Tip 54. The meanings of cara

As in Spanish, the word cara can mean “face”. However, in Brazil it also means “guy” (tipo in Spanish). But here’s the trick. When cara means “face” as in “what a pretty face,” it is feminine, a cara. When it is used to mean ”guy” it is masculine, o cara.

Note that this usage is strictly Brazilian; Portuguese speakers from Portugal and Africa don’t use cara this way.

English: That guy doesn’t know anything.
Spanish: Ese tipo no sabe nada.
Portuguese: Esse cara não sabe nada.

Tip 53. Shorter words

Some of the words that are similar in Portuguese and Spanish are a little shorter in Portuguese. Here are some examples.

English Spanish Portuguese
air aire ar
color el color* a cor*
hand mano mão
sister hermana irmã

*Note that cor is feminine in Portuguese while color is masculine in Spanish.

English: My sister held my hand.
Spanish: Mi hermana me agarró/cogió la mano.
Portuguese: A minha irmã segurou a minha mão.

Tip 52. Words that sound almost the same, but not quite…

Vowels (you know, a, e, i, o, u…) can be tricky letters, and their pronunciation can change radically from one language to another. That is definitely the case between Spanish and Portuguese. There is a whole group of words in Spanish that have two vowels next to each other, words like escuela, juego and vuelta, that only have one vowel in Portuguese, escola, jogo and volta. Sometimes Portuguese speakers will understand what you mean if you use these Spanish words, but if you can learn to say them correctly in Portuguese, all the better. After all, who doesn’t want to sound Brazilian? Here are 15 of the most frequent words in Portuguese that only have one vowel where in Spanish they have two:

English Spanish Portuguese
death muerte morte
account / bill cuenta conta
school escuela escola
game juego jogo
turn vuelta volta
foot pie
price precio preço
strong fuerte forte
guard guardia guarda
member miembro membro
meeting / encounter encuentro encontro
fear miedo medo
source fuente fonte
answer respuesta resposta
open abierto aberto

Example 1:
English: This restaurant is open late.
Spanish: Este restaurante está abierto hasta tarde.
Portuguese: Esse restaurante fica aberto até tarde.  

Example 2:
English: Let’s get the bill (the check).
Spanish: Vamos a pedir la cuenta.
Portuguese: Vamos pedir a conta.

Tip 51. Remember that waking up is hard to do in Brazil: Acordar doesn’t always mean what you think…

When Portuñol speakers try to communicate with Brazilians, they often get a confused look when they unwittingly use a Spanish word that has a similar-sounding equivalent in Portuguese. Despertar(se) is one of those words. To wake up in Portuguese you say acordar NOT despertar. Like in Spanish, acordar in Portuguese can mean to agree or reach an agreement. But its most common definition in Portuguese is “to wake up.” That’s right, despertar(se) just isn’t used in spoken Brazilian Portuguese to say “wake up.” So don’t use it.

Also, acordar in Portuguese doesn’t mean “to remember,” even though it looks a lot like acordar(se) in Spanish.

Example 1:
English: I woke up at 3 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Spanish: Me desperté a las 3 de la mañana y no pude volver a dormir.
Portuguese: Acordei às 3 da manhã e não consegui mais dormir.

Example 2:
English: I don’t remember.
Spanish: No me acuerdo.
Portuguese: Eu não me lembro.

Tip 50. Saying periódico won’t get you a newspaper in Brazil

Hoping to catch up on the news from home or the latest sport scores? Don’t ask for a periódico in Brazil. Brazilians read the jornal. If you are looking for more than one, remember the plural is jornais.

English: Are there any newspapers in English?
Spanish: ¿Hay periódicos en inglés?
Portuguese: Tem jornais em inglês?

Tip 49. Going to the movies in Brazil? Don’t say película!

Thinking of catching a movie while in Brazil? Don’t let Spanish get in the way. The word for “movie” in Portuguese is filme. So, if you try to use the Spanish word película in Brazil, don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare. Remember, if you want to see a movie, remember to just say, “film me!”

Example 1:
English: Let’s go see a movie!
Spanish: ¡Vamos a ver una película!
Portuguese: Vamos ver um filme!

Example 2:
English: I didn’t like that movie.
Spanish: No me gustó esa película.
Portuguese: Eu não gostei desse filme.

Tip 48. Responder vs. contestar: It’s all a matter of frequency

Just because the same word exists in both Spanish and Portuguese doesn’t mean it’s the best word to use or that it’s one that Brazilians normally use. There are many examples of words used more or less frequently in one language or the other. Responder and contestar help illustrate this point.

In Spanish, when answering a question or responding to someone, the most common verb used is contestar. However in Portuguese, the verb responder is used most frequently.

Example 1:
English: He asked me a question, and I answered.
Spanish: Me hizo una pregunta, y contesté.
Portuguese:  Ele me fez uma pergunta e eu respondi.

Sound Brazilian! When you answer the phone in Brazil, say Alô! but when you talked about answering the phone use atender, not responder.

Example 2:
English: My friend called during my flight and I couldn’t take his call.
Spanish: Mi amigo me llamó durante el vuelo y no pude contestar.
Portuguese: O meu amigo me telefonou durante o voo e eu não pude atender.