How would you fare if we transported you to a Portuguese-speaking country right now?
Do you have enough phrases under your belt to find your way around?
Or would you likely get lost in translation?
If you suspect it’d be the latter, don’t fret—we’re here to put things right.
This post is for all the beginners who want to nail their basic Portuguese phrases.
Whether your focus is on European or Brazilian Portuguese, fine-tuning your essentials will make life that much easier.
Before we show you the linguistic ropes, here’s a brief intro that’ll help you make the most of your newly-acquired vocab.
Quick Tips to Make Learning Basic Portuguese a Breeze
Learning a language, as you already know, is a commitment.
It takes time to build up your vocabulary, study the grammar rules and get your pronunciation just right.
But you know what? All that groundwork doesn’t have to be stressful.
As long as you know what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it, the transition between all learning phases—from beginner to advanced—should go quite smoothly.
At this stage, in particular, there are two key points that we recommend you focus on:
Learn in context
Your first mission is to put your learned phrases into context. Memorizing words and sentences isn’t going to do any good if you don’t know how to apply them in your daily life.
With all the resources you can readily access these days, it’s easy and fun to get actively involved in practicing your linguistic skills—no matter how basic—beyond memorization.
For instance, the exercises and native content you’re exposed to through FluentU’s authentic videos will help you see how each new phrase and language rule you’re studying fits into everyday conversations.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Please note that our Brazilian Portuguese program is still in development, and European Portuguese is not yet available.
It’s an entertaining way to immerse yourself in a language the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary and reinforcing grammar rules.
Other great sources like Portuguese short stories, fun local cartoons, engaging Portuguese movies and authentic TV shows can also help you get a feel for the basics.
Learn out loud
The second thing to think about is pronunciation. A language learner’s ultimate goal is to get fluent, after all—so the earlier you start practicing those sounds, the better.
Watching online video lessons can be quite helpful at this stage. Regardless of which dialect you’re learning, finding the right material is as simple as searching for basic phrases, greetings and other key vocabulary terms in your chosen dialect.
Don’t just listen to how words are said, though—actually repeat them out loud. Pause the video after each word or phrase and come back to it a couple of times.
And if you need some extra reassurance on the pronunciation front, try inputting each separate word into your preferred Portuguese dictionary or translator app to hear how it’s spoken. Again, repeating them to yourself out loud is a must.
Sounds easy enough, right? Now that we’ve covered our basic practice rules, it’s time to look at those essential phrases.
45 Basic Portuguese Phrases and Words for Absolute Beginners
Basic Portuguese Greetings
Greetings are often the first thing you cover when learning a new language—and in Portuguese, it’s no different.
Whether you need a reminder of your basic hellos and goodbyes, or you’re yet to learn them, here are some of the key greetings you need to know:
1. Bom dia/Boa tarde/Boa noite — Good morning/afternoon/night
2. Olá — Hello
3. Oi — Hi
4. Alô/Está lá — Hello (on the phone)
Note that the former is used in Brazil while you’d say the latter in Portugal.
5. Tchau — Bye
6. Até logo! — See you later!
7. Até amanhã — See you tomorrow
8. Adeus — Goodbye (formal)
9. Tudo bem? — How are you?
10. Como vai? — How’s it going?
11. Eu estou bem, e você/e tú? — I’m good, how are you?
Note that e você? is the form of “and you?” most commonly used in Brazil. E tú? is the preferred form in Portugal, though you tend to hear it in certain parts of Brazil too.
Nailing Your Etiquette
Good manners always make a positive impression. If you’re ever traveling to Brazil or Portugal, these terms will help prevent any cultural misunderstandings that might arise from basic etiquette:
12. Por favor — Please
In Brazil, por favor is also commonly used in the same way that “excuse me” is said in English when you’re trying to politely grab someone’s attention.
13. Com licença — Excuse me
14. Obrigado/Obrigada — Thank you
Note that obrigado is masculine and therefore said by men and boys; obrigada is the feminine counterpart that women and girls would use.
15. De nada — You’re welcome
16. Desculpa/Desculpe — I’m sorry
Both are a variation of the same thing, though desculpe is slightly more formal.
17. Perdão — Forgive me/pardon me
18. Prazer — Nice to meet you
19. O senhor/a senhora — Formal way of saying “you” when addressing a man (senhor) or a woman (senhora)
For example: O senhor/a senhora poderia me ajudar? — Would you be able to help me?
Getting Your Linguistic Bearings
There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, it’s all part of the learning experience.
If you’re talking to a native Portuguese speaker, use these phrases to aid your comprehension:
20. (Você/O senhor/A senhora) Fala inglês? — Do you speak English?
In Portugal, just saying Fala inglês? will suffice. In Brazil, it’s more common to precede with você or, if appropriate, the more formal versions of “you.”
21. Alguém aqui fala inglês? — Does anyone here speak English?
22. Não compreendo — I don’t understand
23. Eu compreendo — I understand
24. Não entendi — I didn’t understand [what you said]
25. Entendi — I understood/I understand (the past in this sense is used as an affirmation)
26. Eu não sei — I don’t know
27. Como se diz… em Português? — How do you say … in Portuguese?
28. Fale mais devagar, por favor — Please speak more slowly
Out and About
Traveling to Brazil or Portugal? Then these questions will definitely help you along the way. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’ll help you get started:
29. Onde é o banheiro? — Where is the bathroom? (Brazilian Portuguese)
30. Onde fica a casa de banho? — Where is the bathroom? (European Portuguese)
31. Quanto custa? — How much does this cost?
32. Que horas são? — What time is it?
33. Que horas abre/fecha? — What time does this place open/close?
An alternative to this is: Que horas vocês abrem/fecham? — What time do you open/close?
34. Para onde vai esse trem/ônibus? — Where does this train/bus go?
35. Como chego ao (à)… — How do I get to…?
Grammar note: use ao for masculine nouns, à for feminine.
For instance: Como chego à estação de trem? — How do I get to the train station?; Como chego ao ponto de ônibus? — How do I get to the bus stop?
36. Você pode me mostrar no mapa? — Could you show me on the map [where this is]?
37. Qual é o seu nome? — What is your name?
38. Me chamo… — My name is…
An alternative to this is: Meu nome é…
39. Estou com saudades/Tenho saudades — I miss you (Brazilian/European Portuguese respectively)
40. Eu estou doente — I’m sick
41. Preciso de sua/tua ajuda — I need your help (Use sua in Brazil and tua in Portugal)
42. Sim/não — Yes/no
43. Quando? — When?
44. Por quê? — Why?
45. Vamos! — Let’s go!
We’ve given you a solid foundation to work with here—now it’s time to get creative!
Once you’ve covered all the basic phrases above, spend some time expanding on your existing knowledge!
You might go from asking for directions to giving out directions.
You could learn how to order things at a restaurant or bakery.
Or you can spend some time delving into the basic conversation starters you might want to use when chatting with Portuguese-speaking friends or family members.
As you can see, just 45 phrases and words provide excellent building blocks to help you to pave your path into fluency. So go forth and have fun with the linguistic and cultural intricacies of the Lusophone world!