In this Learning Note we’re going to show you a few more Portuguese idioms.
És uma cabeça de alho chocho.You’re a knucklehead.
This expression literally means “you’re a head of spoiled garlic”, which means you are not very bright. Although originally meant for people who are easily distracted or forgetful, it has a become an endearing way of calling someone dumb.
O negócio ficou em águas de bacalhau.The deal fell apart.
In the past, Portuguese fishermen sailed all the way to Greenland and Newfoundland looking for cod. While fishing in those “cod waters”, many of them lost their lives, boats, and cargo and that is, supposedly, the origin of this expression. It can mean that after a great deal of work, nothing happened, something was lost, or that an agreement could not be reached.
A pensar morreu um burro. Decide-te!A donkey died thinking. Make a decision!
This is an expression used when someone says they’re thinking, but all they really need to do is to take some action. The word burro can also be used as an insult for someone you think is stupid or not very bright, but that’s not the meaning of the word in this context.
You have been learning to speak and write proper Portuguese, but not every Portuguese person speaks perfectly 100% of the time. Depending on the context, we might prefer using simpler terms to save time, explain something in a different way, joke around, or even fit in with a group. That’s where gíria popular –or just gíriaslang – comes in. Let’s take a look at some of the most common words.
Ya, eu vou ter convoscoYeah, I’ll meet you guys
Ya – also found written as iá – is often, but not exclusively, used by young people. It simply means SimYes, but can also replace, or be replaced by, ClaroOf course, CertoRight, or even Uh-huh.
Eu não sei, pá!I don’t know, man!
Pá is one of the trademarks of the European Portuguese dialect. It can be used at the end of sentences to emphasize what’s being said, as in the example above. It can also be used in place of “uhh…”, the sound you make when you’re thinking.
Expressões IdiomáticasIdiomatic expressions, or idioms, are expressions that you shouldn’t interpret literally. They have a symbolic meaning, which is rarely maintained when they are translated into other languages. These expressions reflect the customs and history of the country and are part of all conversations of the Portuguese, rich or poor, from North to South of Portugal. They often incorporate slang words and can be used to convey irony, exaggeration, or impatience, or even just to save time.
Or, as we say in Portugal:
Poupar o nosso latimSpare our Latin
This expression, Poupar latimSpare Latin, is itself idiomatic, and is based on the fact that Portuguese is a language originating from Latin.
During the 1755 earthquake, two convents collapsed in Lisbon, one with the name Carmo and one with the name Trindade. It was here that the expression Cair o Carmo e a Trindade appeared, which initially implied terror and panic. Although it still retains that meaning, nowadays it is often used in an ironic tone, when you fear the consequences of something unimportant. For example:
Ui, parece que caiu o Carmo e a Trindade!Yikes, it looks like the crap hit the fan
Interjections are words with an emotive function. They are used to express emotions, sensations, and moods. They can be just simple vowel sounds, like Ah! and Oh!, but most are either a free word or a phrase, in which case we call them locuções interjetivas.
The same interjeiçãointerjection can have different meanings depending on the context in which it appears, its purpose, and the speaker’s attitude. Even with simple vowel sounds, sometimes changing the tone and extending the sound will give it another meaning.
Ai! Bati com o joelho na mesa.Ah! I hit the table with my knee.
Ai! Já me estou a passar contigo.Ah! You’re getting on my nerves.
Interjections can be used as a standalone reply / affirmation, or they can be followed by a sentence.
Irra! Vocês não conseguem mesmo estar calados, pois não?Geez! You really can’t keep quiet, can you?
There’s practically an unlimited number of interjeiçõesinterjections, but below you will find the most common grouped by meaning/context.
To prepare for an upcoming birthday party that they’ll be hosting, a modern grandma and her jokester husband stock up on groceries at the local supermarket. While taking advantage of every promotion they can, will they actually remember to pick up everything they went there for in the first place?
One of the most common adverbs of time is jáalready, now, which at its core means in this moment. Like all other adverbs of time, já is always invariable.
Já is one of the most frequently used adverbs, and possibly one of the most confusing for non-native speakers! The meaning varies quite a bit depending on the context. Because of this, you should try to focus more on the general influence the word has on a phrase, rather than thinking of an exact translation. Let’s have a look at some of the different uses of já:
Já as Already
Perhaps considered the primary use of já, and the most straightforward one, is when it means already. Examples:
In Portuguese, please can be por favorplease or se faz favorplease. They’re both equally correct and used in the same situations. Example:
Poderia trazer-me água, por favor?Could you bring me some water, please?
Poderia trazer-me água, se faz favor?Could you bring me some water, please?
We Portuguese tend to shorten words whenever we can. So don’t be confused if instead of se faz favor you hear ´faz favor in fast, informal speech.
The Portuguese expression is:
ObrigadoThank you, Obliged male speaker
ObrigadaThank you, Obliged female speaker
It’s said to be a leftover from a polite expression that went more or less like, “I am obliged (obrigado) to return your favour”. In fact, the English expression “much obliged” has the exact same meaning and would also be an accurate translation of Muito obrigadoThank you very much
Because you are the one who feels obliged to return the favour, your thank you must
Salvador and Mariana (– no, Adriana! –) visit a hair salon to freshen up their looks, but quickly find themselves in a hairy situation! In this episode, you’ll learn lots of new vocabulary and expressions that should come in handy the next time you find yourself going under the scissors…
Today we revisit Diálogo 29 to discuss some of the vocabulary and expressions surrounding the Portuguese housing market. There’s also an extra listening challenge waiting for you in the second half, so stick around!
Talk about a callback… This video is a brand new animated version of our very first podcast episode, from way back in 2013!
By comparing the audio of this episode to our newer ones, you’ll hopefully notice not only a massive evolution in not only our production quality and comfort on the mic, but also in Joel’s Portuguese. He had been learning Portuguese for about a year when this was recorded.
It’s very humbling (especially for Joel) to go this far back into the archives, but Wayne’s fantastic animating talent has made it a lot of fun. Enjoy!
Hoping for a calm, vegetarian dining experience at a local Portuguese restaurant, Sr. John gets thrown off guard by unprofessional service and a problem with his order! Find out how he deals with these challenges, and learn lots of vocabulary and expressions to use the next time you’re dining out.
After our very challenging Diálogo, dedicated to the Algarvian dialect, we decided to record a follow-up discussion with Eliana, (who voiced the Algarvian characters).
She will help us understand a bit better some of the difficult terms and expressions that came up in that episode, and how they’re typically used in the region.
Avó Odete is back! She teaches us lots of new vocabulary while chatting, singing, and washing the dishes, (with Rui’s “help” 🙈). Rui even attempts to get her saying “asneiras” (bad words!) Watch now to see if he succeeds!
This episode is a collaboration featuring Tatiana Ribeiro, a Portuguese teacher (and fan of the project) from Brazil, currently living Italy! She recorded with us and also wrote the dialogue, which takes place in a café in Portugal.
Since we all know jokes are funnier after they’re explained in exhaustive detail, Rui and Joel discuss the key vocabulary and expressions used throughout. But rather than making it easy on you by switching to English, we decided to keep the entire conversation in Portuguese!
But don’t worry – For the first time ever, members using the podcast player on our website can now enable English translations at any point in this episode, to make sure you don’t miss a single “palavra”.