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4 differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese

Are you starting to learn Portuguese? Before choosing between its European or Brazilian version, you might want to know their main differences. Let’s take a look at 4 of the main aspects that vary between European and Brazilian Portuguese.

European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese: two different languages?

It is estimated that there are around 258 million Portuguese speakers worldwide, making it the ninth most spoken language on the planet.

Although they are the same language, Lusitanian Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese have many distinctive features… A bit like metropolitan French and Quebec French. Both forms have followed their own evolution over the centuries, which has led to “versions”, each with their own characteristics. Accent, spelling, grammar… Let’s see what their main features are.

💡 Want to know more about the world’s languages? You will probably like this article: How many languages are there in the world?

1. The accent

The first thing you notice when you hear Portuguese or Brazilian speakers talking is the difference in their accents. The ‘music’ of the language is different, partly because of how people pronounce vowels and consonants.

In Portugal, vowels are not always pronounced. It depends on how the word is accentuated. In Brazil, however, everything is pronounced. This is often appreciated by beginners, as they find it easier to guess the spelling of words from their pronunciation.

Some consonants are also pronounced differently. For example, the letters “d” and “t”, when followed by an “e” or “i”, become palato-alveolar and are pronounced “dj” and “tch” respectively, in Brazil, which is not the case in Portugal.

2. Vocabulary

Sometimes, Brazilians and Portuguese don’t understand each other. This is usually the case when they use words that don’t exist in the version of their neighbours from the other side of the Atlantic.

Indeed, to denote the same thing, it is not uncommon to find two completely different terms between the two versions.

Here is a short list of examples:

English PortugueseBrazilian
Butcher’s shopTalhoAçougue

Would you like to see some more? Here’s a short video to add to this list!

Sometimes, the spelling differences between the two versions are a little more subtle. The spelling of words tends to be simplified in Brazil, or emulate the American pronunciation, whereas in Portugal the Latin roots prevail.

For example, the word “media” is written as media in Lusitanian Portuguese and mídia in Brazilian.

But don’t worry, a major spelling reform in 2009 has eliminated many of the spelling differences between the two versions. 

3. Being formal or informal

This is an aspect of the language that can confuse many Portuguese speakers when travelling across the ocean. 

In Portugal, there is a distinction between being on familiar terms (tu) and being formal (você). Most of the time, tu is reserved for informal situations. Você, on the other hand, is a mark of politeness. It is therefore used when addressing a person you do not know, your superior, etc.

Brazilians, on the other hand, make no distinction between being informal or formal. No matter who the person is, they use você. This is somewhat similar to the use of you in English.

4. The use of pronouns

The position of reflexive pronouns in the sentence varies between the two versions of Portuguese. In Portugal, they appear after the verb, while in Brazil they are placed before the verb. Note that the subject personal pronoun is usually omitted in European Portuguese, which is something less common in Brazil. 

Thus, to introduce yourself in Lusitanian Portuguese you would say Chamo-me Pierre, but in Brazilian it would be Eu me chamo Pierre.

Learning Portuguese: which version should I choose?

At first glance, Brazilian Portuguese may seem simpler than its Portuguese counterpart. If you are a beginner, you will certainly prefer the simplified spelling or the lack of distinction between familiar and formal terms of address. However, this should not be your main selection criterion between the two versions of the language.

Instead, base your decision on your actual needs. If you often deal with Portuguese clients at work, for example, Lusitanian Portuguese will be a smarter choice.

If you have no particular expectations, choose the version that offers you the best access to various teaching resources. Is it easier to find grammar books on European or Brazilian Portuguese? Are there more Brazilian or Portuguese trainers?

At 1to1PROGRESS, no matter which version of Portuguese you wish to learn, you will always find a native trainer ready to impart his or her knowledge! So, European or Brazilian Portuguese? Whatever the differences, the choice is yours!