Lição 1 ~ First Lesson
Como se diz isto em português?
How do you say this in Portuguese?

>>Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese

Welcome to the Lições Lessons "B "P * pages, where the real fun begins. These lessons are written for moderate beginners who have already taken something like the Para começar courses offered on this site. You must first have a solid understanding of basic phrases and pronunciation. Please enjoy!

*When you see "B "P, this means that you can click to hear how the word or phrase sounds in Brazil (Brazilian dialect) and Portugal (European dialect).


João "B "P John, our character throughout these lessons, just woke up, and is getting out of his cama  bed. He's a bit tired, but he has some plans for the day. He's going to go meet a friend at o café the café (be careful with this one, because you can also spill some hot café on your lap; it also means coffee (from Italian caffè, in case you're wondering)). He runs out of his house and down a rua the street. He's incredibly tired, and is almost hit by um carro a car. On the way to the café, João passes the university, where a young man and woman are comfortably chatting away. He is approached by a stranger who tries to catch his attention.

O senhor Bom dia! Como você vai?
João Muito bem, obrigado.
O senhor Eu me chamo David. Como se chama?
João Sou João.
O senhor Desculpe, mas... I don't speak Portuguese well.
João Você não fala português? Muito bom.
O senhor Faça favor, como se diz bathroom em português?
João É a casa de banho.
O senhor Muito obrigado!
João De nada. Adeus!
O senhor Adeus!

I know that you're probably a bit confused, mas "B "P but that's all right. For two reasons:
You have to practice your pronunciation.
You are human, and you are learning a language other than your own.

So, what is João saying to the man? Let's take a look.

Read through the dialogue outra vez again and see what you get out of it this time. Then translate the dialogue into English. Practice the pronunciation of every word. You should be able to understand it agora now.

Boxers get to practice by beating the stuffing out of punching bags, runners by tearing up a racetrack,  and you get to talk to João. He says:

1)    Bom dia!
       ~ What do you say?
2)    Como você vai? (Portugal: como está?)
       ~ How do you reply?
3)    Aqui tem seu carro (Here is your car).
       ~ What do you say to the nice young man (just like your mãe mother always told you)?
4)    Tenho que sair (I have to leave).
        ~ What do you say as he is going away?


Practicing the language in action

Here's where you really start to learn and examine the meat of the conversational language. Let's imagine that you're about to meet with five relatives coming à casa to the house for a family reunion. Of course, they all want to meet and greet you.

Relative 1 says, "Bom dia" to you, initiating a long chain of greetings.
Relative 2:    Bom dia.
Relative 3:    Bom dia.
Relative 4:    Bom dia.
Relative 5:    Bom dia.

You now reply to all of them. What do you say?

You (to Relative 1):    ___ ___, senhor Johnson (Mr. Johnson).
You (to Relative 2):    ___ ___, senhora Johnson (Mrs. Johnson).
You (to Relative 3):    ___ ___, senhor Smith (Mr. Smith).
You (to Relative 4):    ___ ___, senhora Smith (Mrs. Smith).
You (to Relative 5):    ___ ___, senhor Googenheimershmeklipootsee (We'll call him Mr. G).

In all cases your response to them matched what they said to you, "Bom dia". They go on chatting for a while about how they remember how cute you were as a baby. Suddenly, they turn back to you, opening the line of fire yet again. You hear a long string of questions:

Como você vai?
Como você vai?
Como está? (a relative from Portugal)
Como você vai?
Como vai?

You can respond in a few ways to a "Como você vai?". You may choose to give the usual tudo bem, obrigado all's well, thanks or just fine, thank you. You leave it at a plain bem, obrigado fine, thanks. You might try spicing it up with muito: muito bem, obrigado. You can also give a negative response: mal badly, poorly. Or you can kill the conversation with something like muito mal very badly or grave down in the dumps.

We're assuming that you're not having a good day. Not a good enough day to say obrigado, at least, or to even think of mentioning the word bem. You say:

Grave... mal...muito grave... muito mal... muito muito grave... muito muito mal... muito muito muito grave... muito muito muito mal...

Now the party's dead, and everyone's heading home. One of them says até mais ver as she leaves. Another shoots off an até à próxima which he says translates to until (the) next time. Then you hear an adeus. It literally translates to God, and means goodbye for a while or a long time. You can also say things like até logo, until later or even Tchau ciao! Another phrase for goodbye is passe bem!, a general well-wishing to one person. We have so many ways to see someone off!

So you hear the five relatives saying:

até à próxima, tchau!, adeus, adeus, adeus, até à próxima, adeus, até à próxima, adeus to everyone.

You then respond to them with all of the phrases:

até mais ver, até à próxima, tchau and adeus!

You heave a long sigh of relief as you turn around e and close a porta the door behind you.


>>Understanding the Language 
Phrases, Grammar and Pronunciation

Now you seem prepared to meet people, but we still have to settle some of the smaller details to be sure that you're not confused.

First, let's meet some basic, easy words, a few of which we've already seen. These words are short and useful, just like their English counterparts:

Inglês ~ English Português ~ Portuguese
and e
or ou
but mas
if se

You may have noticed the words
um, a and o used earlier. To use these properly, we must first look at what a Portuguese noun is and how it works. A Portuguese noun has two basic properties: number and gender. The gender is either masculine or feminine. The best representation of this is in a name. Most every female name ends in -a. Ana tells Alícia to talk to Joaquina. Males end in -o or a consonant. So Joaquina goes to her brother, Joaquim, and asks him to ask Ricardo to ask Pedro to ask Eduardo if he wants to go to the movies on Friday.

Nouns that are not proper names work the same way. Most masculine nouns end in an -o, but some end in a consonant. You should not worry too much about consonant-endings at this point, because few Portuguese nouns end in one, but do note that words ending in a consonant can be feminine as well. Most feminine nouns end in an -a. Words in an -e can sometimes be variable when referring to humans (like o estudante / a estudante the [male] student / the [female] student), or are either masculine or feminine (most are masculine). So, the majority of Portuguese words are masculine. A very select few are "irregular", such as dia day, which is masculine, yet ends in -a. Words in a consonant can be of either gender.

Why does it really matter? Well, for two reasons:

1)    The articles (a, an, some, the) change depending on the word's gender.
2)    Adjectives change depending on the word's gender.

Nouns can also vary in number. We can speak of a man or the man, where man is a singular noun. Man tells us that there is only one. A plural noun refers to a group of more than one (men). Some languages complicate the issue with separate forms of the word in the singular (one noun), dual (two nouns), etc. In Portuguese and English, however, we only have two numbers: singular and plural. What's more, in both languages we tend to create plural nouns by adding an -s. If there's one of you, you're
você, but if there's more than one, you're all vocês!

Why does it really matter? For much the same reasons:

1)    The articles (a, an, some, the) change depending on the word's number.
2)    Adjectives change depending on the word's number.

The words a, an, and some have four Portuguese equivalents:

  Masculine Example feminine Example
Singular um (a, an) um estudante uma (a, an) uma estudante
Plural uns (some) uns estudantes umas (some) umas estudantes

So, um estudante "B "P is a male student, and uns estudantes are some male students. Note that a word ending in -m will change to -ns in the plural, just like um to uns (this is based on a spelling convention that keeps Portuguese words from ending in -m).

One key pitfall to avoid is using the a/an with words describing profession or occupation after to be (the Portuguese verb is ser):

Eu sou (I am) estudante. I am student. (NEVER Eu sou um estudante.)
Você é estudante. You are student. (NEVER  Você é um estudante.)

Portuguese-speakers do this because the estudante, or whatever occupation you choose to replace it with, is really intended to describe the person and not to single him or her out as one (um) of a group of students. Use it enough, and you might start to find the choice to use a/an in English just as odd!

When I then say that você é um estudante honesto you are an honest student, I am no longer describing your profession, but your honesty, so I don't repeat the structure you are honest student. I throw in an adjective (a descriptive word), which complicates the issue. More about adjectives to come, but, before that, you must meet the indefinite articles' cousins (all four of them...).

The word the also has four Portuguese equivalents:

  Masculine Example feminine Example
Singular o o estudante a a estudante
Plural os os estudantes as as estudantes

o estudante means the male student, and os estudantes are the male/mixed group of students.
a estudante means the female student, and as estudantes are the all-female group of students.

From now on, any noun given in the lições will have an m. next to it if it's masculine and an f. if it's feminine. If you see:
                homem (m.) man
you can now come to the conclusion that the plural is
homens and that the articles used with the noun are um homem, uns homens, o homem, os homens:

um homem a man
uns homens (some) men
o homem the man
os homens the men

But nouns ending in a consonant other than -m (Portuguese nouns can't end in -n) in the singular must take an -es in the plural. So a mulher the woman becomes as mulheres the women.

The noun almost carries one of these articles along with it (a form of um/uma or a form of o/a). At first, this will sound very foreign to an English speaker. It is why you can say falo o português, literally I speak the Portuguese, as well as falo português. It is also why proper nouns, like our friend João's name, can take that article if they aren't simply being called out: João!, venha cá! John! Come over here! but O João é muito legal (the) John is very nice. To an English speaker, this last use of the is more than a little uncomfortable, so take comfort in the fact that you can also say João é legal, but please refrain from O João!, venha cá! These lessons don't need that kind of negative publicity. The o in o João é muito legal adds a hint of sincerity or familiarity.

Adjectives also have four forms:

masculine singular feminine singular
masculine plural feminine plural

The nice thing about it is that the adjective has the same endings as the noun. Let's take the word sério serious as an example:

masculine singular: sério feminine singular: séria
masculine plural: sérios feminine plural: sérias

Why all the forms? Well, like I said before, an adjective must agree with the noun. So, if we have um homem a man but want to turn him into a serious man, we use um homem sério. But os homens the men would become os homens sérios. Similarly, uma mulher a woman would get together with umas mulheres sérias and would, herself, become uma mulher séria. Most every adjective follows a noun. Sometimes Portuguese speakers like to put a commonly used adjective before the noun, but that adds stress to the adjective. Note that adjectives ending in an -e don't change between genders (the four forms of grande "B "P big, great, grand are grande, grande, grandes, and grandes). Adjectives in a consonant, although they are very rare, can change. If one ends in -r, it can change to -ra, -res, and -ras. I can't think of any, because this type of adjective is very scarce.

Two irregulars that people like to use before the noun are bom good and mau bad. Bom has the forms bom, boa, bons, and boas. The good man is then o bom homem (plural bons homens). Mau has the forms mau, más, maus, and más. A mulher is the bad woman (the one down the street who always used to yell and scream at you). She has some friends, as más mulheres the bad women.

Then we have the action words. We'll look at the verb starting with its simplest form: the infinitive. This is the to ____ (to do, to speak, etc.) form of the verb, and doesn't say anything about someone doing something, when they are doing it, will do it or have done it. It is averb form with no subject, no forms, no time frame, no beginning or end. It is infinite (Latin in- no, not + finis end). That's why its called an infinitive.

In Portuguese, the infinitive always ends in -r. It can have one of these four endings: -ar, -er, -ir, or -or (or -ôr). Verbs ending in -or are irregular and come from a verb we'll learn later, so X that out of your memory. We take the verb, slice off the ending (-ar, -er, -ir, [or -or which we will disregard]). Then we have the verb's stem. Picture the infinitive beber to drink. Take off the infinitive ending -er and you have a stem: beb-. The stem does us no good without some sort of ending, but you'll soon see where we go from here.

We move on to the particulars of constructing our verb. The first thing we must learn is a relatively simple concept: tense. Tense comes to us from Latin through French, and it just means time (or weather, like the related Portuguese word tempo). So a tense is a reference to the verb's time period. If we say that the little boy's teeth will rot from candy, we speak in a future tense. If we say that they did rot, we use a past tense, and if the teeth rot right now, we use the present.

After this, we'll encounter a variety of different moods. Just like people, verbs can have moods, but we are currently working only in the so-called indicative. The indicative is our basic, ground-floor mood. It only makes a statement or asks a question. It's not too emotional or moody (some of these verbs can go through some really moody moods, and it will try your patience!). It's a lot easier to see how these things work in comparison, you'll have your chance at mastering moods later. Mood-master.

Right now we'll look at our verb in the present indicative (we name verb forms with their tense and mood) . The present indicative is fairly simple, but first we need to look at the pronouns.


Singular Plural
eu  I nós "B "P we
tu   you (informal in Portugal) vós   you (archaic or poetic)*
você   you vocês   you (plural)
ele "B "P he eles   they (males or mixed group)
ela  she elas   they (all females)

* Don't use vós, it's archaic.
PORTUGAL ONLY: If you want to be extremely formal, you can use o senhor for you (said to male), and a senhora for you (said to female). The plurals are os senhores and as senhoras, meaning all of you but following the same gender rules as eles and elas above.

Then we add the verb endings to our stem (remember how we cut off -ar, -er, and -ir to find our stems?).


Pronoun -ar endings -er endings -ir endings
eu -o -o -o
tu -as -es -es
você, ele, ela -a -e -e
nós -amos -emos -imos
vós -ais -eis -is
vocês, eles, elas -am -em -em

So, if I gave you the verb cantar to sing, you could say canto mal I sing poorly or canto bem I sing well. Fortunately for you, you can now say I am singing and I do sing, since the present tense also encompasses these ideas in Portuguese (although you should be prepared to learn other ways of expressing these same ideas later!).

If you want to express agreement (sim yes), you will lace the affirmative response before or after the verb. The word sim is used less often than yes English, and the example below shows where you will most likely hear it in informal speech:

-Você fala português?

-Sim, falo! or Falo, sim!
Yes, I do speak (it)

One more thing: if you want to express disagreement (não no, not, don't), you will usually place the negative before the verb. The word não, on the other hand, is used more often than no English, and the example below shows where you will most likely hear or read it:

-Você fala português?

-Não, não falo!
No, I don't speak (it)

And then you start talking:

Você canta bem?
Canto bem, sim, e você? Canta bem?
Não, não canto bem, canto como um cachorro (In Portugal: cão (m.) dog).

Do you sing well?
Yes, I do (sing well), and you? Do you sing well?
No, I don't sing well, I sing like a dog.

One of the most useful verbs for us is falar to speak. You'll hear você fala português? or você fala inglês? etc. frequently. Notice that you don't have to use the subject with the verb as in English (canto como um cão, fala português). That's because we can often see who the subject is by looking at the verb's endings. In the case of the form that shares ele, ela, você, o senhor, a senhora, and any other singular noun, as well as the form that shares eles, elas, vocês, os senhores, as senhoras, and any other plural noun, you might want to use the pronoun a little more often than with the other forms to avoid confusion.

Let's picture ourselves as tourists in Brazil. You meet with your tour guide who only speaks Portuguese. You say Bom dia, como você vai? He says Tudo bem, obrigado. Then he says Fala bem o português! Your response, of course, will be obrigado. He said You speak Portuguese well. But then he pulls out a new expression for you, Como é que se chama? Well, let's say that we know chamar means to call. He's speaking to you, so the form chama is most likely addressing you. Se means yourself, himself, herself, itself (it covers the whole ele, ela, você category of the verb). We know that como means how. We come up with How yourself you call? so far, a question we're familiar with, meaning what's your name?

But the rest still troubles us deeply. We've already met é (he, she, it) is for a lasting period of time, contrary to está, if you remember. Que can mean what or that. Now we have How is that yourself you call? But remember that a verb does not need a noun, so let's say that é translates it is. How is it that you call yourself? is what we get. Does it make much sense? Well, it means What is it that your nam eis? or What's your name, then? There's also Como é seu nome?, where nome m. means name.

Bom dia, como vai?

Bem, obrigado. Fala bem o português!
Como é que se chama?
Eu me chamo...



A. Wandering around with João

João asks you: Como se chama?
You respond: ________________________
Now you say: ________________________
And he responds: Meu nome é João.

And then you go into o café with João. Use the expression fico com I'll take to say what you want to beber drink.

The cashier: Bom dia!
You say:    ___ _____!
João says:    Bebo muito chá (I drink a lot of tea; chám. = tea).
You shrug, turn to the cashier, and say:    ____ ___ um chá (I'll take a cup of tea).
The cashier:    Não temos chá (We don't have tea, ter = to have).
You say:    Muito bom, um café. ____ ___ um café (I'll take a coffee).
The cashier:    Não temos nem chá nem café (nem.... nem... = neither... nor....)
You say:    (You turn to leave with a confused look on your face). ___ _ _______, João (Until next time).

a casa (f.) = house
do café
(m.) = of/from the coffee (can also mean of/from the café).
internacional, internacionais
= international
francês, francesa, franceses, francesas 
= French
português, portuguesa, portugueses, portuguesas
= Portuguese
italiano, italiana, italianos, italianas
= Italian
a xícara (or chícara) (f.) = cup
de = of/from (in this case of)
americano, americana, americanos, americanas = American
chinês, chinesa, chineses, chinesas (roughly: [Brazilian: shee-nAYs], [Standard: shee-nAYsh]) = Chinese
alemão, alemã, alemãos, alemãs = German
o chá (m.) = tea
Custam os olhos da cara = They (these) cost [custam] the eyes [os olhos] from your* face [da cara].  The saying that we have is: They cost an arm and a leg!
*Portuguese speakers rarely use their possessive adjectives (my, your, etc.) with body parts. That's why they say "the eyes from the face". (Da is a contraction of de + a, which you will learn more about in lição 2).

B. Prova

This is a short, ungraded test on the material presented above. You will choose the answer that best fits each question. Please take the short tutorial to see how the quiz will work.


>>O Mundo Luso
The Portuguese-speaking World

The people of Portugal sometimes identify themselves as os Lusos the Lusos. The history of Portugal dates back thousands of years, even before the time of the Roman Empire. When Rome arrived and sectioned the Iberian Peninsula (the peninsula in Southwestern Europe that Portugal and Spain both share) into provinces, it was the sea-faring province of Lusitânia Lusitania that roughly corresponded to modern-day Portugal.

The name Lusos reflects the country's pride in its imperial heritage and its own history as a nation. The nation's other name, Portugal, is a hybrid word of Celtic and Latin origin, meaning port on the river Cal. The apex of Portugal's pride is best seen in the 16th century Portuguese epic The Lusiads by Luis Vaz de Camões. Although Brazilians also read this work as a classic of Portuguese literature, it reflects a smaller aspect of the cultural makeup of Brazil.


>>What Should I Have Learned Here?
Final Review & Key Points

We touched on several hot topics:

Please take the time to review all of the material in this lesson. Repeat every word, and understand the grammar inside and out! Rest yourself for a while, start practicing your Portuguese as much as you can, and we'll meet again sometime soon in lesson two.

ATÉ À PRÓXIMA! Until next time!

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