portuguese alphabet

The Portuguese Alphabet: Everything You Need to Nail Your ABCs

A-B-C-D-E-F-G… Now say it back in Portuguese to me.

Okay, so you’re not quite there yet.

Don’t fret—by the end of this blog post, you’ll be a Portuguese alphabet pro!


Learning and Practicing the Portuguese Alphabet

Let’s begin by focusing on some key strategies for learning and revising your Portuguese ABCs.

It’s a good idea to focus on the vowels first, not just because there are fewer letters to memorize, but also because their sounds will help you fine-tune your consonant pronunciation later on. Repeat the vowels to yourself several times, and make sure to mix things up a little. Recite them backward, jumble them up, say a single vowel three times before moving to the next—any pattern helps.

Once you feel confident with your vowels, add in the consonants. There are different ways you can do this:

  • You could memorize the consonants on their own, as you did with the vowels.
  • You could try your hand at reciting the alphabet in full.
  • Or, you could break the alphabet into groups of four to five letters. This is a memorization technique called chunking in which information is sorted into smaller groups before being added into larger units. It’s meant to help you retain information quicker.

From there, you’ll want to start putting this knowledge into practice. At this stage, along with pronunciation, you’ll be homing in on spelling and vocabulary building. Here are some ways to get the ball rolling:

  • Make a list of basic words, like everyday phrases, travel essentials or even something as simple as food vocabulary. As you’re learning each word, make a point of spelling it out loud to yourself in Portuguese.
  • Make the most of all those amazing language learning resources you can find online. For example, FluentU uses authentic Portuguese videos (both Brazilian and European) to teach you new vocabulary and even has some children’s cartoons that can introduce you to the alphabet the way Portuguese speakers learned it when they were kids.
  • Likewise, browse through a dictionary or use a translator app, like Linguee (iOS | Android) or Ascendo’s Portuguese Dictionary (iOSAndroid). Pick a few random words and try spelling them out loud. If your chosen app has an audio playback option, listen to each word a few times and practice saying it in full before spelling it out. That way, you’re getting a fuller pronunciation practice experience.
  • Looking for something more interactive? Try a spelling game like 101 Languages’ Spelling Challenge or Digital Dialect’s Brazilian Portuguese Spelling Games.

The Portuguese Alphabet: Everything You Need to Nail Your ABCs

Note: In this post, we’ll be using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which consists of symbols used worldwide to demonstrate different sounds.

The Portuguese Alphabet Overview 

Before we break things down, let’s take a look at the Portuguese alphabet in full.

A a B b C cD dE eF f
áe, éefe
G g H hI iJ jK kL l
agáijotacá/capa ele
M mN n O o P p Q q R r
eme ene ó quê erre
S s T t U u V v W w X x
esse u
Y y Z z
i grego

Note that the letters k, w and are only used for foreign terms. There are no Portuguese words with these letters.

You can get a better idea of how these letters sound by watching this video on the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet or this one on the European Portuguese alphabet.

Brazilian Portuguese Alphabet:

European Portugese Alphabet:

European Portuguese Alphabet Pronunciation

If you’ve chosen to learn European Portuguese, the way you’ll pronounce certain vowel and consonant sounds will vary from the Brazilian dialect.

So, to help with pronunciation, we’ll be explaining the different vowel and consonant sounds and rules you’ll need to know.

European Portuguese Vowels

Here are your basic vowels, with their respective phonetics:

a e i o u
[a/ɐ] [é/ɛ/ɨ] [i] [o/ɔ] [u]

You’ll notice there are multiple sounds for a few of these. Essentially, some vowels are open, closed or muted, depending on the word being enunciated:

Vowel Sound Phonetics Example word 
Open A a arte (art)
Closed A ɐ antigo (old, ancient)
Open E é mulher (woman)
Closed E ɛ comer (to eat)
Muted E ɨ se (if)
I i imagem (image)
Open O ɔ sol (sun)
Closed O o coelho (rabbit)
U u música (music)

European Portuguese Consonants

Let’s take a look at the consonants and their respective phonetics:

[ʃ/s/z/ks/gz][y][z, s]

As you can see, some consonant sounds are fairly straightforward:

Consonant Phonetic Sound Example 
B b banho (bath)
D d dente (tooth)
F f falso (false)
H silent hora (hour)
J Ʒ jogar (to play)
L l língua (tongue, language)
M m momento (moment)
N n número (number)
P p parte (part)
Q q quarto (room)
T t tigre (tiger)
V v vídeo (video)

Others have more complex rules:

Consonant Sound Rules Examples 

k: when the C is followed by an A, O, U

s: when it follows E or I

k: casa (house), corpo (body), cuidado (care, caution)

s: centro (center), cintura (waist)


g: when followed by A, O, U

Ʒ: when followed by E or I

g: gato (cat), gostaria (would like), guerra (war)

Ʒ: gente (people), ginástica (gymnastics)


ʁ: at the beginning of a word

r: in the middle of a word

ʁ: romance (romance)

r: caro (dear)


ʃ: when the s follows an unvoiced consonant sound (c, ç, ch, f, p, q, s, t) or when there’s a pause after a vowel

ʒ: when it is followed by a voiced consonant (b, d, g, j, l, lh, m, n, nh, r, rr, v, z)

z: between vowels and when a word ending in “s” is followed by another with a vowel

s: at the beginning of a word

ʃ: as suas amigas (your friends, feminine)

ʒ: desenhar (to draw)

z: fase (phase), às ordens (at one’s service)

s: simples (simple)


ʃ: at the beginning of a word; after a diphthong (e.g., ai, ão); after -me; after -en

s, z, ks and gz: when x is in the middle of a word

ʃ: xarope (syrup), caixa (box), mexer (to mix or stir), enxugar (to dry)

s: máximo (maximum)

z: exame (exam)

ks: maxilar (jaw)

gz: hexágono (hexagon)


z: at the beginning or in the middle of a word

s: at the end of a word

z: zebra (zebra), cozinha (kitchen)

s: arroz (rice)

Brazilian Portuguese Alphabet Pronunciation

It’s worth noting that some of the rules mentioned in the European Portuguese section apply to the Brazilian dialect too. This’ll become clearer as we cover the main pronunciation cues you need to know.

Brazilian Portuguese Vowels

As we did in the previous section, here are the Brazilian Portuguese vowels with their respective phonetics:

a e i o u
[a/ã] [e/ɛ/i] [i] [o/ɔ/u] [u]

And, here’s a breakdown of what that means:

Vowel Sound Phonetics Example word 
Open A a agora (now)
Closed A ã pergaminho (parchment)
Open E e aquarela (watercolor)
Closed E ɛ chover (to rain)
Muted E i importante (important)
I i cinema (cinema)
Open O ɔ escola (school)
Closed O

o: in the middle of a word

u: at the end of a word

o: conta (count, account, bill)

u: correto (correct)

U u único (single, unique)

Brazilian Portuguese Consonants

For the most part, Brazilian Portuguese consonant pronunciation follows the same rules as European Portuguese.

The main differences are in the consonant sounds marked in bold below:

[z, s]

Here’s a look at what this entails:

Consonant Sound Rules Examples

ʤ: before i or before an unstressed e at the end of a word

d: everywhere else

ʤ: idioma (language), saúde (health)


d: querida (dear, feminine), dormir (to sleep)


ṷ: after vowels

l: everywhere else

ṷ: mel (honey), casal (couple)

l: lixo (garbage), loja (store)


ʧ: before i or an unstressed e at the end of a word

t: everywhere else

ʧ: tigre (tiger), forte (strong)

t: toalha (towel), antena (antenna)

Bonus: Portuguese Diphthongs and Double Consonant Sounds

When you’re ready to go beyond the basic ABCs, here are a few letter combinations that you’ll need to keep in mind when it comes to perfecting your Portuguese pronunciation.


Also known as gliding vowels, diphthongs are a combination of two vowel sounds in a single syllable. There are two types of diphthongs in Portuguese: oral and nasal.

Oral diphthongs with examples: 

ai [ai] — papai (father), vai (go), mais (plus or more)

ei [ei] — cantei (I sang), eixo (axis), queijo (cheese)

éi [ɛi] — papéis (papers), cartéis (cartels), fiéis (faithful, plural)

oi [oi] — comboio (train), foi (was), moinho (windmill)

ói [ɔi] — dói (hurts), lençóis (sheets), herói (hero)

ui [ui] — fui (was, have been), diminui (decreases), uivar (to howl)

au [au] — mau (bad), pau (stick, pole), autor (author)

eu [eu] — meu (my, mine), choveu (it rained), europeu (European)

éu [ɛu] — céu (sky), réu (defendant, accused), troféu (trophy)

ou [ou] — ouriço (hedgehog), chamou (called), outro (other)

iu [iu] — sumiu (disappeared), dormiu (slept), viu (he/she saw)

Nasal diphthongs with examples:

ãe, ãi [ɐ̃j̃] — mãe (mom), cãimbra (cramp), pães (breads)

ão [ɐ̃w̃] — mão (hand), chão (floor), portão (gate)

õe [õj̃] — põe (puts, put — imperative), canções (songs), corações (hearts)

Double Consonants

CH — It can appear at the beginning or in the middle of a word and is pronounced like the English “sh.” Examples include chave (key), chocolate (chocolate) and chamar (to call).

LH — This combination is found in the last syllable sound of some words. There’s no English equivalent, but it’s quite similar to the “ll” sound in some Spanish dialects or the “gl” sound in Italian. Some examples are toalha (towel), olho (eye) and joelho (knee).

NH — Also used at the end/in the final syllable of a word, the “nh” sound is used for nouns, as well as for diminutive terms like florzinha (little flower) or casinha (little house). It’s quite similar in sound to the Spanish ñ (as in niño — boy) or a slightly more nasally version of the final syllable in the English word “canyon.” Examples include caminho (path), junho (June) and tamanho (size).

— This is yet another combination that appears in the final syllable. In this case, the first “c” has a hard “ck” sound while the “ç” has a soft “s” sound. Think of the word “conviction” in English and its Portuguese cognate, convicção. Other examples include confecção (confection), dissecção (dissection) and fricção (friction).


Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of information here. There’s no need to rush when learning the alphabet and its pronunciation rules. Take your time, and break things down as much as you need.

All that hard work will pay off soon, as mastering the alphabet will allow you to start paving your path towards Portuguese fluency!

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