more about the Portuguese language as a whole, it’s important to understand the many unique characteristics of European Portuguese. We’ll take a look at some of the primary differences in spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
Bear in mind that EP and BP each include their own variety of dialects as well, so there will be some generalizations for simplicity’s sake. For that same reason, we tend to lean toward the “Lisbon accent” and dialect in Learning Notes and Units.
In the examples below, we labeled the Brazilian pronunciations with BP (Brazilian Portuguese). Any examples without this indication are in EP (European Portuguese).

Spelling

With the Acordo Ortográfico de 1990 (Orthographic Agreement of 1990), also known as the Novo Acordo Ortográfico Play normal audio New Orthographic Agreement, which went into effect in 2008, the written forms of both dialects became practically the same. Many people and publications in Portugal refuse to write under this new agreement, so it’s very likely that you’ll still come across the “old” versions of some words.
One major change was the removal of mute consonants in European Portuguese, mostly p‘s and c‘s, making it more similar to the Brazilian version. For example, ótimo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio great used to be written as “óptimo” and ação Play normal audio action used to be “acção”. Words such as facto Play normal audio fact and contacto Play normal audio contact retained the c in European Portuguese because c is not a mute consonant in such cases.

Grammar

The Pronouns Tu/Teu vs Você/Seu


A major difference between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese involves the use of second-person pronouns. In European Portuguese, we use the personal pronoun tu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you in informal contexts and with people close to us. We use the “treatment pronounvocê paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you when speaking to our elderly relatives or people we’re not close with. (These are often referred to as “you, informal” and “you, formal” for simplicity.)
In Brazilian Portuguese, however, você has replaced tu for the most part, and has become an informal way of talking to someone in the second person. Alternatively, and because some people are offended by você, both dialects sometimes make use of o senhor/a senhora to refer to “you”. When using você in either dialect, you conjugate the corresponding verb in the 3rd person.
Tu fizeste o almoço Play normal audio You made lunch
Você fez o almoço BP Play normal audio You made lunch
Similarly, the possessive pronoun/determiner teu, used in Portugal, is replaced with seu in BP:
O teu pai ligou? Play normal audio Did your father call?
(O) * Seu pai ligou? BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Did your father call?
* In BP, the definite articles o/os/a/as that should come before the pronoun are usually not spoken.

Demonstrative Pronouns

In European Portuguese, we use the demonstrative pronouns este, esta, and isto to refer to objects close to us (“this“), and esse, essa, and isso to refer to objects that are a bit further away (“that“). In BP, este and isto are rarely used. Instead, you hear the expressions “esse aqui” or “isso aqui” to refer to objects that are close by, as if saying “that here”. Similarly, for objects not in reach of the speaker, BP combines paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio there with esse and isso, becoming “esse aí” or “isso aí”, as if saying “that there”.
O que é isto? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What is this?
O que é isso aqui? BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What is this?

Gerund


One of the more obvious differences between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese is the use of the gerúndio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio gerund. Brazilian Portuguese makes extensive use of this kind of non-finite verb, while European Portuguese prefers to use the “a + infinitive” structure instead. You can read more in this Learning Note on the Present Continuous.
Ele está a dançar Play normal audio He is dancing
Ele está dançando BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He is dancing
Eu continuo a achar que é mentira Play normal audio I still think it's a lie
Eu continuo achando que é mentira BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I still think it's a lie

Clitic Object Pronouns Before the Verb

In the Clitic Object Pronouns unit, we mention that these types of pronouns can appear in three different positions: before, in the middle, or after the verb. In Brazilian Portuguese, the proclitic (before) position is the standard way, while the enclitic (after) position is the standard in European Portuguese.
Amo-te paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I love you
Te amo BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I love you
Ele disse-me Play normal audio He told me
Ele me disse BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He told me
Eu dou-te os parabéns Play normal audio I congratulate you
Eu te dou os parabéns BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I congratulate you
The pronouns o, os, a, and as are still present in BP, but they are usually replaced with the pronouns ele, eles, ela, and elas. For example:
Eu vi-o ontem Play normal audio I saw him yesterday
Eu vi ele ontem BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I saw him yesterday
When it comes to indirect object pronouns, lhe is rarely found in Brazilian Portuguese. Instead, speakers use the structure “para + personal pronoun”. For example:
Eu contei-lhe o que aconteceu Play normal audio I told him what happened
Eu contei para ele o que aconteceu BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I told him what happened

The Verb Ter as Haver

In certain situations, Brazilian Portuguese makes use of the verb ter in place of the verb haver.
muito pó neste quarto Play normal audio There's a lot of dust in this room
Tem muito pó neste quarto BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio There's a lot of dust in this room
muitos estrangeiros em Portugal Play normal audio There are a lot of foreigners in Portugal
Tem muito estrangeiro* em Portugal BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio There are a lot of foreigners in Portugal
* The use of singular instead of plural forms is also very common.

Using the Preposition em Instead of a

In this Learning Note, you learn how the preposition em paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in, at combines with the definite articles o paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the(masc.) and a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio the(fem.) to form the contractions no paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in the and na paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio in the. Brazilian Portuguese makes use of these contractions in a way that EP doesn’t. For example:
Vou a casa dos meus pais Play normal audio I'm going to my parents' house
Vou na casa de meus pais BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm going to my parents' house
Fui ao cinema Play normal audio I went to the movie theatre
Fui no cinema BP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I went to the movie theatre

Vocabulary


There are many differences between the lexicons of European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese, particularly with neologisms. Over the years, BP has incorporated and adapted English words into its own vocabulary. You’ll notice some of them in the list below. Words such as time (BP), trem (BP), and esporte (BP), while spelled differently, sound almost the same as their English equivalents and have no relation to the European Portuguese words.

  • Grass: relva Play normal audio grass gramaBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio grass
  • (Hitch a) ride: boleia Play normal audio ride caronaBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio ride
  • Santa Claus: Pai Natal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Santa Claus Papai NoelBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Santa Claus
  • Juice: sumo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio juice sucoBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio juice
  • Sport: desporto Play normal audio sport esporteBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio sport
  • Cancer: cancro Play normal audio cancer câncerBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cancer
  • Bus: autocarro Play normal audio bus ônibusBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio bus
  • Cell phone: o telemóvel paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cell phone celularBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio cell phone
  • Train: comboio Play normal audio train tremBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio train
  • Team: equipa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio team timeBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio team

Pronunciation

european portuguese vs. brazilian portuguese
Finally we’ve made it to perhaps the most noticeable difference between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese: the way they sound. We’ll highlight a few of the characteristic differences in the phonetics of each dialect. (You can also read a little more about what distinguishes European Portuguese in this Learning Note about vowel pronunciation.)

  • In European Portuguese, reduced vowels are barely noticeableit’s as if we swallow them! In Brazilian Portuguese, the vowels sound much more open, making it seem like every syllable is stressed compared to the European variant.
    • cadeira Play normal audio chair cadeiraBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio chair
    • governo Play normal audio government governoBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio government
    • parede Play normal audio wall paredeBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio wall
  • In BP, the l at the end of a word is often vocalized like a u.
    • papel Play normal audio paper papelBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio paper
    • pincel Play normal audio paintbrush pincelBP paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio paintbrush
    • Daniel Play normal audio Daniel DanielBP Play normal audio
  • In BP, the r at the end of a word is usually suppressed.
    • apanhar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio catch apanharBP Play normal audio catch
    • gastar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio spend gastarBP Play normal audio spend
    • fazer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio do, make fazerBP Play normal audio do, make
  • In European Portuguese, you will hear the phonemes that correspond to the letters d and t pronounced like: de paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio di Play normal audio and te Play normal audio ti paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio . In BP, however, they are pronounced like djiBP Play normal audio and tjiBP Play normal audio .
    • diário Play normal audio diary diárioBP Play normal audio diary
    • dente Play normal audio tooth denteBP Play normal audio tooth
    • apetite Play normal audio appetite apetiteBP Play normal audio appetite
  • There are a variety of pronunciations for the letter s in European Portuguese, including the “sh” pronunciation when s appears at the end of a word or in the middle before a consonant. In BP, however, the s is pronounced like a z in these contexts.
    • atrás paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio behind atrásBP Play normal audio behind
    • paz paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio peace pazBP Play normal audio peace
    • desde paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio from, since desdeBP Play normal audio from, since

Accents

Regarding stressed syllables, there’s one major difference when it comes to some “palavras esdrúxulas” – words in which the stressed syllable is the antepenultimate (third from the last) one. In both EP and BP, an accent is present, but the particular accent can vary. Let’s start with a few words that have the same spelling in EP and BP:

  • máquina Play normal audio machine
  • música paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio music
  • ângulo Play normal audio angle
  • ênfase Play normal audio emphasis

The difference appears in certain words that use the acute accent (´) in European Portuguese, but the circumflex accent (ˆ) in Brazilian Portuguese. Consequently, the pronunciation of the word is different too, as the stressed syllables are open in EP and nasalized in BP. For example:

  • tónica Play normal audio tonic tônicaBP Play normal audio tonic
  • académico Play normal audio academic acadêmicoBP Play normal audio academic
  • demónio Play normal audio demon demônioBP Play normal audio demon
  • António Play normal audio AntônioBP Play normal audio

Compare European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese in Conversation

The rest of our content sticks to EP, but we released these 4 special episodes featuring both European and Brazilian Portuguese speakers. Can you hear the differences? Enjoy!

Podcasts:

Supermix Interview (with Tatiana, Rui & Joel)

Um Café em Lisboa

Videos:

Pizza na Hora, Márcio o Brasileiro (Animated!!)

Animated: Pizza Na Hora Está a Contratar!

Comments

  • To tell you the truth, my level is not even A1 . Having learnt spanish at a considerably good level I am now interested in finding a way to begin learning portuguese ( the european one) basically on my own, using various platforms and technology tools. Any suggestions?

    • Olá, Anastasia. Since you already know Spanish, you’ll find a number of parallels between the two languages (but also many deceptive differences!) that might make life a bit easier for you with Portuguese. Practice Portuguese has a number of resources to help you make progress independently, but it’s useful to have some kind of roadmap. This blog post can help you with that: The Easiest Way to Start Learning European Portuguese

      Feel free to get back in touch with us via our support channel if you need further help! We’ll be here 🙂

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