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Struggling with Pronunciation?

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Differences in Pronunciation between Brazilian and European Portuguese

Pronunciation is where the Brazilian and European standards of Portuguese differ the most. Hands down.

In general, Brazilian Portuguese sounds more open and melodic than its European counterpart. 

Before we dive deeper into the phonological differences between the two standards, let’s not forget that Brazil is a huge country with several regional dialects. 

Likewise, Portugal has regional variations. Thus, bear in mind that the differences in pronunciation pointed out throughout this post are based on “standard” versions of either variant of Portuguese.

Let’s get started.

This is an abridged version (solely focused on pronunciation) of the following article: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They Really?

Vowel Sounds

In general, Brazilian Portuguese is more clearly pronounced than its European cousin. Much of this is due to differences in the vowel sounds between the two.

See, European Portuguese, like English, is a stress-timed language, whereas Brazilian Portuguese is syllable-timed.

Simply put, in a stressed-timed language (as opposed to a syllable-timed one), stressed syllables follow a regular cadence with fixed time intervals between them. 

Because unstressed syllables must fit into those fixed time intervals (between the stressed syllables), they are shortened. 

This syllable-shortening leads to vowel reduction (vowels won’t sound as open as otherwise) and, as a result, pronunciation becomes less explicit.

Listen to the following verses* in either variant. Pay attention to the vowel sounds.



Eu quis amar mas tive medo
Eu quis salvar meu coração
Mas o amor sabe um segredo
O medo pode matar seu coração

I wanted to love but I was afraid
I wanted to keep my heart safe
But love knows a secret
Fear can suffocate your heart

* From the song  Água de Beber by António C. Jobim

Did you notice the vowel reduction going on in the European version? For instance, you can hardly hear that e in the words tive and sabe

In Brazilian Portuguese, however, you clearly hear an /i/-sound, as in Lee

Let’s now turn to the consonant sounds. 

Consonant Sounds 

S, Z

There are more  “hushing” sounds in European Portuguese than in the other. This is mostly due to the pronunciation of the letter s.

In European Portuguese, all words ending with an s render the fricative /ʃ/-sound, as in shape. The same happens whenever an s comes in front of a voiceless consonant* like p, t, c, f.

Also, words ending with the letter z produce the same fricative sound.

* Voiceless consonants are sounds that we articulate without engaging our vocal cords. If you want to dive deeper into Portuguese pronunciation, specifically European Portuguese, consider enrolling in Sounds of Portuguese

In Brazilian Portuguese, on the other hand, the letters s and z will (under the same circumstances) produce the sibilant /s/-sound (as in sign).

Listen to the following sentence in either standard:

European > Brazilian

Nós estamos sem voz.
We are aphonic.


In European Portuguese, words ending with an l render the /ɫ/-sound (so-called dark l), roughly as in normal.

Nonetheless,  that doesn’t apply to Brazilian Portuguese. Instead, l will produce a semi-vowel sound, /w/, as in bow.

Listen to the following sentence and compare:

European > Brazilian

O céu é azul.
The sky is blue.


In European Portuguese, words ending with an r produce the so-called alveolar tap, /ɾ/, roughly the same sound as in settle (American pronunciation). In Brazilian Portuguese, however, these r-sounds are muted.

It is a different story when r comes at the end of words, or in the case of double r’s (as in carro). In those cases, r renders a throaty trill, /ʀ/, in the European standard. In Brazilian Portuguese, however, that throaty sound is often voiceless, /χ/. 

Listen to the following sentence and compare the r sounds mentioned above:

European > Brazilian

O Ricardo gosta de correr na praia e nadar no mar.
Ricardo likes to run on the beach and swim in the sea.

D, T

In European Portuguese, the letter d is always pronounced the same way, roughly as in date (the Portuguese d is somewhat less percussive than the English). 

In Brazilian Portuguese, on the other hand, d can render a /dʒi/-sound, as in aging. This happens when d is followed by i or an e at the end of words.

Listen and compare the d-sounds mentioned above:

European > Brazilian

Pode mudar de atitude?
Can you change your attitude?

The letter t is analogous to d.

In the European standard, t always produces the same sound, roughly as in tea (once more, the Portuguese t is a tad less percussive than the English). 

However, in Brazilian Portuguese, t will sometimes produce a /tʃi/-sound, as in chat. This is the case when t is followed by i or an e at the end of words.

Listen and compare the t sounds mentioned above:

European > Brazilian

O Tiago tinha bebido aguardente.
Tiago had drunk some brandy.

Nasal Sounds

In general, Portuguese is well known for its nasal sounds. These nasal sounds are especially pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese. Listen and compare:

European > Brazilian

O João come melão com uma grande satisfação.
João eats melon with great satisfaction.

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