Archive for November, 2008


Até is a handy word. Most English speakers learn it as meaning “until” in English, but it also covers “even” and “up to” as well. The problem for Brazilians learning English is having to distinguish between the different meanings of the three words in English.

Até = until
Eu vou ficar ali até o fim. (I will stay there until the end).

Até = up to
O onibus foi até João Pessoa. (The bus went up to João Pessoa).
The boy climbed up to the window. (O menino subiu até a janela).

Até = even
This is a direct quote from a game of UNO I was playing recently. Johnny was the youngest player there.
“”Todo mundo ganhou uma vez, até Johnny!” (“Everyone won once, even Johnny!”).

Até DOES NOT = even if
In Portuguese “even if” in English is covered by the phrase “ainda que” which is like saying in English “still that”. Still is important in English in this context, but not essential. For example,

Even if they win the battle, they (still) won’t win the war.

In Portuguese that sentence would be: “Ainda que eles ganham a batalha, eles não vão ganhar a guerra” (lit. Still that they win the battle, they no will win the war”.

It’s all very well using “até” to equal even, up to or until but not all those words in English mean the same thing. I thought about this in an unusual place this week… I was at the dentist and he asked me: “Voce não tem medo de dentista, hein?” (You’re not afraid of the dentist, huh?). I wanted to say: “I’m OK until it hurts!”, but I found myself stuck – “Estou bem até a dor começa!”. Was I saying that I was OK up to the point the pain starts, or that I was OK even when the pain starts? Both have the opposite meaning! My wife helped me out here… you’d say “Estou bem até mesmo a dor começa!” for the latter to make sure the meaning of “including” was conveyed. So “até mesmo” would be the phrase you would need for even in that context. Hope that helps!


November 30, 2008 at 12:20 am 3 comments

R.E.M. in Brazil

R.E.M. have been touring South America, with several shows in Brazil – their first since 2001. Sadly, I wasn’t  able to make it as they’re only playing some 3000kms away in the south of the country. Anyway, here is a good-quality Brazilian-Portuguese-subtitled video of the band performing their hit Everybody Hurts.

Michael Stipe reportedly wrote the chorus to the song Imitation of Life with the line “that sugar cane that tasted sweet” after his visit to Brazil in which he tasted a drink made from sugar cane. The song is very popular in Brazil and here is a subtitled version of the track. The only problem is that the lyrics don’t make a lot of sense in English, let alone in Portuguese, so good luck…

The  press have been covering R.E.M. coming to Brazil. Here is an interview with leadsinger Michael Stipe from Folha Sao Paulo and here is a report from Globo about R.E.M.’s support of Obama (including a subtitled video clip). And here are some photos from their Sao Paulo show. Stipe’s only televison interview came with Globo news and you can watch it here (dubbed).

November 18, 2008 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

Para / por


If you’re like me you’ve probably found yourself stuck when speaking Portuguese trying to work out if the correct preposition is ´por´ or ´para´. The problem is, especially with por, that there are no single English equivelents. But, before we get to annoyed, we’d do well to remember that English prepositions are even more bountiful and confusing. (for example: the subtle differences between – good at, good with, good to, good for).

In terms of choosing which preposition to use – ‘por’ or ‘para’ – there are some guidelines that work most of the time, but you’ll still encounter the occasional blip or anomaly that doesn’t seem to make sense… you’ll just have to accept language is like that sometimes.

For the basis of this, I borrowed from Maria Fernanda Allen’s book Portuguese in Three Months. It is important to remember from the outset that por forms a contraction with the indefinite article in front of it. Por + a = pela, Por + o = pelo. Sometimes para is shortened to para + a = pra, Para + o = pro.

Uses of por
On behalf of…, on account of…
Eu pago a conta por você (I will pay the Bill for you).
Pela amor de Deus (For the Love of God!)

In Exchange
Troco este casaco pelo seu chapéu (I Will give you this coat for your hat)

In expressions of time for duration, frequency and as a marker.
Eles vieram por duas semanas (They came for two weeks).
Ele vai a Paris duas vezes por semana (He goes to Paris twice a week/two times per week).
Pela primeira vez, vi que ela era bonita. (For the first time, I noticed she was pretty).

Meaning by, through, along, via, over.
Vou pela praia. (I am going along the beach)
Está por ai? (Is it over there?)
Viajo a Portugal por França (I travel to Portugal through/via/by France.
Vamos pela TAP, naturalmente. (We’re going by TAP, of course).

Uses of para
Eu vou para casa (I’m going home).
These flowers are for you (Estas flores são para ti).
Parabens para você (Congratulations to you!)
Ele vai pra onde? (Where’s he going to?)

Esse trabalho e muito dificil para me. (This work is very difficult for me).


To conclude, generally para is more direct and grounded in real things. It’s like an arrow pointing TO the subject (…preparado para voce = prepared for you = somebody prepared it for you). Por is more indirect and often refers to concepts. At times, it’s like an arrow pointing AWAY from the subject. (…preparado por voce = prepared by you = you prepared it for somebody)

Other common examples to illustrate the difference between por and para are:

Escrito por voce (written by you) versus Escrito para voce (written for you)
Eu vou orar para Deus por voces (I will pray to God for you).

As Snoopy says in the cartoon above…
Por outro lado (lit. by the other side OR on the other hand ) versus Vá pro outro lado (Go to the other side).

November 15, 2008 at 12:42 am 3 comments

They don’t speak Spanish, you know!

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