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Have you ever wondered about the reason why Portuguese speakers, so often, say goodbye with the expression "Um abraço"?

Today we are going to focus our attention on:

    1. The importance and meaning of using "Um abraço" when you say goodbye to someone,

    2. The difference between "Ir para" and "Ir a",

    3. The different meanings that the simple English word "Just" has in Portuguese.

Obviously, when I use the word "Portuguese" I mean, not only European Portuguese, but also Brazilian and African Portuguese - the Portuguese-speaking world.

But... before we go to the nitty-gritty I'd like to thank all of you, who have contacted me with questions. Yeah baby, that only shows that you are on a roll here and, sooner or later, you'll get there! So please fire it up!

I have selected 3 of several emails I have received and I'm going to share them here with you with my explanations.

Ready? Please, check this out:

Question 1:

"Olá Rafa"

I would like to know if it is a Portuguese cultural thing to end a conversation with um abraço. To translate, using Google, it says this is "a hug". But, a dictionary says that it could also be an accolade. Is it just a way to say something like "It has been nice talking to you", or do Portuguese men hug each other a lot?

I try to remain open-minded, so I understand that different cultures have different ways. At face value, having a total stranger give you an email hug could be a little unsettling.

We live in a still homophobic society. But, I had a feeling that there was more to it than that. Which is why I sought you out to give a clue to the real answer.

It is important to blend these ideas and social idioms together so that, what turns out to be a very friendly gesture, is not misinterpreted when people from Portugal or Brazil meet and greet one another.


My answer:

Olá Mark,

Thank you for your question! Actually although I am celebrating my birthday with some friends here, I found your question so interesting that I had to stop everything I was doing to reply to you.

Indeed "um abraço" means "a hug". And it's also a cultural habit. Not because Portuguese men and women hug a lot (they do but not a lot) but because it's an expression that implies body contact and therefore proximity and closeness without physically having to do it. It's a semi-formal way of giving your regards when you are saying goodbye. The best way I could translate it is "best regards", but your translations are also accurate.

It's a matter of fact that even after a man shaking hands with another man or with a woman (in a more formal situation when they are saying goodbye to each other), the very last words they both say to one another are "um abraço" as they walk away from each other. Very interesting indeed.

I also use it a lot, for instance with my friends, my brother, my parents, my students and even other people who I'm not that close with. So it's a general, nice and suave way of saying goodbye (despedida).

When you have just met someone new, and if you end your conversation with "um abraço" as you walk away, you are definitely building rapport.

You can also finish your emails, letters and faxes with "um abraço" if they are not too formal. In case your email is very formal you'd better finish it with "Cumprimentos" or "Atenciosamente".

If you would like to read more about other ways of saying goodbye and of finishing an email in Portuguese, you can read the last part of a newsletter I wrote a while ago following this link: How to start and finish an email in Portuguese.

I hope this helps Mark.

Um abraço! :-)


It's a matter of fact that in between two women, and in between a woman and a man, in a less formal context, they would probably use "Um beijo" or "Um beijinho" (a kiss) instead because it's more colloquial. "Um abraço" is just a semi-formal way of saying goodbye, and if you use it you will show respect towards the others and that you care about them. In other words... It's very nice!

Question 2:

"Hi Rafa! It would be nice if you could explain the difference between "ir a" and "ir para". Maybe this question is too simple, but I'm just a beginner...

Muito obrigada in advance :)!"

My answer:

Olá Tudo bem?

Thanks for your query. I really think that no question is either too simple nor too complicated. Indeed, they are just questions, and we need to find an answer for them regardless the degree of difficulty they have. So please feel free my friend!

In fact, there is a difference between these two very similar expressions:

Either "IR PARA" or "IR A" mean "TO GO TO" in English however, and as you well spotted, they say two different things.

Let me explain:

If you, for instance say to somebody "Eu vou A Lisboa na terça-feira" (I'm going to Lisbon on Tuesday), their reply would probably be "Por quanto tempo?" (How long for?). This happens just because when you say "Eu vou a Lisboa na terça-feira" is for a temporary period of time, and you'll be back some time soon after.

However if you say "Eu vou PARA Lisboa na terça-feira" (I'm going to Lisbon on Tuesday), that implies that you are going for a longer period of time - maybe to get a job there and live there for maybe a few months or even years.

After you saying "Eu vou PARA Lisboa na terça-feira" to a friend, for instance, his/her comment to your question could well be "É mesmo? E (tu/você) vais/vai trabalhar lá? (Really? And you are going to work there?)

You see, we say different thing depending on the way we decide to say them. And obviously people will interpret them with different meanings.

I must say though that this difference is more common in European and African Portuguese. In Brazilian Portuguese you would rather use the word "EM" instead of "PARA" or "A" - e.g. "Eu vou EM Portugal na terça-feira".

Do you understand?

So, try to remember that, with the verb IR (To go), if it's followed by the preposition "A" - "IR A" - it's like "a return ticket" to Lisbon (because you are going to come back soon), whereas if it's followed by the preposition "PARA" - "IR PARA" - it's like "a one-way ticket" to Lisbon, because you are going to stay there for a while.

Maybe this way you will remember it in the future and you'll never mix them up. And it applies to every situation taking into account a certain relativity in time.

What do I mean by "a certain relativity in time"?

Say you want to inform your friend you are going to the supermarket (for a little while and you'll be right back). In this case you'd say "Eu vou Ao supermercado" (please mind that AO = A + O supermercado).

But if at the end of a working day, you say to your colleagues at work "Eu vou PARA casa" - You are telling them that you are going home and you are not planning to comeback before tomorrow.

Do you understand the relativity of this use now?

This is brilliant, isn't it? Being able to understand the subtleness of a language! Well done, and thank you once again for your pertinent question.

It's time now to talk about the last email I have selected for today. Please check this out!

Question 3:

Bom dia Rafa!

I have a question: I have been studying Portuguese for a while now and I socialise with Portuguese speakers who speak English as well. Every time I ask them how they would translate the English word "just" in Portuguese, they always come up with a different answer. Would you please be able to explain why?

Muito obrigada!


My answer:

Bom dia Nikki!

Muito obrigado pelo seu email!

You know what? Your question is absolutely great! In fact the word "just" is so rich that you have to translate it into Portuguese in accordance with the context you are talking about.

Ok, let's figure out something here:

If it's true that sometimes one simple word in English has only one simple equivalent word in Portuguese, there are other times when one word in English has many possible interpretations in Portuguese and vice-versa.

The English word "Just" is just (só) one of those words that in Portuguese can be translated in many different ways, and this is the reason why every time you ask your friends for its translation, they give you a different word in Portuguese.

Normally, the word "JUST" is translated as (only), APENAS (only), UNICAMENTE (only), MESMO (Just right there), EXATAMENTE (exactly), SER JUSTO (to be just), MAL (barely), SIMPLESMENTE (simply), MERAMENTE (merely), etc.

So it can have a different meaning depending on the following situations:

1. When it determines something accurately - Foi EXATAMENTE isso que eu pensei. (It was JUST what I thought.);

2. When it's neither more nor less than what is stated - Ele disse APENAS isso. (He said JUST that.);

3. When it's close - É MESMO ao virar da esquina (It's JUST around the corner);

4. When it gives you the idea of very short time ago - Eu ACABEI DE perder o avião (I've JUST missed the flight);

5. When it emphasises how short a period of time is and normally with a diminutive - É um minutINHO. (It's JUST a minute.)

6. When it gives you the idea of a very small space - Os sapatos estão MESMO ao lado da cama (The shoes are JUST next to the bed)

7. When it makes a comparison and it's free from favouritism, self-interest or even bias - Ele não é especial, ele é TANTO COMO os outros. (He is not special, JUST AS anybody else.);

8. When it's a verb implying justice and dictated by reason, legality or ethics - É JUSTO ele apanhar 10 anos de cadeia pelo crime. (It's JUST that he gets 10 years sentence for his crime);

9. When it implies a small margin - Eu MAL ouço o orador. (I can JUST (barely) hear the speaker.);

10. When it implies nothing more - É um desenho, nada mais. (It's JUST a drawing, nothing else.);

11. When there's no other reason - Eu pergunto MERAMENTE por curiosidade (I ask JUST out of curiosity), or Eu estou a ver. (I'm just looking - when you are at the shops,) or Eu estou olhando. (in Brazilian Portuguese);

12. When it gives you the idea of fulfilment and that it's enough - O tamanho do carro É SUFICIENTE / É PERFEITO para nós. (The size of the car is JUST right for us.);

13. And sometimes there isn't even a reason why people use it, or at least you don't have to worry about it's translation because it's just (simplesmente) ignored, in sentences like - Estou tão confusa... (I'm JUST so confused...);

Is this getting clearer now?

I really recommend you to think about sentences you are likely to use in Portuguese having the English word "JUST" in mind and get used to picking the right one for the context when you speak in Portuguese.

Well, and that's all for today. I need to call it a day now because I still have plenty of things to do in order to make this Method just perfect.

Think about this email whilst you enjoy your learning, and think about how you can best use this information to help you achieve your goals.

I hope you have enjoyed this message as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I'll be back with more news soon.

Till then, Um abraço! - Best regards! ;-)

Your friend,

Rafa x

PS 1: Questions about any topic? Success stories? Please let me know.

PS 2: Also, if you were going to tell your friends ONE PIECE OF ADVICE you learned from me which has helped you to speak Portuguese... What would that be? Let me know in your email!

I look forward to receiving your email :-)


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