Jul 20, 7 years ago

Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

Although some folks liken the differences between Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and European Portuguese (EP) to British and American English as an easy and accessible comparison, these two versions of Portuguese are quite distinct. Differences in the spoken language far outweigh written Portuguese. These distinctions are primarily the result of Brazilian Portuguese developing more recently in a culturally and linguistically diverse environment. After all, Brazil is a mix of indigenous groups, Portuguese colonizers, Africans, Arabs, Japanese, Chinese, Bolivians, French, Italians, and Germans. Below are some observations and prominent differences between BP and EP.

The Accent

The accent is clearly different, but the differences also extend to conjugation, lexicon, and grammar rules. To hear the difference for yourself, just check out YouTube video and you’ll understand. It is said that many students of BP fall in love with the sound of EP upon hearing it, but I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Brazilian Portuguese is easier to learn

As a general consensus, BP is easier to learn as a second language for English speakers because many of the conjugations are simpler and words are more commonly borrowed from English. That being said, the majority of language schools in the U.S. and Europe teach EP.

Can someone from Portugal understand a Brazilian?

Even though only about 1% of words are different, a conversation between BP and EP speakers would quickly highlight the differences. From the perspective of a EP speaker, someone speaking BP would make many ‘mistakes’ and simply sound uncultured due to odd word choices, verb tenses, and more frequent use of imported words. In general, it’s much easier for a EP speaker to adapt to BP than the other way around.

Spelling Differences

BP drops consonants that are no longer pronounced in words. For example, the bold letter is omitted in BP but used in EP: acto, excepto, óptimo. Brazilians pronounce some words with a closed vowel (written â, ê, ô) while in Portugal an open vowel (written á, é, ó) is used and these differences can be seen in differing spellings.


Without getting too deep into the details, several stark differences exist which include:

  • Word order of personal pronouns (“Desculpe-me” in EP vs. “Me desculpe” in BP)
  • Use of the pronoun você instead of tu in most of Brazil
  • Third person subject pronouns [ele(s), ela(s), você(s)] are often used as object pronouns in colloquial BP
  • For compound verb tenses, Brazilians use “estar + gerund” whereas the Portugese use “estar a + infinitive”
Although this is just an overview, I hope this provides some insight into this wonderful language.
Lead Image: CC Image Courtesy of Prefeitura de Olinda on Flickr


Ryan is a writer, photographer, and teacher living and volunteering throughout Latin America.

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