November 30, 2008 at 12:20 am 3 comments

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!


Entry filed under: Essential words, Grammar. Tags: , , , , , , , .

R.E.M. in Brazil Calvin and Hobbes

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Babi  |  December 7, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Hi Dave!

    Well, about the “confusion” part, your own sentence makes more sence.

    Rach’s sentence “Estou bem até mesmo a dor começar” means you are ok even when the pain starts. So you are ok either way (with or without pain). And even so, does not sound that right. Estou bem até com dor = Estou bem até mesmo a dor começar, but I think (actually Mariano pointed out) it sounds better.

    There is something you can have in mind. You can use até when you have some feeling of “distance/lenth” (don’t quote me on this, I am trying to give my best explaining that in english =P). Yours examples:

    1. “Time” lenth = you first exemple. Other: Vou esperar até a próxima semana. So you have this lenth in days.

    2. distance = second example: From Natal to João Pessoa. I can’t really explain this. I hope you can get it.

    3. “knowledge” lenth = your third example. Johnny might not know enough (there is a “distance” between the older person knowledge and Johnny’s), but he got to win once.

    The confusion part: Eu estou bem até a dor começar. You are ok now (I would say time lenth) and it will stop when the pain starts. So there is a amount of time in between no pain and pain. Does it makes sense?

    I don’t know, I hope it does. =P

  • 2. Adan "Chip" Williams  |  December 29, 2008 at 5:47 am

    A friend of mine just wrote me about opening a small shop. He wrote:

    “voce pode motar algo como um mercado ou uma loja ate mesmo uma pararia …”

    In this case does “ate mesmo” mean “even up to” uma pararia?

    And I can’t find “motar” in any dictionary! What does “motar” mean?


  • 3. maclure  |  December 31, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I just asked my father in law about “motar”. He had no idea what it means. I can only guess from the context that motar is a misspelling of “montar”, similar to the English “to mount”or put up. ate mesmo = including or, as you say, even up to.


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