Differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese (Part 1)

Guest Post Writer

It’s my pleasure to introduce to you my good friend, Débora Fontenelle, creator, and author of Crônicas e Cores de Débora Fontenellewho is our guest post writer. She attended the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and earned a language teacher diploma for both Portuguese and English. Thank you, Debbie, for writing this great and clarifying post about the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese.

Brazilian or European Portuguese?

I’m sure that foreigners interested in learning Portuguese may wonder if there are a lot of differences between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and that spoken in Portugal, and which one they should choose to study. Undoubtedly, there is a lot to talk about this subject. Despite the existing differences, though, there is no interference in the standard communication between Brazilians and the Portuguese people.

The Portuguese Orthographic Reform:

However, after the Portuguese Orthographic Reform, which took place in 2009, to unify the spelling in the nine countries whose official language is Portuguese – PortugalBrazilCape VerdeGuineaBissauMozambiqueAngola, São Tomé and Príncipe,Timor-Leste, and Equatorial Guinea was made official in 2014, the differences can be more easily noticed in conversation, in terms of phonetics, vocabulary and sentence structure. Let us see some examples.

Easy Difference to Spot:

A very easy difference to spot is that Brazilian people open their mouths more when pronouncing the words, especially the vowels. Portuguese citizens, on the other hand, usually subtract the vowels at the beginning and in the middle of the words, always resulting in the predominance of consonant sounds.

Speech Pace:

As far as the pace of speech is concerned; the Portuguese speak much faster than the Brazilians. As Portugal is inundated with Brazilian music and soap operas in their media, people there are accustomed to listening to the way Brazilians speak and don’t think their pronunciation is strange. However,  Brazilians, generally have a bit more difficulty understanding spoken European Portuguese. In some states of Brazil, people have the tendency to speak even slower than the average of their compatriots which is the case of the citizens of Bahia. So, I have always wondered how interesting it would be to listen to a person born there talking to someone from Portugal… It would certainly be a unique experience!

The Second Person Pronoun:

Portuguese Tour Guide

Another point one can not forget is that the most used second-person pronoun in the singular form (you) in Brazil is você, but in Portugal, it is tu. Tu is also used very often in the South and in the Northeast of Brazil, but the verb is not usually conjugated correctly. In other states of Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro, people use você a lot, but also alternate with tu using the wrong verb conjugation as well. Speakers conjugate the verbs for both pronouns the same way. For example, Will you go there? is translated as Você vai ou Tu vai lá? As you can see, both sentences have the same verb conjugation; but, the correct form for tu would be vais. Tu vais ? This is the typical case of the use of tu in the Brazilian states. However, there are some exceptions; if you travel to the city of Belém, the capital of Pará, in the Northern Region of Brazil, you will certainly hear people using pronoun tu with its correct conjugation just like the Portuguese people do.

What Você Represents:

Você is an informal way of treatment used in Brazil, and it is not appropriate for a young person to use it when addressing an older one, or when someone in a work environment is addressing another of a higher hierarchy. In this case, the preferable form would senhor (sir) ou a senhora (madam) which are third-person pronouns, but function as second-person ones. In other situations, you can always use você which is a second-person pronoun, but the verb that follows it conjugates as third-person.

European or Brazilian Portuguese:

No matter which version you choose to learn, either European or Brazilian Portuguese, you will be able to communicate with local native speakers in both countries, provided you learn about the local vocabulary.

In case you would like a little taste of Debora Fontenelle’s writing in Portuguese, please, go to her blog at Crônicas e Cores de Débora Fontenelle.


Make your learning Portuguese an enjoyable experience. Please, check out our All About Portuguese page for more information about this beautiful Romance language.


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