Common Portuguese / Spanish Mix Ups

Common Portuguese Spanish Mix Ups Olive Branch graphic

Since Spanish is more commonly taught in schools, all my students so far have come to Portuguese after learning Spanish.

This is good and bad.

The temptation to lie back on your Spanish knowledge can trigger language vices that stick with you to the bitter end.

Unless we extract them one painful vice at a time. This is a straightforward guide to call attention to those Portuguese / Spanish mix ups that stalk even the very best of us.

You may also be interested in The Best Resources to Learn Portuguese and 30 Portuguese Phrases You Should Know.

Tip: run the Portuguese and Spanish words through Linguee and you can appreciate the stark pronunciation differences. You can select European Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese accents. Now let’s straighten out those Portuguese / Spanish mix ups.

Portuguese/ Spanish Mix Ups Common Words

Key (ENGLISH = Spanish / Portuguese)


BUT = pero / mas

MEANWHILE = mientras / enquanto

ALMOST = casi / quase

IF = si / se (pronunced the same in Spanish and Portuguese)

ONLY adj. = único / só

ONLY adv. = solo or solamente / apenas or somente

ALONE = solo / sozinho or só

WITHOUT = sin / sem


TO TRY (to) or ATTEMPT = tratar / tentar

TO DEAL WITH = tratar / lidar com

HE WANTS = quiere / quer SHE REQUIRES = requiere / requer

HE HAD = tuvo / teve

I HAD = tuvé / tive

TO LISTEN = escuchar / ouvir

TO RETURN = regressar / voltar


GENERALLY = en general / em geral 

SUPPOSEDLY = supuestamente / supostamente

DIFFERENCE = diferencia / diferença

I DON’T KNOW = no lo sé / sei lá

CAKE = pastel / bolo

PASTRY = empanada / pastel

Switching Common Spanish Endings / Middles to Portuguese 

Key (ENGLISH = Spanish / Portuguese)


NATION = nación / nação 

STATION = estación / estação

DECISION = decisión / decisão


INEVITABLE = inevitable / inevitável

PROBABLE = probable / provável

UE = O

BILL = cuenta / conta

SCHOOL = escuela / escola 

OUTSIDE = fuera / fora


CITY = ciudad / cidade

UNIVERSITY = universidad / universidade

Letter Sounds that Differ Between Spanish and Portuguese

In Spanish the “r” is rolled. In Portuguese the “r” makes a soft “h” at the end of words or when it is double “r”. Read more about this in our Common Portuguese Pronunciation Mistakes post.

Furthermore, in Spanish “j” makes a soft “h” sound. Whereas in Portuguese the “j” follows the same rules as English. Think “j” for jam.

Try this: open two Linguee dictionary tabs, one in Spanish and one in Portuguese. Type “jovem” in the Portuguese one and “joven” in the Spanish one. Click to listen to how each is pronounced. Pretty different, right?

5 Extras Rules on the Differences Between Spanish and Portuguese

Key (ENGLISH = Spanish / Portuguese)

  1. Portuguese never ends in an ‘n’ like Spanish, but rather an ‘m’. For instance:
    THEY SPEAK = hablan / falam,
    THEY EAT = comen / comem,
    THEY DRINK = beben / bebem.
  2. Portuguese uses more accents than Spanish to make certain sounds. ñ doesn’t exist but ão does. ê, ç, à all exist in Portuguese.
  3. The ñ sound in Spanish is made by combining “nh” in Portuguese. For instance:
    SIR = señor / senhor,
    COMPANION = compañero / companheiro,
    SPAIN = España / Espanha,
    SIZE = tamaño / tamanho,
    BATH = baño / banho.
  4. The possesive pronouns change gender depending on the noun in Portuguese.
    MY = mi / meu -minha,
    YOUR = tu / teu – tua,
    YOUR or HIS or HERS = su / seu – sua,
    OURS = nuestro – nuestra / nosso – nossa (Spanish changes this one),
    YOURS or THEIRS = sus / seus – suas.
  5. Plurals in Portuguese don’t always just add a “s” on the end.
    ANIMALS = animales / animais,
    WHICH ONES = quales / quais.
  6. The future “to be going to do something” doesn’t have an “a” in Portuguese like in Spanish
    Vou a viajar en el fin de semana (Spanish)
    Vou viajar no fim de semana (Portuguese)

Other post you may enjoy:

Common Portuguese Pronunciation Mix Ups
Best Resources for Learning Portuguese
30 Portuguese Phrases to Know
15 Insanely Useful Things to Know Before Going to Brazil

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