Introduction to European Portuguese

Countries that Speak Portuguese

Did you know that Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world?
You already know that Portuguese is spoken in Portugal, but there are also many other countries that speak the language.


Here’s a list, (descending in population): Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Macau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe. More at

Portuguese Roots

Have you noticed that you can already recognize some Portuguese words? That’s because, just like English, Portuguese has strong Latin roots.
estação station
delicioso delicious
positivo positive
Portuguese is considered a “Romance” or “Vulgar Latin” language (just like Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian). If you have studied any of these other languages, you will see even more similarities not only in vocabulary but also grammar structure.
Aside from Latin, Portuguese has also been influenced by other languages like Arabic, French, Italian, indigenous South American, as well as African languages.

Portuguese is usually divided into 2 main dialects:

  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • European Portuguese (which also includes the African and Asian colonies’ dialects, because they are much more similar to European than Brazilian Portuguese)

#GoogleProblems: The Struggle Is Real!

As you may have figured out by now (in your desperate Google searches for non-Brazilian Portuguese resources!), “European Portuguese” is also referred to as:

  • Continental Portuguese
  • Lusitanian Portuguese
  • Portuguese of Portugal
  • …or sometimes even referred to informally as Portuguese Portuguese!

With only 11 million European Portuguese speakers vs. 200 million Brazilian Portuguese speakers, there’s no wonder why it’s so hard to find quality resources!

European Portuguese vs. Brazilian:

Although Brazilian and European Portuguese are technically the same language, the differences are so great that even Brazilian Portuguese natives can have a hard time understanding European Portuguese when spoken quickly. Here are just a few of these differences:

  • Pronunciation: The European accent is much more closed, especially in the varying degrees of open and closed vowels.
  • Informal vs. formal: In most of Brazil, the word for “you” is “você”. In Portugal, we use “tu” in informal situations, and different forms of “você” in formal situations. There are many ways to speak to someone formally, which can be confusing even for long-term residents of Portugal! For example, it’s common to address someone to their face using the third person. To ask Rui the question “Do you want coffee?” in a more formal way, you would say: O Rui quer café? Does the Rui want coffee?
  • Vocabulary: There are many common words that are completely different. For example, the word for “dog” in Brazil is: “o cachorro” and in Portugal: “o cão”.





  • Hi! I recently did a motorcyce tour around Portugal with MotoXplorers out of Lisbon. WONDERFUL! Now I would like to learn the language so I can work with their team to expand tour possibilities to US and other English speaking riders. I know a little French, and yet this language seems more like German to me. I look forward to continuing my studies. And I am happy to have a true European Portuguese teacher to help me learn! Obrigada! Jean

  • A suggestion for web site navigation: Have a “continue to next lesson” button next to the “Mark as Complete” button. I am on an iPad, and it is not very easy to get to the next lesson from here. Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Jean, this is absolutely important for us to add. There is supposed to be a dynamic back button has stopped appearing, but we will get this “Continue” button showing to make it even clearer. Thanks and keep the feedback coming! Abraço

  • Gosto muito de escutar os teus audios de you tube no meu telemóvel. Agora fiz inscripçao a Premium porque sao muito divertidos e é muito agradável e fácil de conhecer um idioma assim. Eu acredito isto assim. Peço imensas desculpas pelo meu portuñol. Espero aprender muito mas y falar melhor. Muito obrigada por compartir conmigo y tantas pessoas.
    Sou Laura desde Argentina

  • In the section on pronunciation, comparing European Portuguese and Brazilian, where it says, “The accent is much more closed…” I presume you mean the EUROPEAN accent is much more closed. As a rank beginning, I’d feel more secure about progressing if you clarified this. Obrigada.

    • It’s definitely the European accent being talked about on that sentence 🙂 I just made it clearer on the article. Thanks!

  • Hey there! I am fluent in Spanish and now want to learn Portuguese and will be traveling to Portugal in October. Are there similarities between the conjugation of Spanish and Portuguese?

    • Hey! Yes, at least on a basic level, there are lots of similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, but watch out for all the false friends (words that look similar, but have completely different meanings) 🙂 Still, Spanish is a good stepping stone for Portuguese, and vice-versa.

  • Not a bad start, I learned Portuguese for a while until my English wife Cathy Dobson said we are moving to France. Then she changed her mind and now it is Portugal going there from Germany at the end of October 2019.

  • I’m planning to retire in Portugal next year. I don’t want to do that without being able to speak the language. I have been to Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve coast, and several other places and I’m amazed at how wonderful the people are. I look forward to learning “real” Portuguese, not the Brazilian Portuguese that so many other sources offer.

  • I have been using the Duolingo and didn’t realise until recently that it was Brazilian . Oh man 🙁 Looking forward to this learning material. We have just bought a house in Portugal and would love to communicate better with the locals. Wish me luck!!

    • Haha, good luck to you! And by the way, welcome to Portugal. Don’t worry, I’m sure that most of what you learned from Duolingo will still be useful to you. The two Portuguese variants, on a base level, are very similar.

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