In English, we turn on the computer, we turn on the light, and we turn on the tap. We have 3 different verbs to say To Turn On in Portuguese: ligar, acender, and abrir.
Consequently, we have 3 different verbs that mean to turn off: desligar, apagar, and fechar.
I often see language lessons that translate words for you, but do not explain differences in use between the languages. If I just tell you that acender a luz translates to turn on the light, you may think that you can use acender every time you want to say turn no. But you can’t.
In this Portuguese lesson you will learn:
- When to use ligar and acender to say turn on and turn off in Portuguese.
- The case in which you use turn on in English and we use abrir in Portuguese.
- How to say that something is on or off.
Ligar and Desligar
We use the verb Ligar to say to turn on in Portuguese, and its opposite Desligar, when we talk about machines, equipment, and gadgets, such as computers, cell phones, cars, washing machine, heater, etc.
1) Hoje não vou trabalhar. Não quero nem ligar meu computador. = Today I am not going to work. I don’t even want to turn my computer on.
2) Eu liguei o ar-condicionado porque está calor demais. = I turned on the AC because it’s too hot.
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3) Eu sempre desligo o meu computador no fim do dia. = I always turn my computer off at the end of the day.
Acender and Apagar
We use the verb Acender and its opposite Apagar with light and fire.
In some situations, acender means to turn on and in other situations it means to light, to ignite.
1) Está escuro aqui. Vou acender a luz. = It is dark here. I will turn on the light.
2) Acenda o forno em temperatura média para preaquecer. = Turn the oven on at medium temperature to preheat it.
3) Por favor, apague as luzes quando sair. = Please, turn off the lights when you leave.
4) Se você acender a vela, lembre-se de apagá-la antes de ir dormir. = If you light the candle, remember to blow it out before going to sleep.
Abrir and Fechar
When you are talking about turning the tap on or off, use abrir (to open) and fechar (to close) in Portuguese.
1) Minhas mãos estão sujas. Você pode abrir a torneira pra mim, por favor? = My hands are dirty. Can you turn the tap on for me, please?
2) Feche a torneira ao escovar os dentes para economizar água. = Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth to save water.
How to say something is on/off
Here is how you say that something is on or off in Portuguese: Use the verb Estar + Past Participle of the main verb.
Remember to use masculine and feminine, singular and plural accordingly.
1) A máquina de lavar está ligada. = The washer is on.
2) Meu computador está desligado. = My computer is off.
3) As luzes estão acesas. = The lights are on.
4) A vela está apagada. = The candle is out.
5) A torneira está aberta. = the tap is on.
6) As torneiras estão fechadas. = The taps are off.
A final tip
Do not confuse Acender and Ascender (notice the extra S in the spelling).
- Acender = to turn on
- Ascender = to ascend, to rise; to promote, to advance; to elevate
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This Portuguese lesson was originally posted on February 6, 2015 and updated on November 19, 2020.