European Portuguese pronunciation for consonants

Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Consonants

Portuguese and English share a common alphabet, for the most part, and many of the sounds associated with each consonant are quite similar. If you’re a native English speaker, the pronunciations to pay special attention to are those associated with the vowels, which we will cover in a separate learning note, as well as the following consonants / consonant digraphs: c, ç, ch, h, lh, m, n, nh, r, s, x, and z. This guide will serve as an overview of European Portuguese pronunciation for consonants, but you should also explore these links for more detailed explanations of some of the trickier sounds:

European Portuguese Pronunciation: Consonant Sounds

Letter Portuguese Example English Approximation Notes
Bb boca mouth boat
Cc cedo early less Before e or i
casa house can Before a, o, or u
Çç praça square, plaza less
Ch chuva rain shoe
Dd dedo fingernada nothing dead The Portuguese d is often pronounced with the tongue slightly more forward (touching the teeth more, approximating “th”) compared to the English d.
Ff figo fig fig
Gg gelo ice genre Before e or i
gato cat gate Before a, o, or u
Hh hora hour hour Silent
Jj João genre
Kk   Only appears in foreign loan words
Ll lua moon lose
lh bacalhau codfish Similar to the Spanish word “paella” No close approximation
Mm mãe mother mom Beginning or middle of word
foram they werehomem mansim yes Similar to town, thing No close approximation. At the end of a word or syllable, the m and the preceding vowel are replaced by a nasal vowel or diphthong: am → ão, em → ãe, im → Ĩ, om → õ, um → ũ.
Nn nada nothing nod Beginning or middle of word
contacto contacttanto so muchsinto I feel Similar to thing No close approximation. Similar to m, at the end of a word or syllable, the n and the preceding vowel are replaced by a nasal vowel: an → ã, en → ẽ, in → Ĩ, on → õ, un → ũ.
nh linha line Similar to canyon No close approximation
Pp pai father pie
Qq queijo cheese key Q is always followed by a u, just like in English
quarto room queen
Rr rua street No close approximation. Beginning of word. Pronounced like a guttural r, somewhere between and r and a “thick” h. It is voiced with the tongue pulling back toward the uvula. Others pronounce it more rolled. (R varies quite a bit among dialects.)
correr run Double r is pronounced the same as above.
caro expensive ficar Portugal water (American English) Between vowels, end of syllable, or end of word: pronounced as a flap/alveolar r. No close approximations in British English.
Ss inglês Englishisto this English Before an unvoiced consonant (c,ç,ch,f,p,q,s,t) or at the end of a word
casa houseos amigos the friends zoo Between vowels (even if the vowel sound is in the next word)
desligar turn off, disconnect genre Before a voiced consonant (b,d,g,j,l,lh,m,n,nh,r,rr,v,z)
Tt tosse cough tea
Vv vinho wine van
Ww Only appears in foreign loan words
Xx xarope syruptexto text
baixo shorttaxa tax
enxame mexer
shoe Beginning of a word, before a consonant, after a diphthong, between vowels(and first one is not e), after me, after en
exame exam zoo Between e and a vowel (except after me)
xi taxi taxi There are some exceptions to the aforementioned x rules which do not follow a set pattern, such as the “ks” pronunciation in táxi.
Yy   Only appears in foreign loan words. Some English words that start with y are spelled with io in Portuguese, such as ioga yoga and iogurte yogurt
Zz dez ten English Before unvoiced consonant (c,ç,ch,f,p,q,s,t) or at the end of a word
dez euros ten euros zoo End of word followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound
felizmente fortunately genre Before a voiced consonant (b,d,g,j,l,lh,m,n,nh,r,rr,v,z)
zero zeroazul blue zoo Everywhere else

 

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