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15 Words To Help You Speak Better Portuguese
November 08, 2015
How many times have you paid attention to the demonstratives - the words you need use to express where the people or objects are that you are talking about?
How many times in a day do you use the words “this”, “these”, “that”, “those” (or the equivalent in your own language)?
Let’s be totally honest here: If you want to do both, speak good Portuguese and recognize what people say to you, you need to identify these words as well as to be able to spot them when other people use them too. There is no other way around it, I’m afraid.
If you really want to master these and thousands of other Portuguese words and expressions easily, please check out the Portuguese language tool I’ve created byclicking here now.
In fact, when you communicate in Portuguese, you can actually learn words that you didn't know when you hear them in context, but in general, you’ll only recognize the words you know.
You’ll only understand the words you have come across before.
In short, you’ll only hear the language (and words) you know.
But, in order for that to happen, you obviously need to start from somewhere.
Ok, at the beginning, you might find it a bit frustrating to face it.
You might find it frustrating to admit that in Portuguese you need a masculine and a feminine form, and two numbers as well - singular and plural.
Oh my god! You may say!
I know! And I really appreciate that, but these are some of the major rules in Portuguese that you must respect.
Let me tell you something, if you don’t respect the gender and number, you won’t be able to express yourself properly, and as a result three scenarios may occur:
1. If you are lucky, people may want to help you and interact with you by trying their best to understand what you are saying, but…
2. If you are not that lucky, you might not be taken seriously by those who you are interacting with.
3. And in the worst case scenario, people may even laugh at you or try to exploit you somehow.
We don’t want it to happen, do we? Of course not!
Lately, some of you have asked me for a deep explanation about the demonstratives, and here I am trying to explain them to you, since they are some of the vital words you need to speak good Portuguese.
I’ll explain how they work in general Portuguese first, and then add a quick note about a slight variation in Brazilian Portuguese.
If you look up the word “demonstrative”, any ordinary dictionary will say something like “they are words like “this” and “that”, used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others.”
But what does this mean to you?
Well, it might help you if you understand the difference between "adjectives" and "pronouns”, but if you don’t, no worries. I’m here to explain it to you.
Anyway, if an adjective describes a noun, and gives a noun a certain quality, a pronoun, as the word suggests, replaces a noun.
So, the demonstratives can take the role of either an adjective and a pronoun.
In order for you to do both, identify and use the demonstratives well, you need to be aware of a couple of things:
1. Where the object or person you are talking about is, and
2. Who is the listener and who is the speaker.
Say YOU are the speaker and the object/person you are mentioning is within reach or very close to you but it’s far from the listener who you are verbally interacting with. In this case you’ll need to use the following set of words: Este / Esta / Estes / Estas / Isto.
Este ([ESH-teh] normally followed by a masculine noun) which means “this” or “this one” .
E.g.1: Este carro é bonito. ->This car is beautiful.
E.g.2: Eu quero comprar este. -> I want to buy this one.
As you can see, here the word “carro” ends with an “…o”, so it’s masculine. And it’s only one car, so it’s singular too. Got it?
Now, let’s have a look at the feminine form.
Esta ( [ESH-tah] normally followed by a feminine noun) which means “this” or “this one” as well.
E.g.1: Esta sobremesa é boa -> This desert is good.
E.g.2: Eu prefiro esta. -> I prefer this one.
The plural forms – Estes [ESH-tesh] / Estas [ESH-tash] - basically follow the same rules and you just need to add a “S” to their singular forms. They mean “these” or “these ones” in English in the masculine and feminine correspondingly.
E.g.1: Estes óculos são perfeitos. - These eyeglasses are perfect.
E.g.2: Estes dicionários são bons. Vou levar estes - These dictionaries are good. I’ll take these ones .
E.g.3: Estas guitarras são caras. - These guitars are expensive.
E.g.4: Estas casas são grandes, mas eu prefiro estas mais pequenas. - These houses are big, but I prefer these smaller ones.
You see? This is not a big deal, is it?
Hang on for a moment!
Yes. Let’s stop just right here for a second, please!
Did you really see what I’ve just said? “This is not a big deal”.
Can you figure out what gender does the word “this” (in the sentence above) represent?
No you can’t!
And the reason you can’t it’s because, in this case, “this” means “this thing” – and the thing we are talking about is genderless - so in Portuguese you don’t know either the gender or the number of the thing.
In this case you must use “isto [EESH-too] which corresponds to the neutral form of the whole set of words mentioned above.
If you listen carefully when native Portuguese-speakers talk, very often, you’ll realize that they use the neutral form isto a lot, referring to the thing or the situation they are talking about in their conversation.
Entende isto agora? – Do you understand this (thing) now?
Espero que sim! - I hope so! ;-)
Ah, and by the way, the expression "this is not a big deal" may differ from region to region because it's an idiom but you can safely say "não é nada do outro mundo" (which literally means "It's nothing from the other world"). Well, you get the gist...
Anyway. Let’s carry on...
Now, say YOU are still the speaker and the object is in your listener’s hand or next to him/her. In this case you’ll need to use instead:
Esse [EH-se] or Essa [EH-sah] - for “that” or “that one” normally finger-pointing at something next to your listener,
Esses [EH-sesh] or Essas [EH-sash] - for “those” or “those ones” normally finger-pointing at something plural next to your listener too. Yes, body language says a lot too! ;-)
Isso [EE-soh] is the neutral form, and as I’ve explained above, the neutral form is used to refer to situations in general which are genderless.
Now imagine you just popped in to a shoe shop and you want to learn more about a pair of shoes you fancy. You’d probably approach the shop assistant and say:
“Queria ver uns sapatos que estão alí na vitrina”. (I’d like to see some shoes over there on display.)
Then, she/he might walk straight to the display and say: Estes? (these ones?)
You, pointing at the ones you want, may say: Não, esses! (No, those ones - next to the shop assistant!)
Then, he/she might ask you: Que tamanho calça? -> What size do you wear?
To which you might reply: Calço o número quarenta (40). -> I wear size 40 (for instance).
And bang! Job done! Easy peasy, isn’t it?!
OK. Let’s carry on!
So far we talked about the demonstratives we must use when the object or the person is either near the speaker or the listener.
But what shall we do when we talk about things which are far from both, you - the speaker - and the listener?
In this case you’ll need to use the third set of words:
Aquele [ah-KAY-leh] -> That masculine object over there.
Aquela [ah-KAY-lah] -> That feminine object over there.
Aqueles [ah-KAY-lesh] -> Those masculine objects over there.
Aquelas [ah-KAY-lash] -> Those feminine objects over there.
The neutral form is Aquilo [ah-KEE-loo] -> That thing over there.
It is a matter of fact that in English you only have 2 categories - this/these and that/those.
Actually when you talk about things or people far from both, the listener and the speaker, you might add “over there” to distinguish “those” (next to the listener) from “those over there” (far from both, the listener and the speaker).
In Portuguese, you have a completely different set of words to distinguish all the situations. Isn’t that amazing? That way communication can be more precise using fewer words.
Nowadays, in Brazilian Portuguese however, you will find people using only the latter two sets of words, and by that I mean:
Esse / Essa -> as the equivalent of both “this (one)” and “that (one)” in English.
Esses / Essas -> as the equivalent of both “these (ones)” and “those (ones)”.
Isso -> as the equivalent of “this thing” and “that thing”.
And if the object is far from you all, you’ll use:
Aquele / aquela -> as the equivalent of “that (one)” over there” in English.
Aqueles / aquelas -> as the equivalent of “those (ones) over there”.
Aquilo -> for situations where things are occurring far from both, the listener and the speaker, e.g. “Aquilo lá no Brasil não está fácil.” -> The situation there in Brazil is not easy.
In some parts of Brazil, you may hear people using a very long "Isto!" like [EEEESSS-tooo] to idiomatically say "That's exactly it!" / "You are right about what you just said." and expressions of this nature.
So if you say something to someone and you hear a long "isto" don't get scared because that means that he/she agrees entirely with what you are saying! ;-) Got it?
Well, these are just 15 words out of thousands you can learn and master with Rafas Vocabulary Ticker - the language tool I’ve created for you to learn quickly and effectively!
You can find these words in the pack 001-Common words and expressions.
With it you’ll learn the words you really need to speak with your pals and members of your family.
Also, if you want to understand more the intricacies of the Portuguese language, why not get a copy of the Language Lover’s Guide to Learning Portuguese? It’s a bargain right now and certainly you won’t get a book with the explanations this book has for this price anywhere. Check it out!
So, after reading this newsletter, please chose different objects and place them in different places in your house. Then try to use these demonstratives as many times as you can correctly, so that they will stick in your head in such a way that in the future you don’t even have to think about them when you want to use them.
What are you waiting for? Please go! Do it now! ;-)
PS 1: Questions about any topics? Success stories? Please let me know.
PS 2: Also, no matter how you do it, please spread the word... Tell your friends and family, colleagues at work, about Learn-Portuguese-with-Rafa.com!. This site grows purely by word-of-mouth, allowing many people like you to "improve their Portuguese", and attract people just like you, to deliver value towards success!
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