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Brazilian Portuguese | European Portuguese

AS VOGAIS The Vowels

Auditory impression. Brazilian Portuguese will sound a little "lighter" than standard European Portuguese, mainly because Brazilians always pronounce the vowels. Keep this in mind when you're imitating the pronunciation!

Brazilian Portuguese vowels have two variants: unstressed final vowels (the last syllable of a word) and, well, everywhere-else vowels (the default pronunciation).

Here are the default vowels, approximate values in English, and short Portuguese words where you can clearly hear the pronunciation:


Sounds like...
they, let
sore, sock *
*Speakers of American English: you say "sock" with the same "a" of father. Please listen extremely carefully to the "ó" in .

"E" and "O"
These two vowels each have two possible pronunciations only when STRESSED (that is to say accented, like the "e" in ho-tel or the "o" in o-pera). Otherwise, they make the first sound given in the table ("they" and "sore").

Why are there two ways to pronounce "e" and "o"? Latin had two separate stressed sounds for each of the above vowels, but only the "e" and the "o" keep the same distinction in Portuguese.

>never fails
When you see ê, say "ey" (they)
When you see é, say "eh" (let)

When you see ô, say "o" (sore)
When you see ó, say "o"ck (sock)

Otherwise, there's no all-encompassing rule to determine when "e" and "o" have one sound or the other. You must generally learn to pronounce them word by word, although you will quickly pick up on patterns (one good reason to buy a Portuguese dictionary with phonetic spelling alongside each word!).

Unstressed Final Vowels

Sounds like...
*u and i don't appear at the end of native Portuguese words, but always have the same pronunciation anywhere in a word

Be sure to listen for the STRESS (the more pronounced/accented vowel). Notice that it doesn't fall on the highlighted syllable.

Also note that, fortunately for you, "i" and "u" always sound the same.

Try to approximate the shorter, purer Portuguese vowels: don't pronounce a "y" or "w" sound after e, i, o and u (keep your lip stiff from beginning to end).

AS CONSOANTES The consonants

The consonants will generally cause you less trouble, although you may run into a few difficulties.

The following consonants are pronounced like their English counterparts:

b, f, j, l, m, n, p, v
(more about l, m and n as you continue onto the lessons)
k and w are foreign/borrowed letters in Portuguese

"h" is silent
>example há
but "ch" sounds like "sh" in she
>example chá

and "lh" sounds like "lli" in million
>example alho
and "nh" sounds like "ni" in onion
>example vinho

"j" actually makes the sound of "s" in treasure
>example já

"r" has a hard "h" sound (Scottish loch)
>example rico, falar
unless it is written between two vowels or after a consonant, then it sounds just like the tt/dd in American English butter/ladder.
>example caro, branco

"rr" has that same hard "h" sound

"c" and "g" have one variant before "hard" (back) a, o and u and another before "soft" (front) e and i:

hard c as "k" in king
>example caro, coro, curo
soft c as "s" in sing
>example certo, cinto
When c needs to make a soft "s" sound before a, o, or u, we write it ç
>example aço, lição

hard g as "g" in gather
>example gato, golfe, guru
soft g
as "s" in leisure (like Portuguese "j")
>example gente, giro

These rules also apply to "c" and "g" in English, but in Portuguese they are true in every case (there are no contrary examples like "give").

"d" and "t" have the same sound as their English counterparts unless they are followed by an "i" sound. If you don't remember, these are made by "i", or an "e" at the end of a word.

d as "d" in dare
>example dar, idade
before "i" sound as "j" in jeans
>example dia, idade

t as "t" in stair
>example tu
before "i" sound as "ch" in cheese
>example tive, arte

"gu" and "qu" have one variant before "hard" (back) a, o and u and another before "soft" (front) e and i:

hard gu as "gw"
>example água
soft gu as "gu" guide (same as hard "g")
>example guia

hard qu as "qu" in quick
>example quando
soft qu
as "qu" in quiche (same as hard "c")
>example que

When "gu" and "qu" need to make the hard sounds before e and i, we write them and
>example freente, biline

s, x and z

s sounds like "s" in sing
>example si, mais
unless it's between vowels or a voiced consonant, where it sounds like "z" in zebra
>example asa, mesmo

When we need the s to make the "sing" sound between two vowels, we write it ss
>example passo, esse

The unstressed "es" in esp- and est- is pronounced like the "as" in taste.
>example estar, especial

x sounds like "sh" in she
>example baixo, xícara
but sometimes like "s" in sing between vowels
>example próximo

"ex" at the beginning of a word makes roughly the sound of "ays" in days
>example exato

x also sounds like "x" in some words
>example xi

z sounds like "z" in zebra
>example luzes, zero

unless it's at the end of a word, then it sounds like the "s" in sing
>example luz

You will soon meet many of the words you see below in the lições. Using the rules and sound files above, determine the pronunciation of each one, then pronounce every one of these words aloud:

*the "sock" one

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