Having spent two months in Brazil I’ve really noticed the depths of how dynamic Brazilian Portuguese is.
While I am only living in one of Brazil’s 26 states, Santa Cantarina, there is no doubt that I’ve had to “relearn” Portuguese. By that I mean the way the locals speak. However, this has been complicated by the fact that Florianópolis is made up of an array of different Brazilians: Gaúchos (from Rio Grande do Sul), Paulistas (from São Paulo), Cariocas (from Rio de Janeiro), and of course Cantarineses. Everyday you’re bound to encounter a new accent and way of saying things.
Given that I’ve had more access to the way natives from Florianópolis speak, I will shed light on their way of speaking. The first major adjustment I’ve had to make was hearing Tu instead of Você. This has complicated my brain for two reasons: 1) it reminds too much of Spanish and I love using Você because it’s so distinct from Tu or Usted used in Spanish and 2) While reading about why learning Portuguese is a good idea, all the articles mentioned the fact you didn’t have to learn Tu because nobody uses it. Yes, it was naive of me to take the internet’s word, so I’ll blame Google.
The silver lining in all this is the fact that Tu is still used with the verb conjugation of Você. I was elated to hear that until I noticed little pieces of cantarinense flavor mixed in.
A week ago, while I was waiting to get on the bus, I saw a kid running for the bus. He made it, and one of his friends said to him:
- “Tu quase perdeu o ônibus, tu FICASSE tempo demais com a tua namorada”.
- “You almost missed the bus, you stayed with your girlfriend too long.”
“What the hell?”, I thought. Did I just hear the past subjunctive used instead of the simple past? Do I speak better Portuguese than this person? Am I hearing things? Well! It turns out that a common feature of Portuguese in Florianópolis is to use the past subjunctive instead of the simple past (preterit).
I can’t imagine saying “You were spent too much time with your girlfriend” in English (I know it’s not the correct way to use the past subjunctive in English, but you get the idea). Yet, in Portuguese, it “works”. While grammatically it makes no sense and is incorrect, it flows well when speaking it. I’ll admit when I say it myself I feel very poserish. I’ll probably just stick with using “tu” with “você” verb conjugations and throw in some gíria (slang) I’ve learned. Did I mention that people in Floripa speak wrongly and admit that to me?
Ultimately, language shouldn’t always be about grammar, because it’s more than that. Language is malleable. My Portuguese is going through such a process. Everyday it’s molded differently and identifies more with where I’m living and who I am. That’s why I love language.
Street Smart Brazil’s note:
Ghio is absolutely right. Language is very dynamic and often doesn’t follow the grammar rules. Using Tu with the verb conjugation of Você is very common throughout Brazil. Therefore you will have:
- Tu é estudante. Instead of the grammatically correct: Tu és estudante.
- Tu foi pra festa? Instead of the grammatically correct: Tu foste pra festa?
The use of the imperfect subjunctive in place of the preterit (simple past) is common, as well, but less advised. You will often hear:
- Tu fosse pra festa? Instead of the grammatically correct: Tu foste pra festa?
We suggest you stick to:
- Você foi pra festa?
- Tu foi pra festa?
But keep in mind that this last one is grammatically wrong, yet really very common in Brazil.
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