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How to Address People Formally vs. Informally

May 31, 2017

Tu vs. Você in European Portuguese

This guide will cover the grammar and usage of addressing people formally vs. informally in Portugal, with a special focus on the difference between using the pronouns tu and você in European Portuguese. Grammatically, it doesn’t take too long to learn the basics. The most challenging aspects for estrangeiros foreigners, however, tend to be those that have to be made on a social level. For example, you must determine not only when it’s best to speak to someone formally, but also choose between the subtle variations of how formal language is used.

Even the natives (like Rui! 🇵🇹) have a hard time dissecting some of these unspoken social rules, but our aim is to make this the definitive resource of how to speak formally vs. informally in European Portuguese, and all the grey areas in between.

The Easy Stuff

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we’ll start with the easy pronouns first: those which don’t have formal or informal variations.

First person

There is no distinction between formal and informal for the first person pronouns.

When talking about yourself, you’ll use Eu I. Piece of cake!

When talking about yourself along with others, you’ll use:

Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

March 26, 2017

Here’s how we refer to the present day, the day before, and the next day:

hoje today
ontem yesterday
amanhã tomorrow

Now let’s put them into context:

Hoje é sexta(-feira). Today is Friday.
O jogo foi ontem às quatro da tarde (16h00). The game was yesterday at 4 in the afternoon.
O inverno começa amanhã. Winter starts tomorrow.

By combining the terms antes before and depois after with ontem and amanhã, you can also form expressions to refer to

Relationships of Time

March 26, 2017

Let’s explore some examples of the most common words used to talk about the order and relationships among different events in time.

Current Time

Agora Now is the term we use to refer to the present.

O filme vai começar agora. The movie will start now.

Agora está muito frio. Now it’s very cold.

Previous and Future Time

We use antes before to refer to the past and depois after to refer to the future.

Seasons of the Year

March 26, 2017

The seasons of the year are called as estações do ano the seasons of the year in Portuguese.

Their names have Latin origins, which by now you may have noticed is very common in Portuguese. (Don’t you wish you had paid more attention to Latin in school? 😜 ) Just like English, the seasons of the year are not capitalized in Portuguese.

primavera spring
verão summer
outono autumn
inverno winter

Portuguese Holidays

March 26, 2017

The Portuguese calendar has several holidays and holiday periods throughout the year. Holiday can have two meanings in Portuguese:

  • feriado holiday – A public holiday, or day to celebrate something of specific cultural or religious importance at a local or national level.
  • férias holiday, holidays, vacation – A planned period of time off work or school. Férias are often scheduled around important feriados.

Some of the Main Holidays in Portugal

Date / Time of Year Holiday
1 de janeiro January 1st Ano Novo New Year’s
fevereiro February Carnaval Carnival, Mardi Gras
Friday before Easter Sexta-feira Santa Good Friday
março March or abril April Páscoa Easter
25 de abril April 25th Dia da Liberdade National Freedom Day
1 de maio May 1st Dia do Trabalhador Labor Day
60 days after Easter Corpo de Deus Corpus Christi
10 de junho June 10th Dia de Portugal Portugal Day
5 de outubro October 5th Implantação da República Republic Day
1 de novembro November 1st Dia de Todos-os-Santos All Saints’ Day
1 de dezembro December 1st Restauração da Independência Restoration of Independence
25 de dezembro December 25th Natal Christmas

Date Format

In Portuguese, the structure of dates is dia de mês de ano (day of month of year), and the numbers are typically cardinal, not ordinal. That means that you say um de janeiro January one instead of primeiro de janeiro January first. You may have also noticed that the names of the months and days of the week are not capitalized in Portuguese, as they are in English.

In written form, dates appear

Months of the Year

March 26, 2017

As you saw in previous lessons, the days of the week are very different from other languages. But as luck would have it, the names of os meses do ano the months of the year in Portuguese are quite similar to other languages, since we all use the same Gregorian calendar. All the names share common roots in Roman culture.

janeiro January
fevereiro February

Hours and Telling Time

March 26, 2017

Let’s learn how to tell time in Portuguese! While many countries favour the 12-hour clock system, Portugal usually uses the 24-hour clock, especially in more formal contexts.

English Time Portuguese Time Portuguese Time in Words
12:00 a.m.


0h00 zero horas

meia-noite midnight

1:00 a.m. 1h00 uma hora
2:00 a.m. 2h00 duas horas
3:00 a.m. 3h00 três horas
4:00 a.m. 4h00 quatro horas
5:00 a.m. 5h00 cinco horas
6:00 a.m. 6h00 seis horas
7:00 a.m. 7h00 sete horas
8:00 a.m. 8h00 oito horas
9:00 a.m. 9h00 nove horas
10:00 a.m. 10h00 dez horas
11:00 a.m. 11h00 onze horas
12:00 p.m.


12h00 doze horas

meio-dia noon

1:00 p.m. 13h00 treze horas
2:00 p.m. 14h00 catorze horas
3:00 p.m. 15h00 quinze horas
4:00 p.m. 16h00 dezasseis horas
5:00 p.m. 17h00 dezassete horas
6:00 p.m. 18h00 dezoito horas
7:00 p.m. 19h00 dezanove horas
8:00 p.m. 20h00 vinte horas
9:00 p.m. 21h00 vinte e uma horas
10:00 p.m. 22h00 vinte e duas horas
11:00 p.m. 23h00 vinte e três horas

How to Tell Time in Portuguese: The Basics


In formal situations, you should apply the 24-hour clock system, and use the exact minutes shown on the clock, rather than more informal expressions of subdivisions of time (as you will learn about further below).

European Portuguese Greetings

March 26, 2017

Let’s start with the basics! One of the simplest Portuguese greetings is Olá! Hi! and one of the simplest ways to say goodbye is Tchau! Bye! or the slightly more formal Adeus! Goodbye!. However, it’s also very common to say hello or goodbye with a more specific greeting based on what time of day it is. So before we cover greetings and kissing etiquette in Portugal, let’s first learn how we talk about different períodos do dia periods of the day, from sunrise to sunset:

Times of Day

  • a madrugada very early in the morning – from midnight to 6am/dawn
  • a manhã the morning – from about 6am until noon
  • a tarde the afternoon – from noon until about 6pm (or around o pôr-do-sol sunset when it gets dark)
  • a noite the night – from about 6pm to midnight


Although technically the transition from a manhã to a tarde is always at 12:00 noon, the

Days of the Week

March 26, 2017

In Portuguese, the naming of os dias da semana the days of the week does not take inspiration from the planets and gods, as is the case for many other languages. Instead, they are simply numbered.

The origin of the names of the days of the week in Portuguese

The numbering of each weekday in Portuguese might have to do with ancient Easter celebrations, in which people were granted seven days of rest, starting from Sunday. Sunday would then be called, in Latin, feria prima (first free day), while the day after would be feria secunda (second free day) and so on. These Latin roots are evident today in the Portuguese words for the days of the week.

Day in Portuguese Origin
domingo Sunday Latin: dies Dominicus (day of the Lord)
segunda-feira Monday Latin: feria secunda
terça-feira Tuesday Latin: feria tertia
quarta-feira Wednesday Latin: feria quarta
quinta-feira Thursday Latin: feria quinta
sexta-feira Friday Latin: feria sexta
sábado Saturday Latin: sabbatum

Domingo and sábado didn’t remain numbered. Domingo Sunday would never be referred to as primeira-feira! But they still mark the

Combining "A" With Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

As previously mentioned, the preposition a to, at can be combined with the articles o, a, os, and as to become ao, à, aos, and às.

As far as demonstratives are concerned, a can only form contractions with aquele(s), aquela(s), and aquilo.

A + Variable Demonstratives

  • a + aquele = àquele
  • a + aqueles = àqueles
  • a + aquela = àquela
  • a + aquelas = àquelas

The Preposition "A"

February 27, 2017

A is a very important and versatile Portuguese preposition. It can correspond to many different English words, depending on the context. For example:

Vou a Espanha no próximo ano I will go to Spain in the next year

Ela foi para lá a She went there on foot

Isto sabe a morango This tastes like strawberry

A… or A?

It’s easy to mistake the preposition a with the definite article a. They both look the same, but they serve different functions in the sentence. As you hear or read a Portuguese sentence, think about whether “a” would make more sense as:

Combining "Em" with Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

The preposition em in can be combined with variable and invariable demonstratives to form a number of very useful contractions.

Remember that all the same rules for demonstratives remain valid when they appear in the following contractions.

Em + Variable Demonstratives

Relative Position Demonstrative Contraction
Near the speaker:
  • este this
  • esta this
  • estes these
  • estas these
  • neste
  • nesta
  • nestes
  • nestas
Near the listener:
  • esse that
  • essa that
  • esses those
  • essas those
  • nesse
  • nessa
  • nesses
  • nessas
Away from both:
  • aquele that
  • aquela that
  • aqueles those
  • aquelas those
  • naquele
  • naquela
  • naqueles
  • naquelas

These contractions can be used to indicate positions, movement or time, to identify something more clearly, and

Combining "De" with Demonstratives

February 27, 2017

You learned in The Preposition “De” (from the first Prepositions unit) that de has several different meanings and can be joined together (contracted) with:

  • articles (do, da, dos, das), and
  • pronouns (dele, dela, deles, delas)

De + Variable Demonstratives

Another very common combination is with demonstratives. Let’s look at the contractions formed by combining de from, of with variable demonstratives:

Relative Position Demonstrative Contraction
Near the speaker:
  • este this
  • esta this
  • estes these
  • estas these
  • deste
  • desta
  • destes
  • destas
Near the listener:
  • esse that
  • essa that
  • esses those
  • essas those
  • desse
  • dessa
  • desses
  • dessas
Away from both:
  • aquele that
  • aquela that
  • aqueles those
  • aquelas those
  • daquele
  • daquela
  • daqueles
  • daquelas

As you can see, they are all formed by simply adding a “d” to the beginning of the demonstrative. These contractions can express possession, origin, direction, and more. Here are some examples:

Digging Deeper into Prepositions

February 27, 2017

You have learned that prepositions are usually small, but important, words that usually come before a noun to show how it relates to other elements in the sentence.

An important part of mastering European Portuguese is not only learning the meaning of each of these prepositions, but also the nuances of when each one should be used.

Prepositions can be used to establish a time or a location…

Vou partir antes do amanhecer. I will leave before dawn.
A carta está sob o livro. The letter is under the book.

To describe movement…

Vou viajar de Boston para Lisboa. I will travel from Boston to Lisbon.

To express a purpose…

Estes sapatos são para dançar. These shoes are for dancing.

…and more!

The same preposition can often have a completely different meaning depending on

Invariable Demonstrative Pronouns

February 27, 2017

In the previous lessons of this unit, you learned about variable demonstratives, which change depending on the gender and number of the objects(s) they describe.

Here’s some good news for you: invariable demonstrative pronouns are much easier to learn, because as you can see below, there are only 3 of them. You still have to consider the position of the object(s), but not the number or gender.

Relative Position Invariable Demonstrative Pronoun
Near the speaker: isto this
Near the listener: isso that
Far from both: aquilo that

Even though these pronouns also translate to this and that in English, their meaning and usage is slightly different.

You can think of these invariable pronouns as being more impersonal than their variable counterparts.

How Do You Know When to Use Invariable vs. Variable?

Although we’re usually told to avoid thinking in English, here’s a trick:

Variable Demonstratives: Plural

February 27, 2017

As you’ll recall, variable demonstratives have to agree not only in gender and location, but also in number.

For every variable demonstrative covered in the previous lesson (which were all singular), there is also a plural counterpart.

It might sound scary, but you’re in luck: all you have to do is take the singular form and add an “s“!

Singular Demonstratives

Relative Position Masculine Feminine
Near the speaker: este this esta this
Near the listener: esse that essa that
Far from both: aquele that aquela that

Plural Demonstratives

Relative Position Masculine Feminine
Near the speaker: estes these estas these
Near the listener: esses those essas those
Far from both: aqueles those aquelas those

As you can see, this is to these as este/esta is to estes/estas, and so on. Once you master the singular demonstratives from the last lesson, you can easily come up with its plural, and all the same rules about gender and location apply. Let’s look at a few examples…

Variable Demonstratives: Singular

February 23, 2017

Variable demonstratives are used to indicate all of the following at once:

  • a person or object’s gender
  • the number (one or more)
  • the position in space or time

The “demonstrative” part of this fancy name refers to the last point above, the item’s position. We must choose which demonstrative to use, according to which one of the following fits best:

  • a) The object is near the speaker,
  • b) The object is far from the speaker, but near the listener, OR
  • c) The object is far away from both speaker and listener

As you may have realized, this doesn’t happen in English. You just have to choose between this and thatThat’s it! In English, the position of the object relative to the speaker is the only thing that counts. In Portuguese, we have to choose which “that” to use according to where the object is in relation to the listener.

This lesson will cover singular variable demonstratives, all of which you can see in the table below.

Introduction to Portuguese Demonstratives

February 20, 2017

Demonstrativos Demonstratives help to identify a particular person or object and establish its location in relation to the speaker, the listener, or simply within the general context. They can tell us, for example, whether something is close or distant in space or time. In English, we generally use the words this and these to refer to things that are close to the speaker or things that are happening at the present time, and we use that or those to refer to objects that are further from the speaker or things that happened in the past. In Portuguese, you must also take into account the proximity to the listener and whether something happened in the recent or distant past. The Portuguese demonstratives are este(s), esta(s), esse(s), essa(s), aquele(s), aquela(s), isto, isso, and aquilo. This learning note will serve as just an overview, so don’t overwhelm yourself with memorizing all of these just yet. We’ll focus on one group at a time in the lessons to follow.

Pronouns vs. Determiners

You may recall what we learned in the Possessives unit about the difference between

The Preposition "Em"

January 21, 2017


The preposition em in, on, at, about is usually a bit easier to understand compared to others. Although there are multiple uses, em most commonly refers to being “in” something, either physically or conceptually:

Estamos em Setembro We are in September

Ela está em Lisboa She is in Lisbon

Ela divide o quarto em dois She divides the room in two

Estar em dúvida To be in doubt

Ele está em boa condição física. He is in good physical condition.

Ela está em choque She is in shock

Other Meanings

Em can also have other meanings, such as about, on, and at.

The Prepositions “Por” and “Para”

January 21, 2017

This difference between por and para in Portuguese is a topic that is tricky for English speakers. Although both of these words can translate to “for”, you have to choose the correct one depending on the situation.


Para can mean for, to, in order to, or towards.

To refer to a destination or result, you would always choose para instead of por.

Nós vamos para casa We go home

Eu vou para Portugal I go to Portugal

A salada é para ele, o peixe é para mim The salad is for him, the fish is for me

A criança apontou para cima The child pointed up


The Preposition "De"

January 21, 2017

De  is one of the first Portuguese prepositions you should learn because it’s extremely common and used in a variety of different situations. De can correspond to many different English translations, depending on the context. Let’s explore some of its many uses:


falar de to talk about

Eu falo de ti I talk about you


ir de to go by

Eu vou de carro I go by car

Vou viajar de comboio. I will travel by train.


Prepositions in Portuguese

January 21, 2017

What is a Preposition?

In this Learning Note, we’ll learn about Portuguese prepositions, but first let’s review: what exactly is a preposition? Preposições Prepositions are short words that usually occur before a noun (or pronoun). They show how the noun relates to another element in the sentence in terms of time, location, movement, or other parameters.

For example, the English prepositions in, at, on, and through could be used to create prepositional phrases such as in the morning, at the park, on the table, and through the rain.

To get us started, here are a few examples of Portuguese prepositions that translate somewhat easily into English:

Ir de carro To go by car

Sou de Lisboa I am from Lisbon

Eu espero por ti I wait for you

Eu vou para Portugal I go to Portugal

You may have noticed that the first two examples use the same word in different ways: de by, from

Translating a preposition is often not very straightforward. There are many situations like this, in which a Portuguese preposition corresponds to multiple possibilities in English, or vice-versa.

Sometimes you’ll even come across Portuguese phrases that use a preposition, while the corresponding English translation does not. For example: