Jun 6, 2024 7 min read

Brazilian Portuguese vs. Portugal Portuguese - a quick guide

Brazilian Portuguese vs. Portugal Portuguese - a quick guide

Portuguese, a language with a rich history, has evolved into two primary variants: Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese. These two dialects, while sharing a common root, have diverged significantly due to historical, cultural, and geographical factors. Whether you're traveling to Brazil or Portugal, understanding these differences can enhance your communication experience and cultural appreciation. Let's delve into the main distinctions between Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese.

Key Takeaways

  • Brazilian Portuguese is heavily influenced by African languages, while Portugal Portuguese has more Latin and Spanish influences.
  • Pronunciation differences include variations in vowel sounds, stress, and consonant usage, with distinct regional accents in both countries.
  • Vocabulary differences are evident in everyday words, slang, and loanwords, making some phrases unique to each variant.
  • Grammar and syntax variations include differences in verb conjugation, sentence structure, and the use of pronouns.
  • Spelling and orthography also differ, with variations in spelling rules, the use of accents and diacritics, and standardization efforts.

Historical Background of Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese

Colonial Influence on Language Development

The first Portuguese settlers arrived in Brazil in 1500, marking the beginning of a long colonial relationship. Brazil remained a Portuguese colony until 1822, which allowed for significant linguistic influence. Brazilian Portuguese has a notable African influence due to the large number of African slaves brought over during the colonial period. In contrast, Portugal has been a sovereign nation since 1143, and its language has been more heavily influenced by Latin and Spanish.

Cultural Contributions to Linguistic Differences

Cultural exchanges between Brazil and Portugal have shaped their respective versions of Portuguese. While Portuguese culture initially influenced Brazilian cuisine and architecture, Brazilian culture has also made its mark on Portugal. Brazilian soap operas and music are widely popular in Portugal, contributing to a dynamic cultural exchange.

Evolution Over Time

By the mid-16th century, a distinct Brazilian Portuguese dialect had already emerged. Over the centuries, this dialect continued to evolve, eventually becoming its own unique language. Portugal Portuguese, on the other hand, has undergone its own evolution, influenced by its interactions with neighboring Latin and Spanish-speaking countries.

Understanding the historical context of Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese helps in appreciating the rich linguistic diversity between the two.

Pronunciation Differences

Vowel Sounds and Stress

The most noticeable difference between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese is undoubtedly the pronunciation. While both share the same Latin roots, the way the words are pronounced differs greatly. Brazilians pronounce their vowels openly, whereas Europeans pronounce their vowels in a closed or reduced manner. For instance, a Portuguese speaker would pronounce "telephone" more like "tlefone," dropping the initial "e" sound with a closed mouth, as opposed to a Brazilian who might pronounce it more openly.

Consonant Variation

Moreover, some of the consonants are pronounced differently. For example, in Brazilian Portuguese, the letter "c" is pronounced like the "s" in "sun," while in European Portuguese, it is pronounced like the "k" in "kit." Additionally, the letter "t" is pronounced with a "ch" sound in Brazilian Portuguese, whereas in European Portuguese, it is pronounced similarly to English.

Regional Accents

Both Brazilian and European Portuguese have a variety of regional accents that further diversify pronunciation. In Brazil, accents can vary significantly from the north to the south, with noticeable differences in intonation and rhythm. Similarly, in Portugal, accents can differ from region to region, adding another layer of complexity to the language.

Vocabulary Variations

Everyday Words and Phrases

While Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese share many common words, there are notable differences in everyday vocabulary. For example, the word for "bus" is "ônibus" in Brazilian Portuguese and "autocarro" in Portugal Portuguese. Similarly, a "cell phone" is called "celular" in Brazil and "telemóvel" in Portugal.

Slang and Informal Language

Slang and informal language also vary significantly between the two dialects. In Brazil, you might hear the word "cara" to refer to a guy, whereas in Portugal, "gajo" is more commonly used. These differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings among speakers from different regions.

Loanwords and Borrowings

Both dialects have incorporated loanwords from other languages, but the sources and the extent of borrowing can differ. Brazilian Portuguese has a significant number of loanwords from African languages due to the country's history of slavery. On the other hand, Portugal Portuguese has more loanwords from Latin and Spanish. This results in a rich and diverse vocabulary in both dialects.

Understanding these vocabulary variations can greatly enhance communication and cultural appreciation between speakers of Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese.

Grammar and Syntax

Verb Conjugation

Verb conjugation in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and Portugal Portuguese (EP) follows similar rules but with some notable differences. In BP, the use of gerunds is more prevalent, whereas EP often uses the infinitive form. For example:

English BP (Brazilian Portuguese) EP (Portugal Portuguese)
I am eating Eu estou comendo Eu estou a comer
They are running Eles estão correndo Eles estão a correr

Sentence Structure

The sentence structure in both dialects is largely similar, but there are key differences in the placement of pronouns. In BP, pronouns typically precede the verb, while in EP, they often follow the verb. For example:

  • BP: Eu te amo (I love you)
  • EP: Eu amo-te (I love you)

Use of Pronouns

Pronouns in BP and EP can differ significantly. Personal pronouns are more commonly used in EP, even though verbs are conjugated to indicate the subject. In BP, pronouns are often omitted because the verb conjugation alone is sufficient to convey the subject. This leads to sentences like:

  • BP: Estou feliz (I am happy)
  • EP: Eu estou feliz (I am happy)
Understanding these grammatical nuances can greatly enhance your comprehension and communication in both Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese.

Spelling and Orthography

Differences in Spelling Rules

In 2009, a deal was reached to largely harmonize the spelling of the two varieties of Portuguese. As a result, European Portuguese spelling lost its silent consonants. For instance, 'baptismo' became 'batismo' even though that is how it was originally spelt and pronounced. However, there are still significant visual differences between both variants.

Some of the main spelling differences include:

  • In Brazil, words ending in 'ão' are written with an 'ã' instead, e.g., 'Ação' (action) becomes 'Açã'.
  • In Portugal, words ending in 'm' are usually written with an 'n', e.g., 'Sistema' (system) would be written as 'Sistema'.
  • Brazil uses the letter 'k' instead of 'qu' in words, e.g., 'Quilometro' (kilometer) becomes 'Kilometro'.
  • In Portugal, words beginning with 'E' or 'I' have an accent, e.g., 'Estação' (station) would be written as 'Estação'.

Use of Accents and Diacritics

Accents and diacritics are used differently in Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese. For example, the acute accent (´) and the circumflex accent (ˆ) are more commonly used in Portugal Portuguese to indicate stress and vowel quality. In contrast, Brazilian Portuguese often simplifies these uses.

Standardization Efforts

Throughout the modern history of the Portuguese language, there have been a few international treaties among Portuguese-speaking countries to standardize the orthography of their official language. Each new treaty brought the variants closer to a unified orthography, but none have managed to completely standardize it, as has happened with Spanish and its international spelling norm.

The most recent spelling agreement was signed in 1990, but not actively implemented in most Portuguese-speaking countries until the 2000s. However, since the new agreement still didn’t unify its spelling under a single norm, there are still significant visual differences between both variants.

Influence of Other Languages

African Influence on Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese has been significantly shaped by African languages, primarily due to the large number of African slaves brought to Brazil during the colonial period. This influence is evident in various aspects of the language, including vocabulary, pronunciation, and even grammar. For instance, many words of African origin are commonly used in Brazilian Portuguese, especially in regions with a high population of Afro-Brazilians.

Latin and Spanish Influence on Portugal Portuguese

Portugal Portuguese, on the other hand, has been more influenced by Latin and Spanish. This is largely due to Portugal's geographical proximity to Spain and its historical ties to the Roman Empire. Many Portuguese words have Latin roots, and the language shares several similarities with Spanish in terms of vocabulary and syntax. This Latin and Spanish influence has contributed to the formal and somewhat rigid structure of Portugal Portuguese.

Modern Borrowings

In both Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese, modern borrowings from other languages are common. These borrowings often come from English, reflecting global trends and technological advancements. For example, words related to technology, business, and pop culture are frequently borrowed from English and adapted into Portuguese. This ongoing process of borrowing and adaptation helps keep the language dynamic and relevant in a rapidly changing world.

The influence of other languages on Portuguese, whether in Brazil or Portugal, highlights the dynamic and evolving nature of this rich and intricate language.


In conclusion, while Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese share a common root, their differences are significant enough to warrant attention, especially for learners and travelers. The unique historical and cultural influences on each variant have led to distinct vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar structures. Whether you're planning a trip to Brazil or Portugal, or simply aiming to master the Portuguese language, understanding these differences will enhance your communication skills and cultural appreciation. So, take the time to familiarize yourself with the specific dialect you need, and you'll find your efforts well rewarded.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese?

The main differences lie in pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. Brazilian Portuguese has a significant African influence, while Portugal Portuguese is more influenced by Latin and Spanish languages.

Can speakers of Brazilian Portuguese understand Portugal Portuguese and vice versa?

Yes, speakers of both variants can generally understand each other, though they may occasionally need clarification due to differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.

Which variant of Portuguese should I learn?

It depends on your goals. If you plan to travel or work in Brazil, learning Brazilian Portuguese is advisable. Conversely, if your focus is on Portugal or Portuguese-speaking countries in Europe, Asia, or Africa, Portugal Portuguese would be more appropriate.

Are the grammatical structures different in Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese?

Yes, there are differences in verb conjugation, sentence structure, and the use of pronouns between the two variants.

Is the pronunciation very different between Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese?

Yes, there are notable differences in vowel sounds, stress, and consonant pronunciation, as well as regional accents within each variant.

Do Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese use the same spelling rules?

There are differences in spelling rules, the use of accents and diacritics, although there have been efforts to standardize orthography between the two variants.

Curtis Duggan
Curtis Duggan
Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.
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