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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

Discussing the Past with the Verb Haver

March 26, 2017

The Portuguese use the verb haver to be, to have to express the past, whether it be minutes, hours, days, months, or years. In these contexts, haver is an impersonal verb, meaning that it doesn’t take a particular subject and is always used in the present tense form of the third-person conjugation:

Normally  means there is or there are. However, when is used before words that express an amount of time, you can think of it more like the word ago (which in English is placed after a time-related phrase).

The phrase construction is pretty straightforward:

Há + Amount of Time Passed

Comprei esta caneta há uma semana. I bought this pen a week ago.

Hours and Telling Time

March 26, 2017

While many countries favour the 12-hour clock system, Portuguese-speaking countries usually use 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

Telling Time Formally vs. Informally


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).

Greetings Throughout the Day

March 26, 2017

In Portuguese, the greetings you use will vary based on the time of day. From sunrise to sunset, the main períodos do dia periods of the day are defined as:

  • 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 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 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

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 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 is a topic that is tricky for English speakers, because although both of these words can mean “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:

New Year’s Eve Traditions in Portugal

December 14, 2016

In Portugal, A noite de Ano Novo New Year’s Eve is full of traditions and superstitions. Just like Christmas, the celebration begins with a family dinner, and even more holiday sweets.

It’s All About o Dinheiro!

Superstition says that you can attract dinheiro money in the new year by eating chocolate.

The Holiday Season in Portugal

December 14, 2016

Celebrating Christmas: Then and Now

Portugal has no official religion, but most of its population is Christian (81% Catholic). However, only about 19% attend mass and take the sacraments regularly. In Portugal, Church and State are formally separate, but the Catholic institution still has a strong influence, especially for the older population.

xmas lisboaLike other parts of the world, holidays like o Natal Christmas have gradually transformed from being purely religious to being more commercialized, cultural holidays, especially for the younger generations. Despite the growing commercialization and consumerism of the holiday, it is still possible to find some old traditions, especially in as aldeias the small towns, villages of Portugal.

In more recent years, the Portuguese have incorporated as árvores do Natal the Christmas trees and Santa Claus imagery in their homes. Parents tell their children that

Explicative Coordinating Conjunctions

December 12, 2016

Explicative coordinating conjunctions (conjunções coordenativas explicativas), link parts of the sentence to indicate a reason or explanation.

The most common are:

como as  (used at the start of sentences)

porque because (used in the middle of sentences)

pois since (used in the middle of sentences)


Conclusive Coordinating Conjunctions

December 12, 2016

Conclusive coordinating conjunctions (conjunções coordenativas conclusivas), as the name implies, express a consequence or conclusion. These are similar to explicative coordinating conjunctions, but they more specifically indicate a cause and effect relationship between parts of the sentence.

The most common simple conjunctions are portanto therefore and então so.


Não quero ir, portanto não vou I don’t want to go, therefore I won’t go

In the right context, pois and logo can also be included in this group (although as standalone words they don’t really have clear English translations).


Disjunctive Coordinating Conjunctions

December 12, 2016

Disjunctive coordinating conjunctions (conjunções coordenativas disjuntivas) express an idea of choice or alternative, i.e. that only one of the parts of the sentence can be true.
The most obvious example is ou or


Eu fico em casa, ou vou à rua I’ll stay at home or I’ll go to the street

Here are some examples of disjunctive conjunction phrases: