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What drives most people to pursue Portuguese is being able to engage in conversation with others. Well, there is no better way to spark a conversation than with a confident Hi!
There’s a wide variety of greetings: from formal, through casual, to vernacular expressions, and, within each of these categories, there are different alternatives. You always want to pick the salutation that best suits the context.
In a nutshell, here’re a few options to say hi! in Portuguese:
|Casual hi!||Olá! |
|How are you?||Tudo bem? (informal)|
Como estás? (informal)
Como está? (formal)
|According to the time of the day|
Surely, there’s much more to it. Let’s look at Portuguese greetings in greater detail.
- The casual Hi!
- How are you? in Portuguese
- Portuguese greetings according to the time of the day
- Mixing it all up
- On the rougher side
! Most of the greetings listed below are valid in any Portuguese-speaking country. However, each country has its own colloquialisms and some of the expressions that will follow, especially those more vernacular, may concern Portugal specifically.
The casual Hi!
The following greetings are all-rounders and can be used in almost any context.
This is by far the most common greeting in Portuguese. You’ll hear it all the time, and you’ll probably say it quite often too.
Maybe you’re familiar with its Spanish cousin Hola! Mind, nonetheless, that their pronunciation differs. Compared to Hola!, the Portuguese Olá! is pronounced with a darker l sound and with a closed o-vowel sound.
Viva! Another all-rounder that literally means live!
It is not as commonplace as Olá! but you’ll still hear it often. Also, it might sound slightly more refined than Olá!
Alternating between equivalent expressions is always a good idea for those learning and exploring a new language. So, remember to say Viva! now and again.
This greeting is definitely not as common in Portugal as it is in Brazil. It is a very laid-back salutation and it will always have a Brazilian flavor.
In Brazil, it even means What? or Can you say it again? when you pronounce it with a rising intonation: Oi? But that won’t work in Portugal – you’d say O quê? instead.
Reading tips! Learn more about the differences between these two standards of Portuguese: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They Really?
How are you? in Portuguese
In Portuguese, there are many different alternatives to greet How are you? just as there are in English. Importantly, you want to pick a greeting that matches the social setting.
Let’s look at a few common ways to say How are you?
Tudo bem? /too-doo bayñ/
Tudo bem? You’ll hear this a lot. It literally means Everything alright? It is a versatile greeting that you can use in both formal and casual contexts. Often, you’d add the verb estar (to be) to it: Está tudo bem?
Pay attention to its pronunciation. That final -m in bem produces a nasal sound. In fact, in Portuguese, all words ending with the letter -m will render that same nasal sound.
Passou bem? /puh-soh bayñ/
This one is quite formal and you’d normally say it while shaking hands with someone – it feels as conventional as greeting How do you do?
Como está(s)? /koh-moo shta(sh)/
Como estás? sounds casual and is, indeed, one of the most common Portuguese greetings.
Notice that estás is the 2-person (tu) of the verb estar. That means you use Como estás? when talking to friends and people that you know well.
In a more formal setting, however, you want to greet Como está? instead. The difference is that you are now using the 3-person (você) of estar. For instance, you say Como está? to greet the person at the till while paying for your groceries.
Never fear though! The world won’t come to an end just because you happen to address a “stranger” using the 2-person – people will know that you’re a gringo learning Portuguese and, in that case, the protocol won’t count.
Reading tips! Learn more about verbs and other basic grammar features of Portuguese: Dabbling in Portuguese Grammar – First Impressions for Beginners.
Como anda(s)? /koh-moo uñd-uh(sh)/
This expression has the same feel as the previous one. The difference is that it uses the verb andar (to walk) instead of estar. Like before, you can adjust it to the situation: drop the s at the end and say instead Como anda? whenever you need to sound more formal.
Como vai(s)? /koh-moo vy(sh)/
Possibly less common, this expression can be used interchangeably with the previous two. The word vais is the 2-person of the verb ir (to go). Again, use the 3-person if the situation requires: Como vai?
Está(s) bom? /shta(sh) boñ/
This one brings us back to the verb estar. It corresponds more or less to All good? and it is also very common. Use it in both formal and casual situations – all you need to do is, as before, tweak the verb conjugation between the 2- and 3-person.
By the way, have you noticed the pattern? When it comes to verb conjugation, the difference between 2- and 3-person lies in that little s – the 2-person ends with an s, whereas the 3-person drops it.
Phonetically, the difference is also apparent. You’ll hear a hushing sound whenever someone uses any of the previous greetings in the 2-person.
Reading tips! Learn more about European Portuguese phonology: European Portuguese Pronunciation – Complete Guide to Portuguese Phonology and Spelling-Sound Patterns.
This word is not a salutation in itself – it is more of a filler word often used to initiate salutations and other utterances (as so in English: So, what’s up?). You will often hear it in association with the expressions above:
- Então, como vais?
- Então, tudo bem?
- Então, como anda?
- Então, estás bom?
Portuguese greetings according to the time of the day
Greeting someone according to the time of the day sounds more formal than just saying Olá!
These Portuguese time-stamped greetings are used not only as a salutation but also to say farewell.
Bom dia /boñ dee-uh/
It literally means good day, though you use it to greet Good morning to someone. Normally, we say it from sunrise up until 12 a.m.
Also, you’d say Bom dia to take your leave, as in Have a good day.
Boa tarde /boh-uh tard/
This is how you say Good afternoon in Portuguese. You’d use it from 12 a.m. until … Well, many will say until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. Personally, I greet Boa tarde as long as it is bright outside – it then varies whether it’s summer or wintertime.
Again, Boa tarde is also used to take your leave, as in Have a good afternoon.
Boa noite /boh-uh noyt/
In Portuguese, there are no separate expressions for Good evening and Good night. Boa noite covers both salutations.
It is then the context that nuances Boa noite’s meaning. If you run into someone around 6 p.m. and if it is dark, you might greet Boa noite. If you are putting your child to bed, you also say Boa noite to her.
Mixing it All Up
Now that we’ve learned a few basic Portuguese greetings, let’s mix them up to create even more possibilities.
In practice, this is actually what Portuguese native speakers do, and there are endless variations. Here are a few examples:
- Olá, tudo bem? (neutral)
- Então, como andas? Está tudo bem? (informal)
- Viva, estás bom? (informal)
- Viva, como vai? (formal)
- Então, passou bem? (formal)
- Boa tarde! então, como anda? (formal)
- . . .
On the Rougher Side
These are the kinds of greetings that normally wouldn’t be shown in Portuguese textbooks. They are mostly used among the youth and they may sound unpolite in the eyes of many.
Word abbreviation is commonplace in this kind of register. In the examples below, you have tão instead of então, and tá(s) instead of está(s).
Also, you often get to hear words such as pá and fixe, which more or less mean dude and cool respectively.
Go ahead and use one of the following expressions if you want to make your Portuguese friends laugh, as they probably wouldn’t expect to hear it from you.
- Tão? (what’s up?)
- E quê (what’s up?)
- Tás bom pá? (you good?)
- Como é pá? tá tudo? (what’s up, dude? you good?)
- Tás fixe pá? (you cool?)
- Tão? tá tudo? (what’s up? you good)
- . . .
Reading tips! Speaking of the rougher side. Here’s a read for you in case you want to take a dive into Portuguese strong language: Portuguese Swear Words: An Unashamed Journey through Portuguese Strong Language.
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