Just like in English, there are words in Portuguese that either look or sound like other words. Four that come to mind rather quickly are seu, sua, são and vão. You may very well recognize all of these words for their most used definitions. Below, I’ll show you what else two of these words mean (and, in another post, I’ll talk about the other two).
In its most used sense, seu is a possessive pronoun, like “your” is in English (your car – seu carro). In its secondary sense, seu is used as a form of respect towards someone masculine and it always comes before the name. Some language websites explain it as something created by slaves as a shortened form of senhor and, while I can’t back up the veracity of that, I do know it is used in the same way. One thing to watch out for when using seu is to remember that it is mostly used with the person’s first name. For example, if I were to ask the imaginary Mr. Jorge if he has been living here a long time, I’d say:
- Seu Jorge, o senhor mora aqui há muito tempo?
Seu before insults
Another thing that’s good to know is that seu can also be used in cases where you want to speak badly to (or, if you know them well, joke with) someone. If I wanted to call someone a pig, I could easily say “seu porco!”, as the seu would just add a bit of emphasis.
If you know your pronouns, you’ll easily recognize sua as “your” for feminine words. At the same time, it is also the third-person conjugation of the verb suar, meaning to sweat. Since sweating is temporary, the verb is usually seen in its gerund (-ing) or past-tense form. There is, however, a trick phrase that uses sua which I’ll leave for you below. The idea is to make sense of the phrase by inserting the punctuation you think works best.
“Maria toma banho porque sua mãe diz ela pega shampoo.”
The phrase if translated without thinking twice would mean, “Maria takes a bath because her mother tells her get shampoo.” There’s obviously some errors in there if it were to be taken literally. If you think you’ve figured it out, leave a comment on Street Smart Brazil’s Facebook page . ; )
Also check out:
Simple Words, Double Meaning in Portuguese – Part 2 – vão & são
It says “Seu” and “Sua” mean “your” but then they are used as “His” and “Her” and as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” How do I know what they mean when I see them? I can’t read or converse yet after studying Portuguese for 5 years and visiting Brasil 16 times so I haven’t learned how to know the context so I need to learn how to understand what they mean without context. It also says Seu and Sua are “second” and “third” person for referring to someone which would mean “Seu Jose” is “you” and “they” which is confusing to me. The more I study Portuguese the more confused I get. I study and practice every day and practice every day with my girlfriend who only speaks Portuguese and lives in Brasil and have for 2 years but I still can’t make out what people say and I have to translate most things. I only make out an occasional word and then I have to translate most things. . We didn’t learn English grammar terminology which makes it more difficult to learn because they refer to it when explaining most Portuguese terminology like “subjunctive, the verb to be and others, articles, prepositions, verb tenses” and many other things that I’ve never heard of before studying Portuguese. I can say greetings and very basic 1 and 2 word phrases but learning and remembering longer phrases is very difficult because of words with multiple meanings, different word order, having to translate most things into English to understand and not being able to use the longer phrases yet in conversations and forgetting them. Should I take English classes first? I thought I would be conversing by now after having so much exposure to the language. I see people conversing in Brasil after studying for only a month or two. It’s frustrating. I use a variety every f things like teachers, Duolingo, apps, books, movies and videos but it’s like my brain only works in English. Reading is like deciphering a secret code because of translating the words with multiple meanings like “Seu” and “Sua. Any ideas? Patfromamboy@aol.com. Thanks!