Archive for August, 2008

Friends with Brazilian Portuguese subtitles

I’ve been getting back into Friends recently, for some reason. When I was looking online for some stuff for my English students I found a few clips from Friends with Portuguese subtitles. Here they are.

1. The theme tune from the Rembrandts. Man, it all looks soooo 90s! The cast are looking fresh-faced too.

2. A compilation of Phoebe’s songs from the show along with subtitles (surreal, I know).

3. Clips from “the boys” of Friends – Ross, Chandler and Joey. Enjoy!

And, actually, there’s loads more – just search YouTube under “Friends legendas” and see what comes up.

August 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

Já is a great word in Portuguese and gets thrown in all over the place. Although it’s often translated as “already” It does the work of various words in English. These are some of the main words it covers…


A: “Eles estão perto daqui”/”They’re nearly here!” B: “Já?”/”Already?”. The present perfect tense (have + past particple) is used a lot in English but less so in Portuguese. And, in English it’s often used with already as in this example: “I’ve already eaten”. Brazilians would simply say in Portuguese “Eu já comi” lit. “I already ate”.


Just is a bizarre word in English and has probably over 10 meaings. See here for a decent list of the English meanings with translations of the Brazilian equivelent words. Já can be used to mean “just” in the sense of a small space of time. “We’re just arriving” – “Estamos chegando já já”. Often, as in the example given, já is repeated to emphasise how little the time is. Or, if the doorbell rings, often people in the house will say “Já vai!” which is when we would say in English “Just coming!”. But, “já” doesn’t necessarily mean a small space of time after an event – as in “He’s just finished playing football”. Brazilians would more likely say “Ele acaba de jogar futebol” lit. He finish of to play football.


My brother-in-law said this just the other week when we were eating out for Sunday lunch.”Esse o Restaurante mais nordestino que eu já vi”. In English we would say, “This is the most northeastern restaurant that I’ve ever been to”.

No equivelent in English.

And, quite simply, já is used in Portuguese when in English we probably wouldn’t use “already” or “just” or “ever”. For example, as in the picture above, “Eu já sabia” (lit. I already knew) maps to “I knew it!” in English. And when somebody suddenly has a eureka moment – a good idea or a solution to a problem they will declare in Portuguese “Já sei!” (lit. already I know) where we would say (usually accompanied by a light-bulb going on above our heads) “I know!”…

August 28, 2008 at 1:49 am 1 comment

Gender issues

How to sort out your masculine and feminine issues

Jack Scholes tells this story:

“I will never forget my very first attempt to speak Portuguese. I walked into the British Council, took a deep breath, and instead omy usual greeting, “Good morning”, I confidently ventured to say, “Bom dia… Eu tenho uma problema”. At this point Circe [the secretary] went straight into English and told me that I didn’t have “uma problema”, I had “um problema”. I felt so frustrated!”

His frustration is understandable, as anyone who’s been speaking Portuguese for a while will know. Nouns are masculine and feminine and their articles and corresponding adjectives have to agree with them. Words ending in -a are usually feminine (think of people’s names: Renata, Maria, Gloria) and words ending in -o or something else are usually masculine (Paulo, Marcelo, Ronaldo). So, for example – uma mesa branca (a white table – f) and um bolo gostoso (a delicious cake – m). But, as ever, there are exceptions.

Jack Scholes goes onto explain:

Words ending in -ema are of greek origin and are masculine (as are most words imported from languages other than latin). This results in something which sounds a bit out of place… Um problema complicado (a complicated problem), o sistema nervoso (the nervous system), os esquemas fraudulentos (those fraudulent schemes).

Ron Martinez also helps with some tips on getting gender right:

Nouns are usually feminine if they end in -ade. For example: a liberdade (the freedom), a cidade (the city), a realidade (the reality)… and if they end in -ção. For example: a informação (the information), a cotaçâo (the rate), a tentaçâo (the temptation)… and if they end in -são. For example: a colisão (the collision), a mansão (the mansion), a tensão (the tension).

Nouns are usually masculine if they end in a consanant. For example, o jornal (the newspaper), o professor (the teacher), o som (the sound)… and if they end in -ão (but not -ção or -são). For example: o irmão (the brother), o campeão (the champion), o pão (the bread).

For info on the books I took those tips from, click the Links & Resources tab above.

Even more irregular gender with Brazilian Portuguese nouns

OK, but in spite of all of the above, there are still irregularities that just have to be learned. For example, times of the day are all back to front. People say “Bom dia” (Good morning), but “Boa tarde” (Good afternoon) and “Boa noite” (Good evening/night). In other words, the adjective “good” changes according to the gender of the time of day. The only thing is, based on the rules it’s the wrong way around. This only struck me as odd recently when I realised that dia is masculine (it ends in -a so why not feminine?) and both tarde and noite are feminine words when you could easily be mistaken for thinking they were masculine.

The number 2

This is also important when you need to say two days or two nights. Annoyingly, the number 2 has to match the things it’s describing (other numbers don’t). Two for masculine things is “dois” and for feminine things “duas”. Many, many times I have immediately given myself away to be a gringo learning Portuguese by getting it wrong. (Frustratingly, my 2 year old son is learning Portuguese and his supple young mind gets it right every time!). So, two days = dois dias NOT duas dias (as I frequently say) and two nights = duas noites NOT dois noites.

Words with 2 genders

And, finally, some words such as “cara” (face) and even “laranja” (orange) have different meanings depending on if they are used in a masculine or feminine way. The main meaning of both comes from the feminine – a cara (the face) and a laranja (the orange). But, switch the gender and you get a new meaning: o cara (the guy/the bloke/the man) and o laranja (a stooge/an intermediary).  In both cases though, the main and obvious meaning is feminine and the idiomatic, informal meaning to describe a type of person is masculinised. Anyone know any more examples?

You can see an example of this in the poster for the film above “Ela é o cara” which is a translation of “She’s the man” not, as you might think, “She’s the face”.

August 24, 2008 at 9:57 pm 3 comments

Reading the Olympics 2

Just two links for keeping up to date on the Olympics in Portuguese. Globo’s coverage is excellent with an interactive medals table that will take you to short articles on every medal won by every country. Click here for that.

The American sports network ESPN as a Brazilian channel with corresponding website which has some good stuff on too. Click here for that one.

August 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

Quando Você Voltar – Legião Urbana

I’ve recently been listening to quite a lot of Legião Urbana (Urban Legion), described by a Brazilian friend of mine as the Brazilian Smiths. It also sounds like late-80s, early-90s R.E.M. and the Cure which is no bad thing, in my opinion.

Anyway, there’s a little track toward the end of their “A Tempestade” album which is short but contains a nice little love story in the lyrics. You can hear the song in the video above (I’m sorry it’s one of those home-made jobs, but I couldn’t find a video of Legião Urbana actually performing the track).

Imperative Verbs again!

The song mixes imperatives and other forms of verb conjugation in Portuguese. (Read here for an introduction to imperatives). Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to the song (which is sung helpfully slowly) and listen out for how the 14 verbs listed below are conjugated – only the infinitive is given below. Some of them are imperatives. I’ve attempted an English translation of the song below if you want to check what it means. Click answers above for the solution.

Vai, se você precisa (ir=to go).
Não quero mais (brigar=to fight) esta noite
Nossas acusações infantis
E palavras mordazes que (machucar=hurt/injur) tanto
Não vão (levar=to lift/to rise to a conclusion) a nada, como sempre
Vai, clareia um pouco a cabeça
Já que você não quer (conversar=to converse/ to talk).
Já (brigar=to fight) tanto
Mas não vale a pena
Vou (ficar=to stay) aqui, com um bom livro ou com a TV
(Saber=to know) que existe alguma coisa (incomodar=to bother/trouble) você
Meu amor, cuidado na estrada
E quando você (voltar= to return)
(Trancar=to lock) o portão
(Fechar=to close) as janelas
(Apagar=to turn on) a luz
e (saber=to know) que te amo…

Quando Você Voltar – Legião Urbana
English translation / Tradução Ingles.

You go, if you need to go
I don’t want to fight more tonight
Our infantile accusations
and biting words that hurt so much
they won’t conclude anything, as usual.
You go, clear your head a little
You already don’t want to talk
We already fought a lot
But it’s not worth it
I will stay here with a good book or with the TV
I know that something is troubling you
My love, careful on the road
And when you return
Lock the door,
Close the windows
Switch off the light
and know that I love you…

(ps. for me, this song has an uncanny resemblance to a lot of Ryan Adams songs, in particular Nobody Girl and the other stuff off his Gold record).

August 13, 2008 at 10:26 am 2 comments

Reading the Olympics

Olympics 2008

So, the Olympics start tomorrow – the Opening ceremony will begin at the unhelpful time of 9am in Brazil. I recently read a series of short interviews in TAM Nas Nuvens Magazine which were with Olympic debutant Brazilian athletes. It was a good read – of special interest was one of them, Rogerio Clementino, who will be the first black competitor in show-jumping (hipismo) ever to compete at the games.

The interviews can be found on the TAM Nas Nuvens magazine. It takes a bit of getting used to navigating this website, but basically click here to access the site. Then click on the pictures of the magazines on the right hand side. Then click on Outros Ediçoes at the top of the page. Click on the No.7 July 08 magazine (with a picture of two brothers on the front). Once the magazine opens you have to navigate to pages 69-79 by clicking on the page numbers below. There is a indice at the top which helps a bit too. Found it? If so, then have a read of the 5 short interviews – using the English translation along side to help with any words you don’t know – and see if you can do this quiz.

Finally, if the Olympics is your thing and you can’t get enough of it – have a browse of the most recent Veja magazine which has dozens of articles on all sides of the Olympics.

Quiz Questions

Read the questions below and decide which athlete is being referred to (A-E). As usual click Answers at the top to see if you were right.

A = Cesar Cielo
B = Rogerio Clementino
C = Fabiana Murer
D = Bruno Fontes
E = Yane Marques

Which two athletes talk about the importance of understanding animals? 1___ 2___
Which three athletes have trained/will train in a country other than China or Brazil prior to the Olympics? 3___ 4___ 5___
Which athlete entered their sport thanks to encouragement from parents? 6___
Which athlete entered their sport thanks to the hobby of a cousin? 7___
Which athlete sees their humble up-bringing in life as a motivation to succeed? 8___
Which athlete says people often mistake their sport for another? 9___
Which athlete compares their sport to a game of chess? 10___

August 7, 2008 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

Informal online dictionary of Brazilian Portuguese Just found this excellent site (which I’ll put as a link in the reference links in the side column) which is a dictionary of informal Portuguese. It has photos / pictures accompanying the entries to help make it easier and has entries for many abbreviations, idioms, phrases and expressions which a standard translator or dictionary would miss. Warning: some of the content on this site is, let’s say, fairly adult in nature!

August 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

They don’t speak Spanish, you know!

This website has practice activities for people learning Brazilian Portuguese at Intermediate level or higher. Please browse around or click on ABOUT to find out more about how to get the most out of the site.