What is the Difference Between Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil?

Olá and bem-vindo! Portuguese is one of the world’s major languages, with speakers averaging about 3.3% of the global population. Like with many languages, though, regional differences exist. Second language learners are often asked to decide between learning two distinct dialects: Portuguese from Portugal or Brazil. What are the differences between the two, and what are the advantages of choosing one over the other?

Portuguese is a romance language (along with other major world languages such as French, Spanish, and Italian), meaning its origins come from Latin spoken by the Romans. As time went on the Roman empire fell and Portugal became its own country in 1143 by way of the Zamora’s Treaty signing; an agreement between the King of Portugal and the King of Spain that Portugal was its own, independent nation. Around 1500, the Portuguese arrived in Brazil and proceeded to colonize the country, spreading the Portuguese language as a result. Around the same time, the Spanish crown was also colonizing parts of South America, which is why today Brazil is one of the only countries in South America that speaks Portuguese as its official language.

While speakers in Brazil and Portugal are technically speaking the same language, there are some notable differences that set them apart: pronunciation, formality, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar differences just to name a few! Not to mention the cultural differences that abound as well. Below we’ll walk through each of these points in more detail.

 

Pronunciation

One of the first differences a language learner will notice is the pronunciation discrepancy between Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese. It’s often said that Brazilian Portuguese is more melodic and a bit slower, while Portugal Portuguese is faster, and some say that it is harder to follow. Brazilian Portuguese is also marked by longer open vowels, while Portugal Portuguese tends to speak words in a more closed manner. Another marked difference is that Brazilian Portuguese will tend to pronounce all letters in a word and Portugal Portuguese will not.

 

Formality/Use of Você

As a rule, Brazilian Portuguese is overall more informal compared to Portugal Portuguese. Both still make each dialect mutually intelligible, but culturally this difference is important. The most notable difference is the use of “você”.

“Você” is the equivalent of “Usted” in Spanish. It’s a third-person pronoun that is used in place of “tu” (you) when one is not very familiar with the person they’re speaking with. When speaking in the second person, Brazilian Portuguese speakers will use “você” instead of “tu,” which Portugal Portuguese speakers prefer. This may seem contradictory as Brazilian Portuguese is said to be more informal, but the use of “você” is across the board whether you’re familiar with the person you’re speaking to or not. On the other hand, Portugal Portuguese speakers will often not use “você”, and instead drop the subject from the sentence completely since the conjugated verb implies the subject of the sentence. Because of this, using “você” in Portugal is almost seen as crude! Another touch of formality that is used in Portugal Portuguese is that they will use “o senhor/a senhora” and a person’s name when speaking in the second person which is considered very formal, while a Brazilian Portuguese speaker would just use “você”.

 

Vocabulary

Vocabulary differences between Portuguese from Brazil and Portugal are vast, and sometimes can lead to some embarrassing situations! In general, Brazilian Portuguese is more inclined to borrow words or create new words from other languages, while Portugal Portuguese will actively try to avoid doing that. A few examples below are:

  • Cell phone: cellular (BR) telemóvel (PT)
  • Fridge: geladeira (BR) frigorifico (PT)
  • Bus: ônibus (BR) autocarro (PT)
  • Train: trem (BR) comboio (PT)
  • Computer mouse: mouse (BR) rato (PT)

 

Spelling

There have been attempts to unify spelling between Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese. In 1990, the Acordo Ortográfico de 1990 (Orthographic Agreement of 1990), (aka the "Novo Acordo Ortográfico" [New Orthographic Agreement]), attempted to make the written forms of Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese practically the same. However, Portugal Portuguese has been more resistant to these changes.

One difference the Agreement tried to unify was eliminating mute consonants to make Portugal Portuguese more in line with Brazilian Portuguese:

  • New: ótimo (great) Old: óptimo
  • New: ação (action) Old: acção

Some other spelling differences include:

  • team = equipe (BR), equipa (PT)
  • fact = fato (BR), facto (PT)

 

Grammar

Besides Brazilian Portuguese always keeping their subject in their sentences and the Portugal Portuguese speakers opting to omit the subject when they can, here are a few more miscellaneous differences in grammar that differentiate the two dialects: use of prepositions, gerund use, and object placements:

 

English

PT-PT

PT-BR

I’m going to school.

Vou à escola.

Vou na escola.

I’m making lunch.

Estou a preparar o almoço.

Estou preparando o almoço.

Can you give me that pencil?

Dás-me esse lápis?

Me dá esse lápis?

 

In closing, the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Portugal Portuguese are extensive, but these differences lead to two rich and vibrant dialects. A second language learner may make their choice simply based on the numbers - there are more Brazilian Portuguese speakers in the world than Portugal Portuguese speakers simply due to the size of both countries (207 million of the 279 million native Portuguese speakers worldwide live in Brazil) but either way, deciding to learn either dialect is sure to be fun and enriching! Being aware of the differences between the two as well only leads to more understanding of the language, and ultimately will help you connect with speakers of either dialect on a new level.

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