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Minimal Pairs

December 10, 2019

Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound. For example, conta calculation and conto tale – the only difference is in the final sound (“a” vs. “o”). Practicing with minimal pairs is a great way to perfect your pronunciation and comprehension because it teaches you to hear the subtle differences between similar sounding words. As you’ll see in the examples below, even a tiny change in pronunciation means you could be saying things that are much different from what you intend to say!

While we’re at it, let’s also make a distinction between minimal pairs, homophones, and homographs. Homophones are words with the same exact pronunciation but different meanings, while minimal pairs are words that have the same pronunciation except for only a single sound, also known as fonema (phoneme). That single sound difference is the only thing that lets you know they are two different words – they are minimally different. Homographs are words that are written the same exact way but pronounced differently. Some minimal pairs can also be homographs but that’s not the norm.

Let’s dive into some minimal pairs!:

Open vs Closed Vowels

Sounds: Á vs a

  • giveda of;
  • às toas the;
  • para – para stop – to;
  • falámos we spokefalamos we speak;


October 16, 2019

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 interjeição 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.

Basta! Enough!

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 interjeições, but below you will find the most common grouped by meaning/context.

Pretérito Imperfeito do Indicativo

September 2, 2019

The Pretérito Imperfeito do Indicativo – for simplicity, we’ll refer to it as Imperfeito in this article – is the Portuguese equivalent to the Past Continuous Tense in English grammar. It is used to describe something that took place in the past that was ongoing or did not have a clear endpoint. It imparts this idea of continuity that the other pretéritos (past tenses) don’t have, which makes it ideal to describe or narrate past events, as well as to describe past habits. 

Fui picado por mosquitos enquanto dormia.I was bitten by mosquitoes while I was sleeping.

Eu comia sopa todos os dias.I used to eat soup every day.

The first sentence mixes the Pretérito Perfeito (“fui picado”) with the Imperfeito (“dormia”). We’ll compare both tenses further below in this article.

The table below shows how to conjugate regular verbs in the Imperfeito:

| | -AR verbs | -ER verbs / -IR verbs |
| —| —-| —–|
| eu | -ava | -ia |
| tu | -avas | -ias |
| você / ele / ela | -ava | -ia |
| nós | -ávamos | -íamos |
| vocês / eles / elas | -avam | -iam |

And now, here are three examples of irregular verbs in the Imperfeito:

Infinitivo Impessoal vs Pessoal

August 16, 2019

The Infinitivo is one of the three formas nominais (nominal forms) verbs can have. These nominal forms do not express the verb tense, mode, and person by themselves, as they are dependent on the context in which they appear.

The infinitivo expresses the idea of an action and it could be thought of as the base form of the verb.

There are two types of infinitivo: Impessoal (Impersonal) and Pessoal (Personal). We’ll dive into each type below and explain the differences.

Infinitivo Impessoal

The Infinitivo Impessoal (impersonal infinitive) is invariable, meaning it appears without any conjugation as it doesn’t have a subject.

É obrigatório lavar as mãos.Washing hands is mandatory.

The example above is not referring to anyone specific, just to the general idea of “washing”.

However, the infinitive can also appear as the subject of a sentence itself.

Errar é humano. To err is human.

Amar é viver. To love is to live.

Again here, the verbs refer to the general idea of the action, rather than to a specific person doing the action.

Infinitivo Pessoal

The Infinitivo Pessoal (personal infinitive) differs because there is a known subject. It is formed by adding the terminations -es (tu) , -mos (nós), -des (vós) and -em (eles, elas, vocês) to the Infinitivo Impessoal. (Because the 2nd person plural vós is rarely used nowadays, we’ll focus our attention on the other three.)

The following table shows how the Infinitivo Pessoal is conjugated with three different verbs.

Degrees of Adjectives

March 8, 2019

In Portuguese, adjectives can change depending on the gender and number and, similarly to English, they also have different graus (degrees). They are: the grau normal positive degree; the grau comparativo comparative degree; and the grau superlativo superlative degree.

Grau Normal – Positive Degree

This is the basic form of each adjective. We use it to qualify a noun without making any abstract or concrete comparisons.

A Joana é uma rapariga feliz. Joana is a happy girl.

O teste foi fácil. The test was easy.

Grau Comparativo – Comparative Degree

You use the comparativo when you want to compare attributes between two beings/objects or different attributes of the same being/object.


A Joana é mais feliz que o Pedro. Joana is happier than Pedro.

Simple Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

March 8, 2019

You’ve learned what prepositions are, and you’ve been introduced to quite a few of them in the first two Prepositions units.
Similar to English, there are dozens of prepositions in Portuguese grammar. There are simple prepositions (preposições simples) – some of which can be combined with pronouns and articles – and prepositional phrases (locuções prepositivas), which are a bit different from their English counterpart.

Simple preposition (“de”): Eu gosto de jogar futebol I like to play soccer

Prepositional phrase (“perto de”): Eu jogo futebol perto de minha casa. I play soccer near my house.

Let’s look at some of the most common of each type.

Portuguese Prepositions – Com

February 23, 2019

One very common Portuguese preposition is com with.

Like all prepositions, it’s an invariable word placed before a noun (or pronoun) to indicate the noun’s relationship to other words.

Com is used to:

  • Indicate people or things that are currently together:

Vamos viajar com os nossos amigos.