Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

1.1: First Preliminary Lesson

  • Page ID
    • Severino J. Albuquerque, Mary H. Schil, & Claude E. Leroy
    • UW-Madison
    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Pronunciation of Brazilian Portuguese

    Learning Objectives- Objetivos da Lição

    • In the following discussion of the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese we will use phonetic symbols for the purpose of orientation and reference. In all other cases, however, your learning will proceed from the usual written form of the word. This makes for certain difficulties in learning Portuguese.
    • Ideally, spelling should always follow pronunciation in any language, since, after all, letters are merely a method of making a written record of the spoken word. But many languages fall short of this ideal. Spanish is very good in this respect: you can look at a word and almost without exception you know exactly how it is pronounced. English, on the other hand, is notoriously difficult, since it often spells the same sound in many ways (the vowel in date, freight, bait, say) and spells different sounds in the same way (though, through, cough, hiccough).
    • In Portuguese there are some, though not many, of these same difficulties. As you will see in a moment, the traditional orthography does not indicate all the significant sounds with 100 per cent accuracy. You will see statements such as “Portuguese é is like the English e in bet.” This comparison is meant to be only a rough approximation to suggest the general nature of the Portuguese sound in question for your beginning stages. This does not by any means imply that the sound is the same in the two languages.
    • Dialectal variation in Brazilian Portuguese allows for varied pronunciations of both vowels and consonants, especially with regard to the sequences di/deti/te and s and z in syllable final position. The pronunciation presented below is a neutral Southeastern one, typical in states such as São Paulo or Minas Gerais.

    Vowels- As vogais

    Brazilian Portuguese has seven basic (oral) vowel sounds.

    1.1 [a] the “front a,” the most common sound represented by the letter a. Similar to the a of father.

    há má
    cá pá
    lá vá
    dá chá

    [ɐ] the “central a,” which occurs in unstressedsyllables. Similar to the English sound o in money or some. Note the sound [ɐ] in the final syllable of the following words.

    nada vaca cama
    mala bala dama
    fala casa fulana
    dava sala manha

    1.2 [i] the “high front” vowel, usually spelled i. Similar to English i in machine.

    si tia
    vi titia
    ti ida
    li fila
    mimi fita

    In unstressed final syllables (and occasionally elsewhere), this same sound [i] is also spelled e.

    ide tive
    bife desfile
    disse limite

    1.3 [u] the “high back” vowel, usually spelled u. Similar to English oo in too.

    tu tutu
    nu cru

    In unstressed final syllables (and occasionally elsewhere), this same sound [u] is also spelled o. This means that all words, that end in unstressed o one of the most frequently endings in Portuguese, will be end with the [u] sound.

    mudo luto
    tudo suco
    subo uso

    1.4 [e] the “closed e,” sometimes spelled ê but more often e. Similar to English pronunciation of the second é in résumé.

    dê bebê treze
    lê crê você
    vê que mês
    sê ele sede [thirst]

    1.5 [o] the “closed o,” sometimes spelled ô but more often simply o. Similar to English o in open.

    vovô dor ovo novo
    sob bobo povo vôo
    pôs fofo fogo moço
    cor todo osso logo

    1.6 [ɛ] the “open e,” sometimes spelled é but more often simply e. Similar to English e in bet or the first é in résumé.

    é Zé sete
    pé café sede [headquarters]
    fé neta ela

    1.7 [ɔ] the “open o,” sometimes spelled ó but more often simply o. Similar to English aw in law.

    dó só ova
    nó avó nota
    pó nós volta

    Nasals- As vogais nasais

    In Portuguese the vowels a, e, i, o, u may also occur nasalized. The nasalization is indicated in one of three ways: by m or n after the vowel or by the til (˜) over it. The letter m is used at the end of a word and before p and b; n is used in other places.

    2.1 [ɐ͂] nasalized “central a,” spelled am, an, or ã.

    lã maçã
    sã samba
    fã tanta
    cã cansa

    2.2 [e͂] nasalized “close e,” spelled em or en.

    penso cento
    denso vendo
    lenço tempo
    senso dente
    venço sempre
    tensão lenha

    2.3 [ĩ] nasalized “high front i,” spelled im or in.

    fim assim cinta
    sim latim cinza
    mim pudim trinta
    gim linda rim
    vim limpa quindim

    2.4 [õ] nasalized “closed o,” spelled om, on, or õ.

    com tom fonte
    dom batom conta
    bom onze monte
    som onça bombom

    2.5 [ũ] nasalized “high back u,” spelled um or un.

    um comum fundo
    num nunca fungo
    zunzum tumba assunto
    algum junto bumbum

    Diphthongs- Os ditongos

    Oral diphthongs- Os ditongos orais

    A diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds. The follow vowel combinations constitute the 11 different pronunciations of the 8 oral diphthongs in Portuguese: ai, au, ei, eu, oi, ou, iu, and ui.

    3.1 [ai] spelled ai. Similar to the English i in ice.

    pai saiba passai
    vai falai aipo
    cai levai laico

    3.2 [au] spelled au. Similar to the English ow in cow.

    mau vau auto
    pau pauta Macau
    nau cauda causa

    3.3 [ei] spelled ei. Similar to the English ai in faith.

    meiga feira sei
    teima hei dei
    feito lei Madeira

    3.4 [εi] spelled éi.

    papéis hotéis tonéis
    anéis pincéis cordéis

    3.5 [eu] spelled eu.

    eu seu museu
    deu teu meu
    leu temeu adeus

    3.6 [εu] spelled éu.

    céu chapéu
    véu troféu
    léu réu

    3.7 [oi] spelled oi. Similar to the English oi in moist or hoist.

    boi sois noivo
    foi oito dois
    pois doido foice

    3.8 [ɔi] spelled ói.

    mói sóis anzóis
    dói jóia lençóis
    dodói bóia faróis
    herói espanhóis jibóia

    3.9 [ou] spelled ou. For many speakers ou denotes merely a “closed o” [o] as in the English oh!

    ou vou falou
    dou outro levou
    sou soube usou

    3.10 [iu] spelled iu.

    viu pediu
    saiu subiu
    caiu decidiu

    3.11 [ui] spelled ui.

    fui possui
    uivo conclui
    cuido azuis

    Nasal diphthongs- Os ditongos nasais

    There are five nasal diphthongs in Brazilian Portuguese. Nasalization is indicated by m after the vowel or by the til (˜) placed over the first vowel of the diphthong. Both elements of the diphthong are nasalized.

    4.1 [ɐ̃ũ/ɐ̃w] spelled ão or am. In unstressed position, the intensity of the nasality is slightly reduced.

    hão tão falam passam
    não pão tocam sabão
    são vão ficam fogão
    dão cão levam mamão

    4.2 [e͂ĩ] spelled em.

    nem tem quem também
    bem vem além refém
    cem nuvem viagem sem

    4.3 [ɐ̃ĩ] spelled ãe.

    mãe capitães
    cães alemães

    4.4 [õĩ] spelled õe. Similar to the oi in the English oink or boing.

    põe botões
    opõe melões
    supõe balcões
    compõe lições

    4.5 [ũĩ] This nasal diphthong occurs only in one Portuguese word (muito) and its variations. Note that the spelling does not indicate nasalization.

    muito muitos
    muita muitas

    4.6 Combinations of vowels other than those listed above do not constitute diphthongs in Portuguese.

    dieta (di-e-ta) óleo (ó-le-o) teatro (te-a-tro)
    Caetano (Ca-e-ta-no) Maria (Ma-ri-a) sueco (su-e-co)
    miolo (mi-o-lo) diabo (di-a-bo) rua (ru-a)

    Consonants- As consoantes

    5.1 [p] voiceless bilabial stop, spelled p. Similar to English p in pine but without aspiration (extra air that accompanies initial voiceless stops (p, t, k) sounds in English).

    papai piano
    pampa palpita
    limpo poupa

    5.2 [b] voiced bilabial stop, spelled b. Similar to English b in bet.

    baía bem-bom
    bebê bomba
    bife Bíblia

    5.3 [t] voiceless dental stop, spelled t. Similar to English t in time.

    tateia tanto
    teto atento
    testa Tóquio
    total matuto

    [t] before [i] spelled either i or e is pronounced by many Brazilians as a voiceless affricate [t∫], similar to the ch of the English word chief.

    time tios parte
    tigre nordeste ótimo
    teatro presente contente

    5.4 [d] voiced dental stop, spelled d. Similar to English d in date.

    dali duelo poder
    dedo desenho vender
    domingo dólar morder

    [d] before [i] spelled either i or e is pronounced by many Brazilians as [dʒ], similar to the j or the dg of the English word judge

    dia Dinamarca verdade
    diálogo disciplina pode
    Diogo tarde de

    5.5 [k] voiceless velar stop, spelled c,qu. Similar to English k.

    cada classe quem
    carioca aqui quer

    5.5a [ks] voiceless velar stop, spelled x. Similar to the x in the English taxi.

    reflexo xi
    xico complexo

    5.6 [g] voiced velar stop, spelled g, gu. Similar to English g in gate.

    gato algum água
    algo águia engana

    5.7 [f] voiceless labio-dental fricative, spelled f. Similar to English f in fate.

    fome afora
    fogo foguete
    fluido defendo

    5.8 [v] voiced labio-dental fricative, spelled v. Similar to English v in vein.

    vaca vovô
    avenida vento
    envolver você
    envia vaivém

    5.9 [m] voiced bilabial nasal (when syllable initial), spelled m. Similar to English m in mad. Remember when m is syllable final it indicates nasality in the vowel that precedes it.

    mais mimoso
    mamãe mim
    moço manga

    5.10 [n] voiced dental nasal (when syllable initial), spelled n. Similar to English n in not. Remember when n is syllable final it indicates nasality in the vowel that precedes it.

    nono nena
    ninguém nunca

    5.11 [ɲ] voiced palatal nasal, spelled nh. Similar to English ni in onion.

    banho minha
    sonho manhã
    tenho montanha
    venho nenhum
    ganhar vinho

    5.12 [s] voiceless dental sibilant, spelled s, ss, sc, and c (before e, i), sc and ç (before o, a, u), xc, x. Similar to English s in sat.

    sala deo
    cansa façamos
    posso excesso
    piscina trouxe
    cinema ximo

    5.13 [z] voiced dental sibilant, spelled z, s, x. Similar to English z in zone. Z is always pronounced this way. S is pronounced this way when it appears between two vowels.

    zanga preciso
    azul exame
    zia exemplo
    casa êxito

    5.14 [] voiceless palatal sibilant, spelled ch or x. Similar to English sh inshow.

    chamo roxo
    acho xamã
    xícara chave
    deixa lixo
    abacaxi chuva

    5.15 [ʒ] voiced palatal sibilant, spelled j, g (before e, i) Similar to English s in treasure.

    gente hoje igreja
    gelo janela Tejo
    giro jardim feijão

    5.16 [l] voiced dental lateral, spelled l. At the beginning of a syllable, l is a sound like English l in leap.

    lado leite
    alemão limão
    belo logo

    ***At the end of a syllable, l is like English w at the end of a word, a semi-vowel, as in the words caw, few, mow.

    mal mel sol
    Portugal Brasil calvo
    anel fácil azul
    filme calmo Anselmo

    5.17 [ʎ] voiced palatal lateral, spelled lh. Similar to English ll in million.

    velho olho
    bilhete toalha
    filho valho

    5.18 [ɾ] voiced dental flap, spelled r. Similar to English d in heeding or the t in heating. R is pronounced this way between vowels or as part of a consonant cluster (cr, tr, gr, etc.).

    agora criança
    caro escreve
    embora frente
    geral obrigado
    treze gravata

    7.19 [h] voiceless glottal fricative* spelled r, rr. R is pronounced this way when it is rr between vowels, or word initial.

    rio bairro
    rapaz sorriso
    rua honra
    Raquel correr
    arroz forró

    *** When syllable or word final, either [ɾ] or [h] are possible pronunciations, depending on dialect. Portuguese allows for still other dialect variants.

    aberto mulher correr
    dorme melhor morar
    irmão dançar morrer

    Summary of the consonants of the Portuguese alphabet and their sound values in Brazilian Portuguese- Resumo das consoantes do alfabeto português e seus valores sonoros em português brasileiro

    b   [b]   bobo
    c 1) [s] Before e, i. cinema
      2) [k] Before a, o, u; Before another consonant. cada; classe
    ç   [s] Found only before a, o, u. faço
    ch   [∫]   cheio
    d   [dʒ] Before [i]. dia, tarde
        [d] Elsewhere. dado
    f   [f]   fofo
    g 1) [ʒ] Before e, i. gente
      2) [g] Elsewhere. gato, glória
    gu   [g] Before e, i. águia
        [gw] Before a, o, u. guardar
    h   [Ø] Found only at beginning of words and represents no sound hora
    j   [ʒ]   jardim
    l 1) [l] Word, syllable initial. lado
      2) [w] Syllable final. fel
    lh   [ʎ]   bilhete
    m 1) [m] At beginning of syllable. mimoso
      2) [˜] At end of syllable indicates nasalization of preceding vowel. gim, samba
    n 1) [n] At beginning of syllable. nono
      2) [˜] At end of syllable indicates nasalization of preceding vowel. onze
    nh   [ɲ]   tenho
    p   [p]   pipa
    qu 1) [k] Before e, i. quem
      2) [kw] Before a, o. quatro
    r 1) [ɾ] Between vowels; Following another consonant at the beginning of a syllable; Final. agora, pronto
      2) [h] Word initial; After n, l; Preceding another consonant; Final. rio; honra, melro; aberto; falar
    rr   [h]   arroz
    s   [s] Word initial; After another consonant; Final. sala; cansa; flores
        [z] Between two vowels; Before voiced consonants. casa; desde
    sc   [s] Before e, i. desce
      [s] Before a, o, u. deo
    ss   [s] Found only between vowels. professor
    t   [t∫] Before [i]. titio
        [t] Elsewhere. tanto
    v   [v]   vaca
    x 1) [∫] Initial; Before voiceless consonants*; After another consonant; Often between vowels (This is the most common pronunciation of x between vowels). xícara; sexto; enxuga; roxo
      2) [s] Between two vowels in a few words; Before voiceless consonants.* próximo, máximo; sexto
      3) [z] In initial ex plus vowels. exame, exército
      4) [ks] Between two vowels, mainly in words of foreign or Greek origin. xi, tórax, complexo
    xc   [s]   excesso
    z   [z]   zanga, azul, voz

    *Either of these pronunciations of x are appropriate in this particular context, either as a palatal sibilant or an alveolar sibilant. Individual Brazilian use either or both in their speech.

    Practice i.1- Prática i.1

    Pronounce the following words:

    • adeus
    • bom
    • Brasil
    • caro
    • carro
    • casa
    • cinema
    • chapéu
    • dente
    • dia
    • disse
    • é
    • feira
    • fui
    • grande
    • gelo
    • herói
    • igreja
    • jardim
    • mãe
    • maio
    • muito
    • não
    • olho
    • pau
    • pão
    • pediu
    • Portugal
    • quem
    • Rio
    • roxo
    • sim
    • tigre
    • tudo
    • um
    • você
    • xícara
    • zanga

    This page titled 1.1: First Preliminary Lesson is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Severino J. Albuquerque, Mary H. Schil, & Claude E. Leroy.

    • Was this article helpful?