Periods of the Day and Greetings

As the sun rises and sets, different períodos do dia periods of the day are defined as:

a manhã the morning – from about 6am until noon

a tarde the afternoon – from noon until about 6pm.

a noite the night – from about 6pm to midnight

a madrugada very early in the morning – from midnight to 6am

hours-of-the-day

Although the transition from a manhã to a tarde is always clearly 12:00 noon, the rest of the terms are used a lot more loosely in conversation.
It’s also common for madrugada to be replaced by manhã for those early hours before the sun comes up, (just like in English).
São duas da manhã! Deixa-me dormir! It’s two in the morning! Let me sleep!

Greetings by Time of Day

For each period of the day, there are distinct greetings we use when running into people:

In the morning: bom dia good morning

In the afternoon: boa tarde good afternoon

In the evening and night: boa noite good evening or night

Although in English it would be strange to use “good night” as a “hello”, or “good afternoon” as a “goodbye”,  all of these Portuguese greetings can be used as either hello or goodbye. For example, after buying something in a store during the day, you could definitely say to the cashier:
Obrigado e boa tarde! Thank you and have a good afternoon!

Comments:

  • Here in the Azores, everyone tells me that you use Boa tarde from noon to when it is dark, and only boa noite once it is dark. It this just an azorean thing or is there more flexibility in the usage than you suggest above? I was expecting to have an expression for good evening to cover the time after work until it is bed-time.

    • The line between “boa tarde” and “boa noite” is indeed flexible. Maybe it wasn’t clearly stated in this Learning Note, but this line hints to it: “Although the transition from a manhã to a tarde is always clearly 12:00/noon, the rest of the terms are used a lot more loosely in conversation”. So, yes, for many people, “boa noite” is only used once it’s dark, which might be after 5pm during winter or only after 9pm in the summer. For many others, after 6-7pm, regardless of how sunny it still is, “boa noite” becomes the norm. “Boa noite” makes no distinction between “evening” and “night”, though – it’s all lumped together. There’s no expression just for “evening”.

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