Asking “how are you” in Portuguese (and replying to it) doesn’t have to be a mystery to you. Informal settings usually allow you to skip a first greeting and go with a simple “all good?”. That makes this a crucial post for beginners to intermediate learners, just like our articles on how to say “hello” and “thanks” in Portuguese.
As you might already know, though, European and Brazilian Portuguese almost sound like two different languages. So because passing off as a local is a lot of fun, we highlighted which expressions sound more natural in each dialect. (But to your relief, the first four are pretty universal.)
Ready? Let’s get going!
Formal to slightly informal translations to “How are you?” in Portuguese
1. “How do you do?” in Portuguese — Como vai?
We’ll start off with the most formal way of saying “how are you?” in Portuguese. While the literal meaning of como vai? is something along the lines of “how are you doing?”, it’s more commonly used when being introduced to someone at work, for example. That’s why the closest idiom in English would be “how do you do?”.
“Como vai?” is common across the Portuguese-speaking world.
2. “Hello! How are you?” in Portuguese — Olá! Como está(s)?
Como está? can follow basically any of the many ways of saying “hello!” in Portuguese that we ran over on another post. Being so versatile and neutral is what brings it near the top of our list. On a side note, como você tá? is how most Brazilians would apply this expression.
Wondering what the “s” right after “está” means? As it happens in all Romance languages, different levels of formality in Portuguese require different forms of address. Luckily for those studying Brazilian Portuguese, formal “a senhora” (female) and “o senhor” (male) are conjugated just like informal “você”.
Europeans, nonetheless, still regularly use “tu” with friends and family, a practice that has fallen into disuse in most regions of the South American country. To make a long story short, the Portuguese “thou” can be fairly tricky, yet in the present tense you (generally) just have to add an “s” to the 3rd person base form. Phew!
3. “All good?” in Portuguese — Tudo bem / bom?
This greeting is just everywhere; it’s hands down the most important expression on our list. If you add “está” (“tá” for short) before tudo bem, it’s somewhat like asking “are you ok?” instead.
A less common variation is tudo bom?, where you use the adjective for “good” rather than the adverb for “well”.
4. “(Is) everything ok?” in Portuguese — Tudo certo?
Whereas “Is everything ok?” sounds like something doesn’t seem right, its direct Portuguese translation doesn’t have that connotation. Tudo certo? is fairly neutral register-wise, as well as common both in Brazil and Portugal.
5. “(Is) everything cool?” in Portuguese — (Está) tudo fixe?
This is for readers tempted to (rightfully) accuse me of a Brazilian bias. “Fixe” (/feesh/), meaning “cool”, is as authentically Portuguese as custard tarts. What’s more: the overwhelming majority of Brazilians are guaranteed to give you a blank stare if you drop this word into a conversation with them.
Conversely, in Portugal you’re likely to earn brownie points with young people for knowing a colloquial idiom like tudo fixe?. “Está” isn’t mandatory.
6. “What’s up!” in Portuguese — E aí!
E aí! has become so common among Brazilians of all ages that we can almost say it has replaced shy “oi!” and awkward “olá!” as the go-to informal greeting. Pronounced /ee-ah-ee/ (or /ee-ah-eah/ for extra spontaneity), it sounds welcoming and relaxed.
Untranslatable ways of asking “How Are You?” in Portuguese
Up to this point we’ve covered the more standard ways of following up to your “Oi!” and “Bom dia!”. Yet Brazilians specifically seem to love coming up with new ways of doing that. Most of the following expressions would be easily understood across the pond. They probably won’t come off as idiomatic, however.
7. (Tudo) beleza / joia?
As nonsensical and abstract as this may seem, friendly exchanges in Brazil start with “beauty?” / “jewelry!” all the time. In a way, though, these nouns serve as adjectives here, so it’s more like asking “is everything beautiful?” and replying with “all’s precious!”. (I guess that still sounds quite flamboyant in typical Brazilian fashion.) They’re used interchangeably, and “tudo” is optional.
8. Tudo em cima?
Tudo em cima? might sound outdated these days, but you could still hear it from a groovy senior. You can answer this (which literally means “is everything on top?”) with tudo indo (/tooh-doo een-doo/), i.e. “everything’s going (well)” or some other variation, such as tranquilo (/trahn-kwee-loo/).
Hailing from São Paulo’s thriving rapping scene, the literal translation of firmeza? (/feer-may-zah/) is “firmness”. As with most other expressions here, it can be used both as a question and a response.
Pro tip: couple it with mano (/mahn-noo/, i.e. “bro”) to make the day of your Paulista acquaintance.
If you ever say this to a young Carioca (meaning a Rio native) chances are you’ll become instant friends with them. Coé (/coh-eah/, i.e. the “o” as in “horse” and the “a” as in “care”) is not even a real word, but a contraction of “qual é?”. It literally means “what is it?” and can be better rendered as “what’s new?”.
Your new friend will be amazed at how knowledgeable you are in their city’s slang. This is street lingo in Portuguese at its finest. By the way, cara (/cah-rah/ with a rolled “r”) is the local equivalent of São Paulo’s “mano”.
I’m sure you’re feeling way more confident about wandering through the cobbled streets of Lisbon or strolling on Rio’s seaside promenade now that you know how to approach locals. You shouldn’t stop there, though! You’ll impress all your friends if you learn how to speak Portuguese, plus it’s just a stunning language. So make sure to check our list of the most comprehensive apps to study Portuguese to get a head start!