Being Portuguese … sendo Português … is complicated

Brazilian, Portuguese Flags And More

Brazilian, Portuguese Flags And More (Photo credit: austinhk)

Being Portuguese is not quite as simple as being French. First you have to work out if you are Portuguese Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese. There can be big differences.

If you are Portuguese Portuguese and you are a man you will convert your whole backyard into a vegetable patch, and grow your own grapes to make your own wine. When friends come to dinner you be very hospitable as usual, you will give them plenty of food, and a little glass of  your homemade wine for them to sample. Out of politeness they will say, é bom – it’s good (but privately they may be thinking é horrível). But you will take them at their word and, thrilled that you have finally found someone who loves your homemade wine, fill up their glass to the brim and you won’t notice the look of horror on their face because now they have got to drink all that stuff. But never mind because if there is a Portuguese woman in the household you know the food on the table will be good. Portuguese people are great cooks (except the one I live with haha).

If, on the other hand, you are Brazilian Portuguese then you certainly won’t be attending your vegetable patch. You will be down at the beach showing off your gorgeous body, sipping a coco gelado (chilled coconut) while watching glorious sunsets and admiring the athletic prowess of those playing football and volleyball on the sand. Oh to be Brazilian!

All right, stop fantasising now and let’s learn the verbs to be in Portuguese. Well, it will be a bit tough because there are two verbs, not one – ser and estar – as indeed there are in Spanish. Trust the Iberians to complicate things!


eu sou                            (I am)
tu és                               (you are, familiar, used mainly in Portugal)
ele, ela, você é             (he is, she is, you are)
nós somos                     (we are)
vós sois                         (you are, archaic use only)
eles, elas, vocês são   (they masculine, they feminine, you plural are)


eu estou
tu estás
ele, ela, você está
nós estamos
vós estais
eles, elas, vocês estão

When to use tu and você requires some explaining which I will do in the next post (the archaic vós we can forget about). Here we will just outline the differences between the two verbs. Basically ser is used for more permanent notions (such as one’s nationality, one’s profession) while estar is for temporary or variable ones. Hence you might ask someone como está?how are you? How they are today might be different from yesterday.

If you saw me walking down the street, though, you would say Bernardo é bonito (Bernard is handsome) because my handsomeness is so permanent :D. But if on the slight chance – and I must stress that it’s a very slight chance – I wasn’t looking so good, say I was having a bad hair moment – you might say Bernardo não está bonito agora (Bernard is not handsome right now), the implication being that this is a mild lapse and his normal handsomeness will return shortly. And you would never, ever say Bernardo e feio, meaning Bernard is ugly (permanence implied), would you now?


3 thoughts on “Being Portuguese … sendo Português … is complicated

  1. love this! You make it quite easy …
    I have decided that I am going to try to re-conquer my fear (evident from several abortive attempts & miserable failure in the foreign language department) & try to learn enough to communicate with my Brazilian friend in her native tongue!
    Thank you for the inspiration!!!!!

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