In the last post, I went over double meanings of the words seu and sua. In part 2 of “Simple Words, Double Meanings”, I’m going to continue with vão and são. You will also learn a few very useful Portuguese phrases here.
Just like in the other post, vão is likely a word you recognize as the third-person plural conjugation of the verb “ir” (to go). Its other meaning is “vain” (not to be confused with vein, which is veia in Portuguese).
- Ela tenta, em vão, falar com a mãe dela, que está de férias.
= She tries, in vain, to speak with her mother, who is on vacation.
While it’s possible to construct a sentence using vain, in the sense of a vain person, it’s usually restricted to Biblical usage. The female version would be “vã” but it is equally as illusive.
The word são (third-person plural conjugation of ser) should be as familiar to you as vão, but its secondary meaning is “sane”. As an “-ão” word, the female version would be, you guessed it, sã (the opposite of sane, in Portuguese, is insano, rather than insão).
São, in this alternative sense, can also carry the idea of health, of being mentally healthy. Similar to the less-used meaning of vão, são as sane isn’t utilized much in day-to-day speech.
- Ele é um homem são e forte.
= He is a healthy and strong man.
Useful Phrases in Portuguese
A set-phrase that uses são is “são e salvo” which would be “safe and sound” in English. But notice that in Portuguese we invert the order of the words.
- Ele chegou da viagem são e salvo.
= He came back from the trip safe and sound.
When referring to a woman, you say sã e salva.
Another common phrase in Portuguese:
- Mente sã, corpo são.
= Healthy mind, healthy body.
São x Santo: São Paulo, Santo Antônio
Yet another meaning of the word são is “saint”, as I’m sure you’ve seen in the city name of São Paulo, named after Saint Paul, or in the São João festivities.
The difference between são and santo (both meaning saint) is that:
- São is used before names starting with consonants, like São Paulo, São João, São José, São Pedro
- Santo is used before names starting with an H or a vowel. Examples are Santo Agostinho and Santo Antônio
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