Worldwide, Portuguese is spoken by 260 million people. It is spoken in Europe (Portugal), Asia (Macau), South America (Brazil), and Africa (Angola, Mozambique, …). Additionally, Portuguese is spoken in countries like Timor, Goa (India), and Malaysia. The Portuguese language (also known as “Camões” language) is spoken in different countries around the world in very similar ways. However, for those that are native speakers of this language, the awareness of national differences is something very apparent and important. Consequently, we cannot be surprised by the fact that there are significant differences in grammar rules, accents, and vocabulary across the globe

It is commonly asserted that Portugal and Brazil are like twin nations, with this sense of closeness rooted in the shared language of Portuguese. However, is the Portuguese spoken in Portugal identical to that in Brazil? The answer is no. Consider two twin brothers – are they exactly the same, or merely similar? The distinctions between spoken (and written) Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil are evident to native speakers (and somewhat less so to Portuguese learners).

Let’s analyze the differences between these twin languages.


Many individuals hold the belief that the Brazilian accent is mellower and gentler compared to the European accent. Vowels are pronounced with greater openness in Brazilian Portuguese, enhancing the clarity of language comprehension. On the other hand, European Portuguese tends to omit certain vowels, resulting in a sound that leans towards the characteristics of Slavic languages. The Brazilian accent carries a more melodic quality, often described as “sung,” in contrast to the European accent. This distinction can prove advantageous for learners of the Portuguese language, making it more accessible and comprehensible.



Significant distinctions exist between the two spellings, illustrated by the example: “recepção” (Brazil) and “receção” (Portugal). In Portugal, the term “reception” lacks the letter “p.” Meanwhile, in Brazil, the word is written with the inclusion of “p” as in “reception,” where the “p” is audible. This pattern extends to various other words in which the letter “p” is pronounced in Brazil.

Brazilians showcase a high level of linguistic creativity, exemplified by their knack for transforming nouns into verbs. These newly coined words are absent in European Portuguese. For instance, in Portugal, people “dão os parabéns,” while in Brazil, Brazilians ingeniously turn the noun “parabéns” into the verb “parabenizar.”


1- “Trem” (Brazil) and “comboio” (Portugal)

2- “Ônibus” (Brazil) and “autocarro” (Portugal).

3- “Terno” (Brazil) and “Fato” (Portugal).

4- “Bunda” (Brazil) and “Rabo” (Portugal).

5- “Sorvete” (Brazil) and “gelado” (Portugal).


“TU” vs. “VOCÊ”

These two personal pronouns mean “you” in Portuguese. However, “tu” is informal, and “você” is the formal version. In Brazil, however, “tu” is rarely used, with “você” being the preferred form. In Portugal, “tu” is commonly used, especially with friends and family, while “você” is employed in formal and professional contexts.


“Olá Pedro, tu és muito simpático.” – European Portuguese

“Bom dia Pedro, você é muito simpático.” – Brazilian Portuguese

Note the conjugation of the verb, changing from the 2nd to the 3rd person singular.

REFLEXIVE VERBS (Reflexive Pronouns Placement)

Portuguese speakers place reflexive pronouns after the verb. In Brazil, however, they position it before the verb.


1-Eu lavo-me de manhã” – European Portuguese

2-Eu me lavo de manhã. – Brazilian Portuguese

However, in negative forms, the rule remains the same in both languages, with the pronoun always preceding the verb.


To express something happening at the moment, the structures differ. In Portugal, we use “estar a + infinitive,” while in Brazil, a gerund follows the verb estar.


1-Eu estou a ler. – European Portuguese

2-Eu estou lendo – Brazilian Portuguese

The variations in vocabulary between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese may pose a challenge for students of the language, potentially leading to easily overcome misunderstandings. It’s crucial to bear in mind that languages are dynamic entities influenced by diverse cultures. Consequently, languages undergo changes and evolution. European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese will inevitably exhibit differences, and it is important to approach these distinctions with respect.


It’s intriguing to observe the incorporation and subsequent adaptation of foreign words in Brazil. For instance, the term “media” is transformed into “mídia” in Brazilian Portuguese. In this version, Brazilian Portuguese tends to adopt the word from English, often disregarding its Latin origin. In contrast, European Portuguese tends to be more resistant to such changes. The language seldom assimilates new words, typically maintaining their Latin roots and original spelling.

assimilation of words lisbon language café


In Brazil, the formal “you” solution is commonly employed informally and in various formal settings. In Portugal, the personal pronoun “tu” is reserved for informal contexts, such as interactions with friends and family. These distinctions can prove perplexing for students learning Portuguese, as well as for Brazilian immigrants residing in Portugal (and vice versa). Confusing “tu” with “você” can lead to awkward situations and misunderstandings, especially when the misuse of “you” may come across as impolite. Another noteworthy distinction involves the use of the personal pronoun “you” before a sentence. In Portugal, the pronoun is omitted, and the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular—a difference that may be perceived negatively in Brazil.

formal and informal language


Many students aspiring to learn Portuguese often grapple with the decision of whether to focus on European or Brazilian Portuguese. There is no definitive right or wrong choice in this matter. Despite the notable differences between the two variations, it is essential to highlight that communication between a Portuguese speaker and a Brazilian speaker is typically seamless. We contend that learning European Portuguese can be more advantageous, as comprehension of this variant is generally more demanding and challenging. Students proficient in European Portuguese will find it easier to understand Brazilian Portuguese, whereas the reverse may not hold true.

In essence, these two languages are nearly identical. The grammar rules are fundamentally the same, the vocabulary is practically indistinguishable, spelling exhibits only slight variations, and the slang and idioms, while having subtle differences, are fully understandable on both sides of the Atlantic. The choice between the two variants should also consider the individual preferences of the student. If the goal is to learn Portuguese for potential immigration to one of these countries, students should prioritize the country they intend to live or visit. If that is not the case, the decision can be based on personal interests. Are you drawn to fado, Fernando Pessoa, and Lisbon? Opt for European Portuguese! If you have a penchant for samba, carnival, and Rio de Janeiro, then Brazilian Portuguese is the choice for you!

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