portuguese greetings

Say Hi: 31 Portuguese Greetings to Start Any Encounter on the Right Foot

Greeting people in Brazil with an insecure handshake and a nervous smile?

Saying hi to your friends from Portugal in Spanish?

Never again!

While it is true that Portuguese-speaking countries will generally accept a firm handshake, a kiss on each cheek or a warm hug between friends as healthy greetings, why would you want to stick to that forever?

This article presents 31 Portuguese expressions you can use for greeting anyone from your boss to your closest friends, as well as information on pronunciation and which countries use them the most.

Say “hello” to your new expert Portuguese greeting skills!
 


 
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Regional Variations in Portuguese Greetings

The Portuguese language is the sole official language of seven countries: Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also the co-official language in three other completely different parts of the globe: East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau, in China.

As you can imagine, pronunciations are certain to differ in different parts of the globe, and it is pretty much impossible to include all the variations in this article!

For that reason, we will mostly compare the basic pronunciation differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese.

When it comes to these greetings, you might notice that the most relevant difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese pronunciation relates to consonants, especially at the ends of words.

For instance, the combinations of the letters -te or -de at word endings will often sound like a -gee or a -tsh in Brazil and a simple, dry -d or -t in Portugal, as if the vowel has simply disappeared.

Portuguese pronunciation in African countries—such as Angola or Cape Verde—will often align more closely with the European version, although these countries tend to open up vowels and have a clearer, more easily understandable accent compared to that of Portugal.

portuguese-greetings

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31 Portuguese Greetings for All Occasions

Basic Portuguese Greetings

The following expressions can be used in any context: formal, informal, spoken, written… you name it!

They are the first ones you should learn when venturing into a Portuguese-speaking territory, and the ones you should master first to understand others.

Olá (Hello)

Olá is a classic, and also the reason why most would accidentally mistake Portuguese for Spanish.

Its pronunciation does not change at all across Portuguese-speaking countries, so it is a definite winner! All you have to do is say “OH-lah” and everybody will understand you.

A big plus? It can actually be combined with several other greetings, such as the ones you see below.

Bom dia (Good morning, lit. “Good day”)

Wish somebody a beautiful morning (until around noon or one in the afternoon) by using “bom GEE-a” in Brazil or “bom DEE-a” in Portugal and African countries.

Boa tarde (Good afternoon)

Widely used after lunchtime (past noon or one), boa tarde greets somebody between lunch and sunset.

In Brazil, this expression will sound like “boa TAHR-g,” while in Portugal it will sound like “boa TAHR-d.” Once again, Angolan Portuguese pronunciation would come closer to the European version in this greeting, as would Cape Verdean and Guinean pronunciations.

Boa noite (Good evening / Good night)

The Portuguese language does not distinguish evening from night. After sunset, as the sky becomes dark, you will be greeted with either “boa NOEE-tsh” (Brazil) or with “boa NOEE-t” (Portugal, Angola, Cape Verde and other Portuguese-speaking African nations).

Bem-vindo (Welcome)

Here comes the first challenge of the Portuguese language: Most verbs, nouns and adjectives have to adapt to both the number (singular or plural) and gender (male or female) of whatever they are referring to.

To make matters worse, even if you have a group of five women and only one man, you will still have to refer to that group as male.

For that reason, the word bem-vindo will actually be found in several forms: the original bem-vindo (for a man), bem-vinda (for a woman), bem-vindas (for two or more women) and bem-vindos (used for both two or more men, and for any group in which a man is included, even if the majority of people in that group are women).

Luckily, this greeting is not pronounced differently across Portuguese-speaking countries. Just say: “baym-VEEN-doo,” “baym-VEEN-da,” “baym-VEEN-doosh” or “baym-VEEN-da-sh.”

Tudo bem? (How are you, lit. “Everything well?”)

Used in all Portuguese-speaking countries, this expression is suitable for formal and informal contexts, as its literal meaning is simply asking: “Is everything well?”

A difference in pronunciation between Brazilian and European Portuguese does exist, but it is not significant for this greeting. Repeat after us: “toodoo BAYM?”

Até logo / Até amanhã (See you later/tomorrow, lit. “Until later” / “Until tomorrow”)

Fortunately, most separations are not a final “goodbye,” only a “see you tomorrow”!

But if you want to tell somebody they should look forward to seeing your face the very next day, you might get some trouble with two very typical Portuguese sounds: “nh” (same as the Spanish ñ, which in English is very close to that nasal “n” sound you make when you say the word “wing,” “thing” or “ring”) and “ã” (basically an extremely nasal version of the letter “a”).

After you have mastered these two sounds, you are ready to go! Say “a-teh LOH-goo” (see you later in the day) or “a-teh a-MA-nya” (see you tomorrow—using the “nh” and “ã” sounds) when you feel the word “Goodbye” could be a little too strong for the occasion.

Adeus (Goodbye)

Is it actually time to say goodbye? Look no further: “adeOOSH” will suffice!

However, be careful with the way you use this term. It implies that you will never actually see the person again or that you have no intention to. It is very strong and most people might find it dramatic or overly intense if used in the wrong context.

Save this expression for sad or beautiful goodbyes, breakups and unfortunate moments. Opt for até amanhã, até logo or tchau (read below) instead, when you are just going away for the day.

Formal Portuguese Greetings

Knowing whether you should use formal or informal phrases can often seem like a tricky dance, but the rule of thumb is that if you are talking to senior citizens, coworkers you have met recently, your boss, shop assistants or anybody you do not know well, you should use the expressions below.

Como está? / Como vai? (How are you? / How do you do?, lit. “How do you go?”)

This is the “How are you?” of formal greetings.

You can use it by saying “komoo SHTAH” (Portugal), “komoo eeSHTAH” (Brazil) or “komoo VIGH” (both).

This is a good expression to use immediately after greeting the person with an introductory expression, for example: “Olá, como está?” or “Bom dia, como vai?”

Tem passado bem? (Lit. “Have you been well?”)

If the previously mentioned Tudo bem? (lit. “Everything well?”) seems a little bit too informal for the situation you find yourself in, you can always opt for a classier, more formal version that literally translates to “Have you been passing well?”

All you have to do is pronounce it this way: “taym paSAH-doo BAYM?”

Cumprimentos (Greetings)

Used to either start or finish a formal letter or email (but never both in the same message), “coom-pree-MENtoosh” is an objective, distant, polite way to address somebody, especially if you have never met them before. It is suitable for addressing a potential employer, for example.

Estimado(a)… / Caro(a)… / Prezado(a) Sr(a)… (Dear…)

If you would prefer to write a formal message but feel “Greetings” is way too distant and you would prefer to mention a person’s name instead, go for polite salutations such as estimado (esh-tee-MAdoo), caro (KAH-roo) or prezado (preh-ZAH-doo).

These are the equivalents to “Dear Mr./Mrs.” or “Dear Sir/Madam,” as you will have to follow them with the person’s full name or last name.

Also, remember what we said before about having to adapt nouns to gender and number? The same happens here, as there are several variations of the same salutation: estimado (singular male), estimada (singular female), estimados (plural male or mixed group) and estimadas (plural female).

The same logic applies to the others: caro, cara, caros, caras; and prezado, prezada, prezados, prezadas!

Atenciosamente / Cordialmente (Sincerely, Best regards / Cordially)

These are the friendliest expressions one could use to finish a formal written message, whether that be an email, a text message or a letter.

Since these do not need to be adapted to number or gender, they are practical and universal, as well as understood throughout the Portuguese-speaking world!

If you were to use these expressions orally, you would need to say “atenSEEOH-zament” in Portugal and “atenSEEOH-zamentsh” in Brazil or “cohr-dee-ALment” (Portugal) and “cohr-dee-ALmentsh” (Brazil).

Informal Portuguese Greetings

Ready to impress your friends, family members, boyfriends and girlfriends with these laid back, heart-warming greetings? Keep reading and make sure you practice these words both out loud and through writing!

Oi! (Hi)

Widely used in Brazil, the term has spread to Portugal as well, although olá is still more common and acceptable as a standard greeting.

You would see oi used both orally and in writing, especially when texting, on Whatsapp, on social media and any other informal means of communication.

The word is pronounced “Oee,” with no difference from country to country.

Alô? / Está? / Estou sim? (Hello?)

As you might have guessed by now, “ah-LOH” is widely used in Portuguese-speaking countries when answering the phone, and it was probably adapted from other languages.

Alternatively, you might want to use Está? (lit. “Are you?” which is formal, but used with everybody) or Estou sim? (lit. “I am, yes?”) in Portugal.

Usually, the intonation will rise toward the end of the word, not the other way around!

E aí? (What’s up?)

E aí? is a typical Brazilian expression, and it is not used by natives in Portugal. However, pretty much everybody would understand you if you used it.

Meaning literally “And over there?” it is used as a substitute for both “Hi” and “How are you?” and functions as a two-in-one. It just does not get more useful than that!

Alternatively, some young people in Portugal will use Como é que é? (lit. “How is it?”) with a huge smile on their faces to informally ask what you have been up to.

Como você está? / Como vai você? (How are you? / How are you doing?)

It is important to note that in Brazil, the word você is used for informal situations to refer to “you” (second person, singular, informal), while in Portugal it is almost never used, except in extremely formal situations—and even then, most people would prefer not to use it at all.

For that reason, seeing the word você in a sentence can imply radically different tones depending on the country where it is voiced. Here, Como você está? (How are you?) or Como vai você? (How are you doing?, lit. “How do you go?”) are informal, as they are examples of Brazilian greetings and are used everywhere with friends, family members, close coworkers and so on.

Struggling with pronunciation? Try “komoo VOH-seh eesh-TAH?” or “komoo vigh VOH-seh?”

Como estás? / Como vais? (How are you? / How are you doing?)

If you are planning on applying your Portuguese skills in Portugal, these would be the expressions to use informally to ask “How are you?”

You will see that the Portuguese language often omits the person (in this case, tu, second person, informal), because it is implied by the way the verb is conjugated. This is one of those cases! Rather than saying Como estás tu? or Como vais tu? you will often hear the simplified version.

Here is a pronunciation tip: go for “komoo shTAH-sh?” or “komoo VIGH-sh?”

Querido(a) (Dear…)

Similar to the Spanish cariño or cariña, querido and querida are terms of endearment used all over the Portuguese-speaking world and would be translated as “Dear” for male and female, respectively.

Be careful, though: the letter “u” after “q” is 100% silent in this case! This means you would actually pronounce them as “keh-REEdoo” or “keh-REEda.”

While you are free to use this term as you speak, here it is introduced as a greeting while writing. You can begin any informal letter or email to a friend, family member or pen-pal with Querido(a)... For example: Querida Maria, Querido José…

Abraço (Hug)

Since you will be starting a letter or email with Querido(a), why don’t you finish your message in an equally comforting and memorable way?

Abraço (abRAH-so) literally means “hug,” and it is often used in writing to finish a conversation in a chat, a friendly email or a letter. Of course, it would be equally suitable for finishing a phone call!

Beijinho (Lit. “Little kiss”)

Perhaps one of the sweetest things about the Portuguese language is how it uses -inho or -inha (again, the characteristic Portuguese sound is included here, and it would sound a little like “-EENyoo” or “-EENya”). These are added at the ends of nouns or even names (Ronaldinho, anyone?) to indicate endearment, as well as something of a small size.

That is the case with beijo (kiss) as it becomes beijinho (little kiss), to mean a very sweet, quick kiss as a greeting.

Most would use this at the end of a phone call, but it can also be used in writing to end a conversation. Alternatively, you could use beijinhos (plural).

Fortunately, it is pronounced and used the exact same way in all Portuguese-speaking countries. Let’s say it together: “bay-JEE-nyoo.”

Tchau! / Xau! (Bye!)

As in several countries around the world, you can always use the term tchau when saying goodbye at the end of a spoken or written conversation. It is quick, easy, understandable by everybody and, above all, easy to pronounce (“TSHAH-oo”). 

However, be careful, as it is informal and should not be used at the end of a more formal situation like a meeting or a job interview.

 

Let these greetings act as a starting point to your Portuguese-learning journey.

Tchau!

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