Portuguese Even For Dummies

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Portuguese Made Easy: Even Dummies Can Learn Portuguese

Learning Portuguese is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning Portuguese online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. Brazilian Portuguese is considered one of the most gorgeous and musical languages to speak, although mastering the accent and pronunciation can be tough hurdles. Thankfully, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can get used to the accent; master the nasal vowels and unvoiced r’s. Read the how-to tips below and then test your skills with a free Portuguese lesson.

How Portuguese differs from English

Portuguese is one of five main Romance languages, meaning it has Latin roots (i.e. from Rome). If you already know another Romance language, like French, Italian, or Spanish, you will recognize Portuguese grammar as well as most of the vocabulary. If not, you don’t need to know too many rules to get started. Portuguese grammar is more straightforward than English and is not a major stumbling block for most learners.


Unlike English, which has no gendered nouns (the is the only definite article), every noun in Portuguese is either masculine (preceded by o) or feminine (preceded by a). If you don’t know whether a noun should be o or a just remember that many masculine words end in “o”, while many feminine words end in “a”. Compare o gato (the cat) and o menino (the boy) to a rua (the street and a menina (the girl). Words that end in -ção or -ande are often also feminine (). Both masculine and feminine definite articles have a plural form; o gato becomes os gatos and a rua becomes as ruas. Notice that, like in English, the plural noun simply adds an “s”.

The gender of the speaker also affects the ending of certain words. For example, to say “thank you”, a man would say Obrigado, while a woman would say Obrigada.

Basic phrases in Brazilian Portuguese

  • sim / não – yes / no
  • Oi! – Hello
  • Adeus – Goodbye
  • Por favor – Please
  • Obrigado (male)/Obrigada (female) – Thank you
  • Chamo-me… – My name is…
  • Vehno de… – I’m from…
  • ¡Perdão! – Excuse me
  • Não entendi – I don’t understand.

Ajuda-me! (help me!)

If you know nothing else, being able to ask questions is a good way to start speaking a language. Not only can you start communicating right away, but the answers to your questions will provide you with new vocabulary.

  • Onde é a estação? – Where is the station?
  • De onde você é? – Where are you from?
  • O quê? – What?
  • Quem é ela? – Who is she?
  • Por que? – Why?
  • Quanto isso custa? How much does this cost?
  • Como vai? – How are you?
  • Como se chama? – What is your name (lit. How are you called?)

Finding the Similarities to English

English is technically a Germanic language, but, because it borrows more than half of its vocabulary from French and Latin, it is very close to a Romance language in practice. As a result, English and Portuguese share thousands of “true friends”: words that sound the same and have the same meaning. For example, if I were to tell you that a cidade está em expansão contrária às recomendações econômicas, you’d probably recognize the words for “city”, “expansion”, “contrary”, “recommendations”, and “economic”.

But you can’t always stick an “-o”, “-a” or “-ção” to the end of an English noun and expect to be understood by a Portuguese speaker. Beware of “false friends”: Portuguese words that sound like English words but have different meanings. For example, to be esperto doesn’t make you an expert, assistir does not mean to help and if you try to enrolar in your new school people will probably think you are odd.

Verb Conjugation

Verbs in Portuguese are always conjugated, which means the verb has a different ending depending on whether you, I, we, she, or they are doing the verb. To get you started, here are a few useful verbs in the I form:

  • Eu presico… – I need…
  • Eu quero… – I want…
  • Eu tenho… – I have…

How To Practice Your Portuguese

Try your first Portuguese lesson with Babbel for free. One of the advantages of the Babbel system is that you are immersed in Portuguese from the beginning. The process is easy and intuitive (with lots of helpful hints when you need them), and you can learn at your own pace and set your own lesson plans. Babbel’s Portuguese course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. You can master Portuguese by yourself, or use Babbel’s community features to connect with other learners, chat with native speakers and share expertise. Use the tips above and see which level you can achieve.

Portuguese Dummy