Did your know there are different ways to ask where something is in Portuguese, and they are not all interchangeable? In this Portuguese lesson I will show you 4 ways to ask where in Portuguese, and I will tell you the difference between them and how to use each:
- Onde está?
- Onde é?
- Onde fica?
Wondering about Aonde? No, it is not the same as Onde. Visit my other Portuguese lesson to learn more and speak correctly: Aonde versus Onde: Say It Right in Portuguese
You may have already heard the word cadê. Maybe you were running late, and your date called you and asked, Cadê você? Or your spouse could not find his/her glasses and wondered out loud, Cadê meus óculos?
Although most books will teach you how to use Onde to ask where is in Portuguese, in Brazil cadê is a perfectly valid option, especially in spoken Portuguese.
We use Cadê to ask about the temporary location of people, animals, or objects. When we use it, we are usually looking for something or someone.
- Cadê você? = Where are you?
- Cadê meus óculos? = Where are my glasses?
- Cadê o gato? = Where is the cat?
Did you notice that Cadê does not take a verb after it? When you use Onde, you need to conjugate the verb in the singular or plural according to the object of the sentence. With Cadê there is no mystery, as it does not take a verb.
In informal text messages in Brazil, you may have already seen Cadê? written as kd? This is because the peonunciation of cadê is exactly like the pronunciation of the letters K and D in Portuguese.
Origin of the question word Cadê
Cadê comes from the antiquated phrase: “Que é feito de…?” (lit. “What is made of…?”).
Over time, this question became: “Que é de…?” Later it was further reduced to: “Quede…? And then to the current: “Cadê?”
2. Onde está?
Just like Cadê?, we use Onde está? to ask about the temporary location of people, animals, or objects.
Cadê? is simply an alternative to Onde está? Both mean the same thing: Where is?
Cadê is considered more informal and is predominant in spoken Brazilian Portuguese.
When using Onde está? keep in mind that you need to conjugate the verb:
- Onde está o meu carro? = Where is my car?
- Onde estão os carros? = Where are the cars?
- Onde está a minha carteira? = Where is my wallet?
- Onde estão meus óculos? = Where are my glasses?
3. Onde é?
We use Onde é? to ask about the permanent location of places and buildings, or where an activity takes place.
You need to conjugate the verb o agree with what you are asking about.
- Onde é o banheiro? = Where is the restroom?
- Onde é o restaurante? = Where is the restaurant?
- Onde são suas aulas? = Where are your classes?
We do not use Onde é to ask about the location of objects, people or animals since these are not fixed anywhere.
The difference between using Onde é and Onde está relates to the difference between the verb Ser and the verb Estar. Yes, it is confusing if you do not come from another romance language. It takes time and practice to use them correctly, and that is just fine.
4. Onde fica?
You can think about Onde fica? as: “Where is/are… located?” I don’t mean where it is located right now or for the next few moments. I mean where its usual locations is.
Remember to conjugate the verb to agree with what you are asking about.
- Onde fica o banheiro? = Where is the restroom located?
- Onde fica a farmácia mais próxima? = Where is the closest drugstore?
- Onde fica o restaurante? = Where is the restaurant?
A different situation to use Onde fica
I see some people teaching that you only use Onde fica? to ask about the permanent location of places and buildings. But it is not always the case. Imagine this situation: You have friends over for dinner and movies. You are all in the living room and one of your friends heads to the kitchen to get a plate. She doesn’t know where you keep your plates, so she asks:
- Onde ficam os pratos? = Where are the plates located? (Where do you keep the plates?)
The verb ficar has different meanings in Portuguese. Visit my Portuguese lesson about the verb ficar to learn more about it, including a very important use of this verb with emotions.
Learn 31 Travel Portuguese Phrases
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