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Do you know how to say hi or hello in Portuguese? What about welcome or nice to meet you? And did you know that Portuguese greetings vary according to the gender of the parties involved?
Well, whether you’re on a language learning journey or merely curious, we’ll cover it all in this article! Learn how to greet people according to the time of the day, the situational context, and some other useful expressions in Portuguese.
Let’s get started!
European and Brazilian Portuguese: What’s the difference?
Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language in the world, with approximately 280 million people whose mother tongue is Portuguese. Portugal and Brazil, along with Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor have Portuguese as an official language.
Despite being the only language in the world with an orthographic agreement, the way the language is spoken differs according to the location. The Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese Portuguese are the two main variations of the language. Thus these are the two we’ll be looking into.
Brazilian Portuguese is currently the most studied and spoken variation. When comparing Brazilian Portuguese to European Portuguese, there are significant deviations in vocabulary, syntax, and pronunciation.
In terms of vocabulary, the variation spoken in Brazil is very influenced by indigenous languages (especially Tupi-guarani). It’s also influenced by dialects brought by Africans, which allowed the development of many words now used in everyday settings. Portugal has a Moorish influence, so there are a few words that originated from Arabic. When it comes to syntax, the most prominent difference is that Europeans do not use gerunds. They also put the oblique pronoun at the beginning of the sentence (BR-PT: me dá um beijo instead of PT-PT: dá-me um beijo).
In Brazil, they also use the personal pronoun “você” when addressing the person they’re talking to. But because it is a treatment pronoun, it’s used in the third person, instead of the second. Therefore, the verb conjugation doesn’t really change when talking formally or informally.
However, in Portugal, “você” hasn’t been used for a long time and the third person speech is reserved for formal contexts. Just like the other Latin languages, the second person is used when speaking more casually or informally.
A lesson in nominal agreement
Portuguese is a language of nominal agreement, just like all Latin languages. But what exactly is this? Nominal agreement is essentially the harmony that must occur between article, number, pronoun, and adjective, according to the noun in the sentence.
Seems confusing? I’ll break it down for you… Nominal agreement is what happens in relation to gender (female and male) and number (singular and plural). Though the number part is probably a given, you should also know that all nouns have a gender in Portuguese. The tree becomes ‘a árvore’ (female noun) and the notebook becomes ‘o caderno’ (male noun).
In the case of Portuguese greetings, most fixed expressions don’t vary. What requires change is when you’re using a proper sentence, conjugate a verb, or use an adjective. Here’s an example:
- Bem-Vindo – means Welcome, but it can only be used if the person you’re talking to is male.
- Bem-Vinda – should be said when welcoming a female instead.
- Bem-Vindas – used if welcoming more than one person of the female gender.
- Bem-Vindos – if welcoming multiple males or a mix of male and female people.
Greet people with a kiss – mwah!
In both Portugal and Brazil, a kiss on the cheek is a universal form of greeting between a man and a woman or two women. You don’t necessarily need to know a person well or be intimate with them to kiss their cheek. For instance, when introduced to someone new by a mutual acquaintance, it’s customary to greet them like so. Now, if the person is a complete stranger, just comes up to introduce themselves, then no kissing is done. Also, men rarely kiss men (except maybe between family). Or unless someone gets overly excited.
The cheek to cheek and kiss in the air is also quite popular. I’d say more popular than the traditional cheek kiss. And hugging is also common between friends, sometimes in addition to the kiss. But in a business setting, all this PDA is often replaced by the traditional handshake, especially if there isn’t an established relationship, to begin with.
The 10 ways to say “hello” in Portuguese (and other Portuguese greetings)
Below are a few ways to greet people in Portuguese. These may be used in different contexts, depending on who you’re talking to or what time of the day it is. There may be a few other ways but these are the most widely used. Here are the 10 most common Portuguese greetings:
“Hello” in Portuguese – Olá
Olá is the most basic of Portuguese greetings. It literally means “hello” and may be combined with some of the following, like bom dia or boa tarde.
“Hi” in Portuguese – Oi
Much like its English counterpart, Oi is a more casual greeting. Curiously, it’s much more used in Brazil than any other Portuguese speaking country.
“Good morning” in Portuguese – Bom dia
Bom dia literally means “good day” and is often said until noon. Although some people will argue that there are 24 hours in a day, therefore it may be used at any time. Semantics, schmantics…
“Good afternoon” in Portuguese – Boa tarde
Boa tarde is used from 1pm until the sun goes down. It literally means “good afternoon”.
“Good evening/night” in Portuguese – Boa noite
Boa noite means “good evening” and used after sundown. It may also be used as good night when you mean to say goodbye.
“How are you?” in Portuguese – Como está/s?
This is the most common way to ask someone how they are in Portuguese. Use third-person como está? when in Brazil or in a more formal situation. This includes talking to an authority, an elderly person, or conducting business.
The second-person como estás? is more widely used in the other countries that use the European Portuguese variety, especially when talking to people similar in age or that are close to you.
Jump to the next article to learn more ways of asking “how are you?” in Portuguese.
“All good?” in Portuguese – Tudo bem?
Although all good would be a highly informal way of asking how people are, that’s not the case with Portuguese. Tudo bem? may be used in business, casual, or any setting, really.
“Welcome” in Portuguese – Bem-Vindo
Bem-Vindo is used to welcome someone. We’ve been over the variations above so scroll a bit up to refresh your memory if needed.
“What’s your name?” in Portuguese – Como se/te chama(s)?
Technically, it actually means “what are you called?” but works just the same. This one, too, varies according to the setting. If in Brazil or in a formal situation, use the third-person como se chama?. If anywhere else, and in an informal situation, use the second-person como te chamas?.
“Nice to meet you” in Portuguese – Prazer em conhecê-lo/conhecer-te
Again, this one uses situational AND nominal agreement. Prazer em conhecê-lo is the formal version and may be used when talking to a single male. If talking to a female, the pronoun will change from -lo to -la, if a group of females then -las, and if a group of males or mixed -los.
Prazer em conhecer-te is much easier to use as it never changes, but it may only be used in informal settings. If you think you might not memorize the whole thing, you may also just use Prazer, which translates to “pleasure”.
The 5 ways to say “goodbye” in Portuguese
Just like with “hello”, there are also a few fixed expressions to say goodbye in Portuguese. Luckily, most of these don’t vary, so you’ll have a better time understanding. Here are the common ways of saying it:
“Goodbye” in Portuguese – Adeus
Adeus is the most widely used way of saying goodbye in Portuguese. It literally means “to God”, so it’s almost like you’re sending people away to God. I realize now that it sounds somewhat morbid but, regardless of religion, this what Portuguese-speaking people say the most.
“Bye” in Portuguese – Xau
Xau is also written as Tchau or Chau. It’s is believed to be an adaption from the Italian Ciao. However, this one isn’t used to say “hello”, only “goodbye”. It’s definitely an informal expression, mostly used among family or friends.
“See you soon” in Portuguese – Até já
Até já literally means “see you soon” but when we say it, we truly mean SOON. Like in a couple of hours or so.
“See you later” in Portuguese – Até logo
Just like the latter, this one stays true to its literal meaning. You say Até logo when you intend to see the person later, either in a few hours or that same night.
“Thank you” in Portuguese – Obrigado
So, this one may not be a literal “goodbye” in Portuguese but it’s often used that way. Let’s say you went to grab your morning coffee and a pastry. You say thank you and leave, right? That’s what I mean. However, this one varies according to the speaker. Obrigado if a male, obrigada if a female.
Other useful expressions
“Excuse me” in Portuguese – Com licença
This a very polite expression with a wide variety of uses. You may say com licença when you interrupt a conversation, intend to enter a room, or after you burp. In fact, if you don’t say com licença after you burp, you’re just plain rude.
“Enjoy” in Portuguese – Bom apetite
It doesn’t mean to enjoy but rather to enjoy your food. Much like its French cousin “bon appétit”, bom apetite is usually said before a meal. You can either say it to someone who’s about to eat on their own or with whom you’re eating. Hell, you can even say it to yourself.
“Congratulations” in Portuguese – Parabéns/Felicidades
So parabéns may also be used as “happy birthday”. (Click to read all about how to wish someone a happy birthday in Portuguese.) Still, parabéns and felicidades can be said when congratulating someone for something. Anything. Even as sarcasm.
“Cheers” in Portuguese – Saúde
This one might come in handy at parties or celebrations of any kind. Saúde literally translates to “health” and it’s what we say when toasting to something. There is a fun, easier to pronounce alternative: tchin tchin! – meant to sound like glasses clinking.
“I miss you” in Portuguese – Tenho saudades tuas/suas
Saudade is one of those tricky words that don’t really translate to anything in any other language. Despite that, the expression tenho saudades tuas is a more sentimental way of saying sinto a tua/sua falta, the literal “I miss you”. Be melancholic and nostalgic like the Portuguese, use the unique version!
Learn Portuguese at home
Want to learn beyond how to say “hello” in Portuguese? I recommend downloading the Babbel app, where you can learn from the beginning or focus on a specific topic. Another good app to use is LingQ, an authentic online language learning community. But if you’d rather learn at your own pace with a native tutor, then italki is for you.
For more options, read this list of the best apps to learn Portuguese. Regardless of how you decide to study, make sure to be patient with yourself and, most of all, have fun!