• Jourik Ciesielski

Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

The differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese are not only interesting from a political or historical point of view; they are also worth a few lines from a more linguistic viewpoint.

It may occur that different variants of one language complement each other. Take Spanish and its numerous variants: the Spanish language has its own regulating entity, the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, which represents the union of 22 countries across the Spanish-speaking world. This body of separate language academies, including Spain’s Real Academia Española, aims to provide guidelines for the use of Spanish in academics and literature amongst others.

The contrast with another language variant, i.e. European vs. Brazilian Portuguese, can’t be any bigger. The differences between the two are so profound that some people consider them to be two completely independent languages. Those differences are encountered in many linguistic aspects: orthography, lexicon, grammar, syntax and pronunciation. What follows are a couple of differences that are relevant for the localization industry.


Lexicon accentuates a lot of contrasts between European Portuguese and its Brazilian counterpart. The most classic example is the translation of “computer mouse”. In Portugal, people hold their “rato” (literally “mouse”) when working with a computer while in Brazil, one prefers to hold his “mouse”. Brazilians also tend to do “esporte” (from the English word “sports”) while the Portuguese like to do “desporto” (from the Spanish word “deporte”). These examples reveal a clear tendency: anglicisms are often used (and added to official dictionaries) in Português brasileiro. The European form provides more words that reflect the Romance origin of the Portuguese language.


An obvious grammatical difference can be found in the present continuous structures (e.g. “she is working”). Brazilian Portuguese rarely uses the construct “estar + a + infinitive” (“ela está a trabalhar”), which has become considerably common in European Portuguese. Thus, Brazilians will always say “ela está trabalhando”, which represents the classic Portuguese form of using the present continuous tense, i.e. “estar + gerund”.

Another important contrast lies in the syntactic preferences of both variants. In Brazilian Portuguese, the object pronoun is preferably placed before the verb, as in “ele me deu o dinheiro” (“he gave me the money”). This would sound odd in European Portuguese, where the object pronoun is usually placed after the verb: “ele deu-me o dinheiro”.

As a service provider C-Jay advises to consider both variants of Portuguese as different languages in your localization workflow.