For Starters... 1
>>European Portuguese | Switch to Brazilian Portuguese

Welcome to Portuguese Online’s Lições Lessons "B "P *. Para começar is intended as a smooth introduction to the basics of the language. Take this time to drill yourself on the phrases that you’ll learn, to familiarize yourself with the trickier specifics of pronunciation, and to get comfortable with the presentation. If you follow through with these Para começar pre-lesson lessons, you’ll be well prepared for the lessons that follow.

*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).



I like to start with a good conversation. There’s not too much to this one, but that’s for your benefit.

Oh, and please remember that you’re not in a sterile classroom. When you see a Diálogo, or any other text in Portuguese, I ask that you do one thing for me: Abra a boca! Open your mouth! Speak the language out loud; it’s a beautiful language that deserves this from you!

Ana e Roberto Anna and Robert, two young college students, have seen each other around campus, but are meeting for the first time.

Ana Olá! Como está?
Roberto Muito bem, obrigado. E você?
Ana Bem, obrigada. Como é o seu nome?
Roberto O meu nome é Roberto. Como é o seu nome?
Ana O meu nome é Ana.
Roberto De onde é?
Ana Lisboa, e você?
Roberto Coimbra.
Ana Muito bom.
Roberto Muito prazer!
Ana Muito prazer e obrigada.
Roberto De nada. Adeus!
Ana Adeus!

I know, it probably looks foreign and uninviting. What if I promised you that it's actually an easy and repetitious conversation and that, very soon, this will be just as easy for you as for these two?

Let's examine it line by line:


>>Understanding the Language 
Phrases, Grammar and Pronunciation

Questions and Answers

Now, with the expressions you just learned, you should have the tools to build an admirable conversation in Portuguese.

As you read through the dialogue, you can see that most of what you'll say in a conversation like this has an appropriate response. This is obviously true when asking a question, but let's take these statements and responses out of the context of a dialogue and map them out in a way that you can use.


Statement Response
Olá! Olá!
Hello!, Hi! Hello!, Hi!


Question Response
Como está? Muito bem!
How are you? Very well!

Asking someone's name

Question Response
Como é o seu nome? O meu nome é...
What's your name? My name is...

Asking someone's place of origin

Question Response
De onde é? Sou de...
Where are you from? I am from...

Thanking someone

Question Response
Obrigado!, Obrigada! De nada.
Thank you! You're welcome.

Saying Goodbye

Question Response
Adeus! Adeus!
Goodbye! Goodbye!

You will learn other ways to express these same ideas in the lessons that follow. However, with the above phrases, you will be able to introduce yourself and ask about someone else in Portuguese.


Some words in Portuguese reflect a phenomenon often called grammatical gender. This just means that these words belong to a certain group or order. Portuguese has two of these groups: masculine and feminine.

We won't get very deep into this subject right now, but, from here on, pay a little attention to the words you meet. I'll give you a little clue: notice that the male Roberto says obrigado and the female Ana says obrigada. More on this to come...

Mind your M's and N's!)

There's only one topic left to deal with in this section! In the
pronunciation section, you learned the basics of pronouncing the language (it is suggested that you complete that section before moving on to these lessons). Unfortunately, you didn't even get through the dialogue without hitting a few walls. One of the biggest objectives of these Para começar lessons is to make sure that you have a strong understanding of how Portuguese should sound before you head into the Lições.

Something we like to call nasal vowels are a very important part of your new language. In fact, you will hardly complete a sentence without meeting one of these characters face-to-face. What are these beasts that you are about to tame? Quite simply, they are vowels that you pronounce through your nose instead of your mouth (that's why we call them NAS-al; well, it really comes directly from the Latin nasus, for nose).

First, we should look at the nasal consonants: M and N. These are the consonants that we pronounce through the nose in Portuguese and English (although in English we have the combination -ng that makes a different nasal sound altogether).

In a word like cima or numa, the M's and N's all fall in a place where they stand out. They can't easily mix with the vowel and disappear. We can't throw them out.

Can we ever "throw out" M's and N's? Of course we can! When they sit between a vowel and a consonant, or a vowel and the end of a word, they can just blend in with the vowel. Then, we pronounce the vowel through the nose, and that's the only trace we have left of them. In a word like cinto or sim, we don't pronounce the M's and N's. We just pronounce the "i" through the nose (meaning that the "i" sounds the same in both words).

Wait... what?!? I'll try to explain this again after we have met our nasal vowels:

"am" and "an" sound like the u in cut, but pronounced through the nose
>example antes, amplo
unless you find it at the end of a word, where it's pronounced somewhat like the ow of cow, but through the nose (always spelled "
>example falam

"em" and "en" sound almost like the ei in height, but pronounced through the nose
>example entre, senta, em, bem

"im" and "in" sound like the ee in seem, but pronounced through the nose.
>example sim, sinto

"om" and "on" sound like the o in tow, but pronounced through the nose.
>example bom, conto

"um" and "un" sound like the oo in soon, but pronounced through the nose.
>example um, presunto

You might have noticed that some sounds are pronounced differently at the end of a word, and that they're always found with -m and not -n (see the remarks about final am). It is a spelling convention in Portuguese that only -m is written at the end of a word, even if, historically, the word was written with a final -n. This isn't something you'll need to memorize, but it is a curious tidbit.

>never fails If you see ~ above a vowel, there are no tricky rules: just nasalize it!

"ã" sounds like the u in cut, but through the nose (same sound as am/an (but not final am))
"ão" sounds like the ow in cow, but through the nose (same sound as final am)
"ãe" sounds like the y in try, but through the nose
"õe" sounds like the oy in boy, but through the nose

For those of you always searching for where things come from... That symbol (~) is a convention introduced by scribes who, when copying manuscripts, would sometimes write a nasal N above a vowel rather than next to it. So, even the nasals ã, ão, etc. have origins similar to our vowel plus N or M nasalizations we discussed in the first place!

Back to the essentials...
Aside from the funny-looking
ão's and õe's, we pronounce these vowels plus N/M according to the rules above whenever they are not followed by another vowel (this is simply another way of looking at the same concept mentioned earlier).

In the pronunciation section, you learned that "a" is also pronounced like the u in cut before any M or N. This is due to the effects of nasalization, but we've cleanly separated it from this section for now to avoid (too much) confusion.

If you do feel lost, please take this information piece by piece and apply it step by step. The best way to learn isn't by sitting here, reading line after line of "it sort of sounds like...". No! You need to develop your own approach to sounding out your new language. You need to hear and repeat each and every word. Listen for the nasal vowels in the dialogue and in the lessons to come, and pay attention to where you will and will not hear them.



A. Roberto e você Robert and You

Now it's your turn to have a conversation with Roberto. Please pay attention to the phrases he uses to greet you and introduce himself, and give the best response you can. Use the blanks and punctuation as a guide.

Roberto Olá!
Você _________________.
Roberto Como está?
Você _________________. _________________?
Roberto Bem, obrigado. Como é o seu nome?
Você _________________. _________________?
Roberto O meu nome é Roberto.
Você _________________?
Roberto Lisboa, e você?
Você _________________.
Roberto Muito prazer! Obrigado.
Você _________________.
Roberto Adeus!
Você _________________!

Answers (no peeking!):
- Oi!
- Bem
(or Bem, obrigado/a oor Muito bem or Muito bem, obrigado/a). E você?
Remember that obrigado is said by males and obrigada by females.
- O meu nome é (your name). Como é o seu nome?
- De onde é?
-(Sou de) ____.

-De nada.

A. N's and M's... Again

Pronounce each of the words below without referencing the Understanding the Language section. Pay close attention to any nasal vowels. After you have finished pronouncing a word, listen to the sound file.

bom um entre falam sim bem antes


>>O Mundo Luso
The Portuguese-speaking World

The Lusophone World is a fancy way of saying "The Portuguese-speaking world". Like speakers of any other language, Portuguese speakers enjoy a unique culture and history. Beneath this one Lusophone culture, you will come to understand and even interact with the many cultures and subcultures of the many Portuguese-speaking countries around the world.

As you advance through the lessons, you will find some necessary information and a few delightful nuggets about your new culture as a speaker of the language, all tucked away in these short sections. I recommend that you also take the time to appreciate this culture outside of these Mundo Luso boxes. Listen to the many genres of music unique to Brazil, Portugal, and other Lusophone countries. Read jornais newspapers. Find the things that interest you, and do them in Portuguese. The links pages offer a decent variety and are a great starting point.


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

You should have focused on a few key points in this lesson:

Digest all of this information, review the lesson a few times, and we'll meet again in the next lesson!

Return to Lessons Page | >>Next Lesson

Order a copy of my book Portuguese QuickGrammar