Tip 22. Can I help you?

The word pois, which is similar to pues in Spanish, is not very commonly used by itself in Brazilian Portuguese. However, it is found in Pois não?, a very common expression which means “Can I help you?” in service encounters. The word pois also appears in other expressions, but Pois não? is the one you are most likely to encounter.

Example 1: At a store
English:
Employee: “Can I help you?”
Customer: “No, thanks, I’m just looking.”

Spanish:
Empleado: “¿Le puedo ayudar en algo?”
Cliente: “No, gracias. Sólo estoy mirando.”

Portuguese:
Vendedor:Pois não?”
Cliente: “Estou só olhando, obrigado.”

Pois não can also be used in the affirmative in response to a request, meaning basically “of course I can help you with that.” So, oddly enough, pois não often actually means, claro que sí.

Example 2:

English:
You: Could I use your phone?
Friendly Brazilian: Of course!

Spanish:
Tú: ¿Podría usar el teléfono?
Un brasileño amigable: ¡Claro que sí!

Portuguese:
Você: Será que eu posso usar o telefone?
Um brasileiro simpático: Pois não!