Our YouTube subscriber Martin has asked me to create a video about words that are confusing in Portuguese. He had all the reasons to ask for this video. He wanted to ask his friend if she had cleaned her kitchen. Instead, he asked if she had cleaned her “behind”. It sure gave me a good laugh, but I understand that things can get pretty embarrassing. So here is a list of words that can save your day.
Cozinha: Keep this in mind to avoid trouble
Let’s start with Martin’s experience.
- Cozinha = the kitchen
Depending on the Brazilian accent, the first syllable of the word can be pronounced like the “co” in “coal” or like a “u”, in which case it would sound like this: koo – zee – nya
Cozinha is a feminine noun. Martin said it in the masculine, which made it sound just like a vulgar word for “little behind”.
- Você já limpou sua cozinha? = Have you cleaned your kitchen?
Moral of the story: kitchen is always a feminine word.
Camiseta vs. Camisinha
My husband’s coworker walked into a clothing store in Brazil and asked where the condoms were. He meant t-shirts, but used the wrong word.
- Camiseta = T-shirt
- Camisinha = Condom
Granted, camisinha also means “small shirt”. No wonder this causes so much confusion. Now you don’t have to worry anymore! If you are looking for t-shirts, say “camiseta”. If you are looking for shirts, say “camisa”.
- Que camiseta massa! = What a cool t-shirt!
- Onde você comprou essa camiseta? = Where did you buy this t-shirt?
Both camiseta and camisinha are feminine nouns.
O bolo vs. A bola
On a different occasion Martin asked his friend if she could make him a “passion fruit ball”. Instead of asking for bolo, he asked for bola.
- o bolo = the cake
- a bola = the ball
Bolo is masculine. Bola is feminine.
- Você poderia fazer um bolo de maracujá pra mim? = Could you make me a passion fruit cake?
- Eu vou jogar bola hoje = I am going to play soccer today
Casar vs. Caçar
Another set of words that can cause confusion:
- Casar = To get married
- Caçar = To hunt
In casar, the “s” sounds like a “z”.
In caçar, the “ç” sounds like an “s”.
- Ana e Felipe vão se casar em março = Ana and Felipe are getting married in March
- Eu não gosto de caçar = I don’t like hunting
Here is a cultural tip for you. Single people sometimes say that they are going hunting (caçar) when they are going for a fun night out with the intention to find a new date. It is just a slangish way to say that you would like to meet someone.
Cansado vs. Casado
Imagine this situation: Say Melanie is going on her first date with her new Brazilian friend Tiago. She had quite a busy day, so she says: “Eu estou casada”. Well, now her date is terrified thinking that she is married! At Street Smart Brazil we do our best to spare you such moments of awkwardness.
- Cansado = Tired
- Casado = Married
- Estou cansada = I am tired
- Milena é casada = Milena is married
Longe vs. Longo/a
Here is another pair of words that cause a great deal of confusion:
- Longe = Far, distant
- Longo/a = Long
- Minha casa é longe daqui = My house is far from here
- Bianca tem cabelo longo = Bianca has long hair
Café da manhã vs. Café de manhã
Prepositions can make a big difference:
- Café da manhã = Breakfast
- Café de manhã = Coffee in the morning
- Café da manhã é minha refeição preferida = Breakfast is my favorite meal
- Eu tomei muito café de manhã = I had too much coffee in the morning
Café is a masculine noun. Café da manhã is masculine, as well.
Grau vs. Degrau
I often see the words below mixed:
- Grau = Degree (temperature)
- Degrau = Step (of a stairway)
- Hoje está muito quente, quase 40 graus = Today is very warm, almost 40 degrees
- A escadaria da Lapa tem duzentos e quinze degraus = The stairway of Lapa has 215 steps
Regarding temperatures, in Brazil we always mean Celsius, so we don’t need to say it.
Both grau and degrau are masculine nouns.
Congestão vs. Congestionamento
- Congestão = Congestion (like in a head congestion due to a cold)
- Congestionamento = Traffic jam
- Camila está muito gripada e com uma baita congestão nasal = Camila has a bad cold and major nasal congestion
- São Paulo tem engarrafamentos imensos = São Paulo has huge traffic jams
Congestão is a feminine noun. Congestionamento is a masculine noun.
The adjective for both situations is the same: congestionado/a
- Camila está gripada e congestionada = Camila has a cold and is congested
- A avenida Paulista está congestionada = Paulista Avenue is congested
Creme vs. Crime
The Portuguese word “crime” sounds almost like the English word “cream”. Please do not ask your server if s/he has any “crime” 🙂
- Creme = Cream
- Crime = Crime
- Odete adora café com creme chantilly = Odete loves coffee with whipped cream
- Este é meu creme hidratante preferido = This is my favorite lotion
- Eu gostaria de viver em um lugar sem crimes = I would like to live in a place without crimes
Creme and Crime are masculine nouns.
A tesoura vs. O tesouro
Once my husband said I was his “tesoura” (=scissors). Now you do not have to go through this 🙂
- Tesoura = Scissors
- Tesouro = Treasure
Tesouro is always a masculine noun. You may use it to describe a woman; just make sure to keep the word in the masculine.
Tesoura is a feminine noun.
- Preciso de uma tesoura afiada para cortar este tecido = I need sharp scissors to cut this fabric
- Eu sonhei que tinha um tesouro no meu quintal = I dreamed that there was a treasure in my backyard
- PEDRO: Ana, você é meu tesouro = Ana, you are my treasure
I hope this is helpful. If you have friends who can benefit from the lesson, please go ahead and forward them our blog: streetsmartbrazil.com/blog
Muito obrigada e até a próxima!Street Smart Brazil: Portuguese Lessons and Intercultural Coaching