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Great Books to Learn Portuguese Worth Buying

There are plenty of textbooks out there for those learning Portuguese, especially for beginners. But which ones are well-designed and quality books? I am afraid that most of the stuff you come across scores below the mark.

So, what are the best books out there to learn Portuguese?

I hope this article will bring you clarity about what book or books might best suit your needs and actually deliver on their promises, whether you are looking for a textbook, grammar book, lexicon, or short stories for language learners.

You’ll find suggestions for both standards of Portuguese – European and Brazilian Portuguese → PT-PT / BR-PT.

Let’s get started.

Keep in mind!

Make sure that the books you buy conform to the standard of Portuguese * you’re learning.

Concerning textbooks in specific, make sure they are aimed at students learning Portuguese as a second language and that they follow the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) – that’s not only a quality stamp but also allows you to pick a book that matches your current level of language proficiency (learn more about CEFR levels here).

Finally, you want to buy a book from a reputable publisher in this field. That alone will considerably increase the odds that the book is pedagogically apt.

* Learn more about how Brazilian and European Portuguese compare: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – how different are they really?

Full disclosure! This page contains Amazon affiliate links and I may earn a small commission with no additional cost to you (if you make any purchase after being redirected). I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own

All-rounders

PT-PT all-rounder

Português em foco (A1–C2)

This is a series of great all-around textbooks by Lidel publishers. If you want to work simultaneously on all your language skills in a consistent, well-structured way, then you won’t be disappointed by them.

There are four volumes available for each level of language proficiency. They all provide you with downloadable audio material for listening practice.

Português em foco 1 – beginners (A1/A2)
Português em foco 2 – lower-intermediate (B1)
Português em foco 3 – upper-intermediate (B2)
Português em foco 4 – advanced (C1/C2)

Each book is divided into thematic chapters sequenced by the level of complexity. The topics of the first two volumes are related to everyday life situations – the content is direct and concrete. 

The third and fourth volumes focus on Portuguese history and culture –  they use a more abstract, advanced language.

In each chapter, you’ll get to work on all language skills: listening and reading comprehension, writing and speaking – always in relation to the chapter’s topic. Also, each chapter focuses on a specific grammar aspect of the language.

At the end of each chapter, there is a revision section with exercises where you can consolidate your freshly acquired knowledge. You’ll find the key to these exercises at the end of the book.

You can access all transcripts to each and every listening practice drill. There is even a glossary with all the words used throughout the book with translation to English, German, French, and Spanish. 

PT-BR all-rounder

Living Language Brazilian Portuguese (A1–C1)

This suite of coursebooks includes three volumes and 9 audio CDs and it is the most competent self-study material I am aware of for the Brazilian standard.

It is an investment with a high return as it is capable of taking you from being an absolute beginner all the way to the advanced level.

Living Language Brazilian Portuguese – beginner through advanced levels (A1–C1)

The volumes are textbooks and workbooks all in one – there is plenty of room for exercises and drills so that you can digest each unit’s content. All language skills are covered and you’ll be working on all fronts: topical/vocab, grammar/structure, and pronunciation.

Brazilian culture is woven into it, which means that you’ll be also learning the cultural codes of the country.

There’s a clear focus on the colloquial language and how people actually talk in day-to-day life. Besides, you get heads up on regional differences in pronunciation (Brazil is a big country).

Includes additional learning resources online.

PT-BR all-rounder

Complete Brazilian Portuguese (A1-B1)

This textbook is way more affordable than the previous one and will nonetheless help you develop solid language skills up to the low-intermediate level. The book is suitable for self-study learners.

Paperback
Hardcover

It contains authentic conversations, vocabulary highlights, and grammar explanations that will equip you with the skills you need to become a competent user of Brazilian Portuguese in a variety of day-to-day situations. Along the way, you’ll also develop your cultural awareness of Brazil.

Grammar books

PT-PT grammar book

Portuguese – an essential grammar

This is an outstanding grammar reference book published by Routledge. Although succinct, it still gives you a comprehensive overview of Portuguese grammar. It’s in English.

It suits either independent learners or students taking Portuguese classes. It serves all language proficiency levels. I highly recommend it.

Portuguese – an essential grammar (all levels)

The book is user-friendly and jargon-free, laying out the complexities of Portuguese in concise, readable sections. It simply is a competent reference book you can turn to in moments of doubt. 

It is divided into four parts. The first one deals with Portuguese grammar, word-class by word-class. The second part offers you an overview of Portuguese language usage in everyday life situations, pretty much as a phrase-book would do. 

The third part deals with the specificities of Brazilian Portuguese. The fourth and last part gives you an overview of the Portuguese-speaking world as well as historical and cultural background. 

PT-BR grammar book

Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar: A Practical Guide

This is hands-down the most competent grammar book out there specific to the Brazilian standard (by Routledge publishers). Suitable for all levels of language proficiency.

While most all other books in the same category conform to a formal language (that nobody uses), this one reflects the day-to-day, colloquial usage of Brazilian Portuguese.

Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar: A Practical Guide

The book’s language is jargon-free and explains the structures and intricacies of the Portuguese language in an easy-to-digest fashion. Simply put, this is a quality reference book you can turn to in moments of doubt. 

There is a workbook available if you want to help you assimilate Portuguese grammar (see below).

Workbooks

PT-BR workbook

Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar

This workbook is complementary to the grammar book mentioned before. It is the perfect companion to drill and assimilate Portuguese grammar.

Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar – Workbook

PT-PT workbook

Gramática aplicada

These are self-study grammar books with two available volumes – beginner/lower-intermediate and upper-intermediate levels respectively.

Gramática Aplicada – Português língua estrangeira (levels A1–B1) 
Gramática Aplicada – Português língua estrangeira (levels B2–C1) 

Each unit consists of 2 pages and deals with a specific grammar topic that is succinctly explained on the left page. On the right page, you’ll find respective exercises to practice on.

I personally like these books, as they are well structured and pragmatic. On the other hand, if you’re learning Portuguese by yourself, bear in mind that their instruction language is Portuguese – studying grammar in the target language is surely not impossible, but it can be challenging. 

PT-PT workbook

Praticar Português

This book (by Lidel publishers) is suitable for all learners of Portuguese up to intermediate level, especially those struggling with long-term word retention.  

It contains 133 vocabulary exercises and activities spread across different topics (family, hobbies, shopping, sports, food, clothing, etc. ) At the end of the book, you’ll find the key to all drills.

Praticar Português A1-A2

Dictionaries and phrasebooks

PT-PT / PT-BR lexicon

Oxford Portuguese Dictionaries

The Oxford Portuguese Dictionaries are the most authoritative English-Portuguese / Portuguese-English dictionary out there.

Complete version

The extended version covers both standards of Portuguese (European and Brazilian) and contains over 200,000 words and phrases. It’s been designed for both Portuguese and English native speakers and includes the latest vocabulary from computing to business and the media.

Oxford Portuguese Dictionary

The layout has been designed for ease of use. The most commonly used sense of each word is shown first and more than 130,000 real-life example phrases help you figure out meaning and usage accurately.

The dictionary also provides extra features such as cultural notes as well as Portuguese verb tables and a list of irregular English verbs.

Compact version

There’s also the compact version covering essential day-to-day vocabulary with over 40,000 words and phrases and 60,000 translations. This dictionary is easy to use and ideal for travel, work,
or study.

Oxford Essential Portuguese Dictionary

PT-PT phrasebook

Collins Gem Portuguese

This affordable, pocket-size phrasebook by Collins is a good travel companion. It will provide you with the phrase or word you’re looking for, be it when you’re booking a hotel room, ordering a meal at the restaurant, or when asking someone the way.

Collins Gem Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary

It is useful even if you’re not on the road. Any language learner, especially beginners, can benefit from browsing a phrasebook every now and then – by doing it, you’ll both expand and consolidate your vocabulary.  

PT-BR phrasebook

Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary 

This competent phrasebook (by Lonely planet) is ideal for travelers and beginners. It offers a comprehensive mix of practical and social words and phrases covering a wide range of situations (checking in at the hotel, ordering a meal in the restaurant, buying train tickets, asking for directions, etc.)

Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary 

It also includes a 3500-word two-way dictionary, essential tips on culture & manners, and pronunciation cues.

Visual dictionaries

PT-PT / PT-BR vocab

Dicionário ilustrado, monolingual

It is a well-established fact that vocab retention is higher when we associate words with images. These illustrated dictionaries (by Porto Editora) are suitable for both standards of Portuguese.

Dicionário ilustrado – all levels (30.000 entries)
Dicionário ilustrado – beginners only (1.300 entries)

Both are divided into thematic units that relate to everyday life. All words are paired with their respective illustrations.

PTPT / PT-BR vocab

Visual dictionary, bilingual (pt|en)

This visual dictionary by DK Publishers comes with more than 10,000 visuals paired with their respective words (English and Portuguese). This is an indispensable and comprehensive Portuguese language companion.

The book is organized into different topics/situations – whether you are at the restaurant, at the grocery store, or in the hotel lobby, you’ll readily find the words and expressions you need. In the end, there are comprehensive word indexes (in English and Portuguese) that will facilitate your search.

The book comes with a free audio app that you can get from the App Store and Google Play so you can learn the pronunciation of day-to-day words and phrases.

Short stories

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Let the Power of Stories Lift Your Portuguese.

PT-PT short stories

Contos com nível

Published by Lidel, these books consist of short stories specially designed for language learners.

Contos com nível, levels A1/A2
Contos com nível, level B1
Contos com nível, level B2

Each short story has side notes to help you with idiomatic expressions. At the end of each story, you’ll also find questions assessing your reading comprehension – you’ll find the key at the end of the book.

You should know that reading in your target language dramatically increases vocabulary retention while improving, at the same time, your idiomatic feel for it. Also, by reading, you are naturally learning grammar structures, which is to say, you learn the grammar effortlessly.

PT-BR short stories

Short Stories in Brazilian Portuguese

This book comprises a collection of eight captivating short stories for adult learners of Brazilian Portuguese. The following formats are available:

paperback
audiobook

These short stories cater to students from high-beginner to low-intermediate level (A2/B1). They should give the learner a sense of achievement as well as enjoyment.

Carefully designed to keep you motivated, the book includes key features that will support and consolidate your progress, including:

  • A glossary for bolded words in each chapter
  • Full plot summary
  • Comprehension questions after each chapter.

PT-BR short stories

Conversational Portuguese Dialogues

This book comprises more than one hundred conversational stories for beginners. Published by Lingo Mastery, it’s available in the following formats:

paperback
kindle
audiobook

The stories are simple and revolve around day-to-day topics so that you learn those first things first. Here’s what’s in it for you:

  • each new chapter brings a new story between two people trying to handle some day-to-day challenge
  • for each story there’s an English translation availble
  • the book includes practicing tips to allow you to get the most out of the learning material.

Portuguese Language Retreats

Lift your Portuguese to a new level in a peaceful, language-immersive environment. 

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Intensive Courses in Portugal

Get right on track towards fluency 

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Stay tuned for upcoming online courses and other learning materials.

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