There are so many Portuguese phrases I wish I had learnt before going to Brazil. The interjections, exclamations and adjectives that Brazilians throw around every day. Slang that can throw you off. Replies that mean the opposite of the dictionary translation.
With this in mind, I’ve created a list of more colloquial, everyday Portuguese phrases that are guaranteed to crop up within your first week in Brazil.
Portuguese Phrases Used as Interjections
Só um minutinho (just a moment)
An interjection to gain more time. Though it translates as “just a minute”, this Portuguese phrase can be used to stall for half and hour or more.
Daqui a pouco (soonish)
Another way to stall for time. Longer than “só um minutinho,” this expression means “hold tight we’ll make a move anywhere within 10 minutes and 2 hours.”
Aos poucos (little by little)
Let’s learn Portuguese aos poucos!
Deixa eu te falar (let me tell you something)
Brazilians consistently use small Portuguese phrases like this one to clear some space for them to speak and let other people around know they’ve got something to add. It’s a useful expression to get the attention of a group of Portuguese speakers, rather than trying to speak over all of them.
Só que (only, just, but)
An alternative to “mas,” (meaning ‘but’). This is useful for Spanish speakers who have difficulty remembering to substitute ‘but’ in Spanish”pero,” for but in Portuguese “mas.”
Deixa para lá (forget about it)
When you want to forget about something or don’t want to pursue it anymore use “deixa para lá”. Often used when the process of rectifying something is not worth the effort. For example, you got the wrong change at a supermarket for instance or someone was rude, but you don’t want to enter into an argument.
Portuguese Phrases with Dar (to give)
Dar um jeito (find a way)
Used by Brazilians to express that there is always a solution!
Não temos sal! (We don’t have salt!)
Fica tranquilo, nós vamos dar um jeito. (Don’t worry, we’ll find a way around it.)
Dar certo (work out)
Dar certo means to go to plan or to work. Often used optimistically to say tudo vai dar certo (everything will work out) or in the past deu certo (it worked). It doesn’t refer to going to the gym to “work out”, which is “malhar.”
Dar uma volta (take a walk or ride around)
Take a walk or a ride around the city. You use it to refer to wandering around without a set plan or route. Imagine you’ve just arrived in a new country or city and want to explore.
Passear / dar um passeio (go out)
Similar to “dar uma volta“, this Portuguese phrase is used to just go out to enjoy the city/outside without a particular plan.
Vamos dar um passeio na praia? (Let’s take a walk on the beach?)
Vou passear. (I’m going on a walk/ a drive)
Se dar bem (to get along)
Get along with someone.
Meu namorado e meu irmão se dão bem. (My boyfriend and brother get along.)
Dar uma dica (give a tip)
“Uma dica” is a tip or piece of advice. So this phrase “dar uma dica” simply means to give a piece of advice or clue.
Brazilian Portuguese Adjectives
Coitado/coitada or tadinho/tadinha (poor thing)
Use these two Portuguese phrases to show sympathy for someone. It usually crops up when something has gone wrong and the person is telling you a story about the incident. Coitado or tadinho can be used as a valid response to a sad story.
Perdi meu celular. (I lost my phone)
Tadinha. (Poor you!)
Misconception in translating boring into Portuguese because this word can be used for a film or something that literally is not interesting and makes you bored. The second meaning, however, is to describe a person or situation that is annoying. For instance, someone who is whining, always complaining or nagging you.
Uma pessoa chata. (An annoying boring)
Um filme chato. (A boring film)
Zoado / Bagunçado (chaotic/ messy)
These Portuguese phrases are used all too frequently because life in Brazil is not always smooth sailing. Zoado and bagunçado basically infer that something is disorganised and not easily deciphered. Like for instance getting registered as a student in Brazil with the federal police or mistakenly eating ox tongue instead of steak.
A polícia do Brasil é muito zoada. (The Brazilian police are very disorganized)
A casa é bagunçada. (the house is a mess)
Pra caramba (a lot/ like crazy)
A more colourful substitution for “muito” (very), pra caramba is a colloquial way of exaggerating something.
Doeu pra caramba! (It hurt like crazy)
Idiomatic Portuguese Phrases
A gente se vira / Tem que se virar (find a way or deal with it)
Very similar to “dar um jeito,” the free translation of this phrase is “we will turn around”. Use this to say that though something may be difficult we’ll sort ourselves out and find a way around it. Imagine you are in a country where you don’t speak the language or you have to get by on a small income.
Encher o saco (drive you crazy/ or bug you)
“Encher o saco” means someone keeps asking you something or pestering you. The literal crude translation is the “fill the sack” and you can use it for anything from your micromanaging boss to your kids who won’t give you 5 minutes peace.
Ficar à vontade / Fique à vontade / Fica à vontade (make yourself at home/ relax)
Every time you walk into a Brazilian’s home they will tell you to “fica à vontade.” Get yourself a drink, sit where you want and relax. A Brazilian version of mi casa es su casa or “make yourself at home”.
“Fique à vontade” is the formal expression and should be used when writing the phrase.
“Fica à vontade” is informal and the way most people speak.
Matar a saudade / Matar saudades (kill nostalgia?!)
Whenever you are missing someone, a feeling or a place you use this phrase to say you are going to get back in touch with that person or place. Saudade is a difficult phrase to directly translate, but the general idea is to do something to get rid of nostalgia.
Encher a cara (to get drunk)
“Encher a cara” just means to get extortionately drunk. The literal translation would be “to fill the face!”
Bater papo / Bater um papo (chat)
To chat or have idle conversation with someone, nothing formal.
Tomar uma (go for a drink)
This is used to invite you out for a drink at a bar. Yes, it translated as “to drink one”, but that is far from the truth. Brazilian drinks can go on for hours, until the beer bottles are over-spilling under the table and you forget how to get home.
Ficar quieto/ calado (stay quite, but also to wait)
A pretty literal Portuguese expression that means “you didn’t say anything or make noise.” This can also however, be used to say “you didn’t interfere in someone’s story or affairs”.
Vou embora / Estou indo / Bóra (I’m leaving, let’s leave)
An announcement that you are leaving. It can be leaving work, a party etc. It mainly means that you are are going home and ending the night. This is different from saying “vou sair,” which refers more specifically to going out to somewhere not returning home.
Meter o pé (to leave)
Another colloquial way of saying you are leaving. Perhaps a good translation could be “I’m heading off.”
Topar / eu topo (I am down)
Use “topar” when you are agreeing to do something with someone else. For example, if someone suggests going to a bar or going on a weekend away somewhere. Basically it means yes!
Ter uma cara boa (look good)
Perfect Portuguese phrase to use when you get a plate of food that looks exceptional. Or you are debating whether to try a new restaurant and are judging it by the outside or menu. It looks good – tem uma cara boa.
Arrasar / Arrasou / Arraso– (killed it/ did great)
A compliment when you did something exceptionally well. “You killed it” in the sense that you aced something.
Arrumar uma confusão (cause a disruption)
When someone is complicating about a situation unnecessarily. Perhaps they disrupted a dinner. Though it can also be used metaphorically by not following protocol or the normal way of doing things that consequently sets off a chain reaction of negative effects.